This catalog arrived a few days ago. The clothing company is called Urban Outfitters. An interesting play on words. I looked through the pages and was saddened. All of these male models out in some cold artic land. All of them wearing some very unusual combinations for a frozen land that used to capture explorers imagination that would take months of travel and being cut off from all communication. Many great men lost their lives going there. It was wild and dangerous lands. Now it is locations for urban clothes.
This specific image captured me. A Carhartt hat. Buffalo plaid flannel. Western style vest in neon. The budweiser shirt. It all felt so boyish. Somehow trying to play dress up. I couldn't help but think they are capturing the heart of the condition of the American man right now.
He is playing dress up.
It is interesting to be watching many companies begin to explore what we might called the rugged, blue collar, and worker side of clothing. Quite honestly, the irony of most clothing for men is that it always served a function, over any sort of fashion fad. From pea coats to carpenter jeans, all of them were about a purpose. I can remember being in college wearing some carpenter jeans I bought from Abercrombie & Fitch, but had no idea they were called Carpenter Jeans because that belt loop on the side was for a hammer. That is our problem today, we no longer are wearing function in clothing, because so few of us are embracing parts of a man's life that are important to grow and discover who we are. Boys play video games, live in their parents basement, don't pursue hard work... and so what does American apparel companies give us... well, they let us play pretend.
The American man is lost. And there are few offering anything of substance these days other than just trying to cash in on these fads. But there are real questions that need to be explored, what is masculinity? What does it mean to be male? A man? How do we live out our grandfathers legacy? How are we to find our own confidence in this generation as things have changed?
I don't believe it is our goal to define this all, since it is complex. But I can't help but notice how sad the industry is right now in fashion. It has zero moral grounding, no basis for its identity of what male or female means, so it will just blow with the wind of the prevailing days trend. And so there it is... lost boys... trying to be men... out in a barren artic wilderness... modeling for others who are just as lost. Like the blind leading the blind.