This afternoon I was doing my daily “research”. This entails sitting on my Texas front porch, sipping my gin and tonic, and thumbing through my phone catching up on all my trad goings-on.
I came across Ann Barnhardt’s latest post. I wonder if I can call her “Miss B.” like Non Veni Mark does? In any event, click here to read that post. It is one million per cent magnificent in its truth and timeliness. Here’s the quick synopsis. Ann argues the point that women need to start dressing modestly for obvious virtuous reasons, that doing so is not hard and in fact can be inexpensive, and that she herself is doing her part to get the trend of “these girls walking around almost nekkid, or in uber-expensive designer trash” reversed by, surprise, dressing amazingly. First sidenote: Going from Miss B. to Ann might be a bit too forward. I’ll return simply to Barnhardt. Second sidenote: Barnhardt has just upped the game for all of us. She’s wearing white summer gloves everywhere.
This all evoked incredible memories of my dad. I’ve mentioned him a few times. He was an honest-to-goodness real man and we were all blessed to have been born of him. To describe my dad accurately would take volumes so I’ll just give a sartorial overview. My dad wasn’t a hulking huge guy. He never played sports to my knowledge, though he did enjoy a game of frisbee or backyard volleyball with the kids in the summer. When you’ve brought a literal army into the world (there are 16 of us), you tend to do these things with and for your kids. Dad was incredibly smart. He was an actuary. He had a wicked sense of humor. He once told me (I was 6 years-old) that an actuary is a place where they bury dead actors. I believed him. He was a man of incredible faith and great dignity – at home with rich and poor alike. A daily mass-goer, a family man extraordinaire, a gentleman, and a scholar. And all who ever met him remember his class and style.
Barnhardt mentions that she was “born in ’76” and thus after many of the trends she’d like to bring back. Fair point. I was born in ’77. My parents, however, were born in the late 1930’s. They lived through the upheaval and the revolution and all that jazz. Dad never stepped out of the house unless properly attired. That meant, most days of the week he was in a suit. He’d tell me, “Son, you can never go wrong with a dark suit and a white shirt.” His shoes were always polished. He always had his pocketwatch tucked neatly into his watch pocket. He wore this to daily mass, to work, and finally, sitting in his chair at night watching TV with us kids. On Saturday he might be found in a polo shirt and navy trousers but always with a sportcoat and always a very nice looking one. I never saw the man wear shorts, sneakers, or a tee shirt. Every September he would grow in his goatee and every March he would shave it off. Even in his retirement, he still came to the breakfast table in a jacket. And he loved covering his head when he stepped outside. From the occasional Irish motoring cap to the wool fedora (to match his trench coat, of course) to my all time favorite – his 1910-era boater hat.
The man had style and a ubiquitous pipe from which he let out billows of beautiful and aromatic smoke.
More importantly, he respected others. He made a lasting impact. All looked up to him. He represented an ideal of manliness one hardly sees anymore. He placed my mom on a pedestal, honored his marriage vows for close to 60 years, brought many souls into being for God, took care of his family, and went to his reward buried in a dark suit. And a white shirt.
Over the years, although I’ve inherited some of his fashion sense, I’ve fallen into the terrible trap of the modern world where dress is concerned. As I write this I am wearing shorts and a tee shirt. Granted, I’m sitting inside my house and it’s late at night. But just like everything else the man taught me, I’m learning more and more everyday that he was right. That post from Barnhardt brought it home.
I dress the part. To every daily mass I wear a dress shirt and jacket (if not a full suit and tie). I will not ever again run out to the store late at night dressed like I do to work out. And I will be working harder to set those trends back in the right direction. A man who dresses well according to his state in life is a man who cares about others.
We tend to think that modesty isn’t so much of a problem among men but it surely can be. And on that point, I come back in my mind to the question of my PE wardrobe. You know, I live
on the surface of the sun in Texas and by necessity I work out outside. OK, I will continue to wear gym shorts and sleeveless shirts when I’m lifting or jumping rope. It’s 14 million degrees here and I sweat. A lot. I also work out in the middle of the day when no one in my neighborhood is even home. But, as Barnhardt says in her piece, we need to lead the counter revolt and we can do it simply enough by how we dress. So, I’ll be thinking twice before running out to the liquor store in my “Biden can’t ban these guns” tank top. Come on, that’s pretty funny.
I learned from my father that men who are bold set trends, they do not follow them. Dad had no shortage of courage and just a dash of “I’m not concerned with what you think”. In the late 1980’s he and my mom headed out to his office client Christmas party. It was a big deal. His bosses spared no expense and hired incredible entertainment. Dad wore his tuxedo. Mom got after him a bit. “Honey, it didn’t say it was black tie.” He replied, “Doesn’t matter. It should be.” He was the only man in a tux that night. Within five years, it was mandatory. The entertainment that year? Dad came home and when asked who had performed said, “Some no talent clown named Michael McDonald.” And everyone in the audience was in a tux.
I started dressing up for daily mass and I’ve noticed other men doing the same. The world already marks us as different. Heck, the institutional Church marks as different – “those trads”. Do it. What do you have to lose? Your wives will respect you for dressing like men should dress. Your sons will copy you because boys want to be like their old men. Your daughters? Oh man, they already think you’re Superman. Wait until they see Clark Kent! And pro tip: suits are designed to be as flattering to the male form as possible.
So thank you, Miss Barnhardt, for starting this conversation. I’m happy if I could offer my insight on the male side of things.
So, putting a hat on this discussion, Barnhardt has a great line in her post:
Fellow trad men, we need to lead that counter-revolt. God made you male for a reason. Dress like men. Act like men. Lead by your example to show the world there are only two genders. Wear the literal pants in the family. And the tie, and the jacket. And don’t forget the hat. I wear one now just so I have something to remove should I hear the Holy Name of Jesus when outdoors. And the hat I wear to Sunday mass in the summer?…