I was thinking about boys and girls and fashion. Or rather, girls and boys and fashion.
Most girls I know will slyly confess to having gradually and subtly infiltrated the dark recesses of their significant others’ wardrobes and ‘tweaking’ them into something more ‘appropriate’. This tweaking is generally a gradual process. First it’s a blank, dumb-founded stare when you first lay eyes upon the world’s most obstinately ugly shoes. You might then follow this up (across a series of occasions) with a couple of lighthearted but really very deadly serious jokes about said shoes. And then you might be forced to actually be moody and/or difficult when they continue to show up. If it gets to the point where you have to actually reason or bargain over the offending shoes, then you know you’re in for a rough ride – a guy who either (inexplicably) loves these shoes as much as you do yours, or a guy who wants to make a point - about being down-to-earth or about standing his ground, negative on all accounts.
If he truly adores them, your resolved might be weakened. And if he’s playing the down-to-earth, I-don’t-care-about-clothes card, then you’re either going to feel like a primadonna, or you’re going to be faced with a whole lot of cargo pants, Crocs and – God forbid – polar fleece.
I’m familiar with both phenomena. My first serious boyfriend, walked into my life in a do-rag, a pair of gangster jeans and a basketball vest. There also may or may not have been a bandanna hanging out of his back pocket, a la Snoop Dogg. He looked like he might surprise the Grahamstown high street with a Crip walk at any second. By the time we broke up he was wearing corduroy stove pipes, flannel shirts, (normal sized) tshirts and Converse. The only remnants of his Tupac fetish were the flat caps he refused to part with and his Dallas drawl. Success! Through a careful campaign of encouragement, discouragement, raised eyebrows and birthday presents, I guided him into manhood. Goodbye Fubu! So long, Evisu. Your services are no longer needed. Of course, he believed that he had just changed. He still believes it, I’m sure.
A friend of mine adopted a more aggressive approach. Her then-boyfriend, now-husband, wore white square toe leather loafers on their first date. With chinos. She told him in no uncertain terms that the shoes would not be around for long, nor would their partners in crime, the chinos. If he didn’t oblige, she, too, would not be around for very long. The rest, as they say, is history. She now reminds him almost daily about these humble beginnings, especially when he pips her to the post at vintage fairs, snatching the early-shape Wayfarers before she can get her paws on them. He smiles sweetly, and tightens his grip on their sleek, rare frames. True love, I tell you.
The man that is bound to his Birkenstocks out of sheer principle is the one that puts you in a real pickle. If you really dig him, you may wind up wavering on your fashion maxims – maybe I do take too long to get ready, maybe silk is impractical for a hike, maybe I shouldn’t wear sequins to Obs Fest, etc. This, upon reflection, is a masterful example of reverse psychology. He is trying to outsmart you with earthy undertones and inside-out rhetoric, i.e: You look better without makeup on (read: liquid eyeliner takes eons to get right and the gig is about to start). If, like me, the way you feel about clothes and dressing is a part of your DNA, then you should never allow someone else’s opinions on the matter to cloud your judgment. Even if he is 6″2, dark-eyed and daring.
If Herr Birkenstock is, however, the sweet type – the type that is happy to trundle along in his orthopaedic footwear while you slick on the liquid eyeliner and wear silk to sleep in, then you know you’ve found yourself a keeper. Someone who genuinely is down-to-earth and who understands that you are too, you just do it in diamonds.
The only downside is that you may then have to forego the shoe jokes and blank-eyed stares.