Tag Archives: clothing

My Wardrobe Doesn’t Colour My Opinions

By Jason Menard

When it comes to clothing-related support of issues, it’s clear that words speak much louder than actions.

As my wife can attest, I have a hard enough time matching my wardrobe to itself, much less having to match it to my beliefs. So today, on the Day of Pink, I wore black and khaki (or green or beige* pants). But that doesn’t mean I don’t support the cause wholeheartedly. I just pulled a shirt out of my closet to match my pants – not my mood. Continue reading

A Formal Look at Dress

By Jason Menard

Looking for a way to attract attention at your workplace? Nowadays, the best way to stand apart from the crowd is to wear a suit!

Save for lawyers and a few other choice professions, formal attire has gone the way of the dinosaur. Business casual is the style of choice and most places will even allow jeans on casual Fridays – or, in some locations, all the time.

Working in a business casual environment, my workday wardrobe largely consists of Dockers pants, button-down Oxfords and shirts, the odd polo, and the even odder sweater (odd in terms of frequency of wear – not the fact that they have little bunnies or kitties knitted on them). And while I like to inject my wardrobe with a little colour – a little pink here, a touch of lavender there, a splash of burgundy to round it out – many other guys in my situation seem to prefer to alternate between shades of drab.

In the end, we’re pretty homogenous in our attire. A dress shirt, unbuttoned at the top, casual slacks, and black shoes (because, as Frank Zappa once said, brown shoes don’t make it…). Today’s business casual can be summed up as functional, more-or-less fashionable (at least nothing that will bite us in the Dockers-clad ass 20 years from now), and comfortable.

However, despite the prevalence of business casual, there are still times when we have to dust off the old suit and put it on for the more formal occasions: awards brunches, business dinners, and the like. And the person then returning to their normal work environment is greeted with, “So, you have a job interview today?” or “Wow, you’re all dressed-up today.”

Maybe I’m feeling nostalgic for a time that never truly existed, but I find it sad that the suit is such an anomaly in the business world. I may be odd, but I like wearing a tie. I enjoy getting dressed up once in a while. Far from being stuffy and rigid, I find that sometimes formality helps you feel more professional and, by extension, more important. There’s really nothing wrong with being dapper.

Now, I’m saying that as a 33-year-old man who has grown up in a world – and worked in corporate environments – where business casual has been the norm. My suits have traditionally been reserved for weddings, funerals, job interviews, and the odd business-related function. And when I’ve traded my corporate hat for the old press cap, sometimes the clothing standards have seemed to get even worse.

But I was never forced to wear a suit and tie every day. While the generations before me may have felt that the liberating advent of business casual was an emancipation from the shackles of formal wear, for me there’s still the excitement of dressing up. I enjoy tying my own tie and ensuring that the knot is correct and the length is just right. I appreciate some of the smaller details, occasionally breaking out an antique tie clip and positioning it just so. To me, due to its relative infrequency, dressing up is an event – not an imposition.

That being said, perhaps the novelty would wear off if I was mandated to wear a suit each and every day. The conversations I have with my peers where we revel in the special joy of playing dress-up, adult style, simply wouldn’t exist. Collars that seem so prim and proper would quickly become stiff, constricting, and suffocating. The liberating feeling that formality provides would rapidly be replaced by an overwhelming sense of claustrophobia.

And even if I wanted to dress more formally, I couldn’t realistically do it in my environment. Even on the odd day where I’ve worn a tie to work – usually due to an after-work, media-related engagement – I’ve attracted comments and stares. But yet I still yearn for the days of yore.

I’d love to wear a fedora each and every day: tipping my hat in respect to women passing me on the street; and brushing snow off the brim as I hang it on the suddenly useful hat rack. Wearing an overcoat, a suit, and a tie – a product of a previous generation being reborn in today’s more casual confines.

But that’s the 33-year-old talking. The one who has never been forced to wear a tie. The one who looks back at old photos and imagines a time that may never have existed. And the one who is able to yearn for a periodic return to formality from the comfortable setting that business casual affords.

The good old days are never as good as we remember them. And maybe they’re not as good as we’d like to imagine them to be. But still, sometimes, I wish formality wasn’t just reserved for formal occasions.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

This Shirt’s Not Offensive – Ignorance Is

By Jason Menard

The image of a bloodied hammer, accompanied by the caption “She was asking for it.” I know it won’t be part of my winter wardrobe, but that doesn’t mean I think people shouldn’t be allowed to wear it.

The shirt in question, which is also available in a version wherein a pair of bloodied scissors are displayed with the phrase “He had it coming,” has caused a bit of an uproar. Concerns over the shirts’ legality have worked their way all the way up to Premier Dalton McGuinty. The Attorney General is currently looking into its legality.

My question is, why? Protestors say that these shirts advocate violence, the manufacturer counters that these shirts are designed to mock that mentality and, in fact, are centred around poking fun at these taboo topics. Interesting sense of humour, that.

However, it’s not up to our elected officials to legislate our thoughts and beliefs. It’s up to us as a society. Our hypersensitivity to minor affronts is well documented, and when these larger-scale displays of ignorance are made, we work ourselves into apoplexy. What’s next, rounding up all the shirts we don’t approve of and having a mass poly-cot burning in the park?

Violence against women is deplorable. Violence against anyone is an abhorrent concept that should be eradicated from our society, but protesting against T-shirts is not the way to do it. In fact, we should welcome these shirts – and look at them for the opportunity they provide, and opportunity to take back our society and have an open dialogue.

The people who choose to wear shirts cut from this sort of cloth, so to say, are ignorant. If they’re pro-irony, then they have to be made aware that there is far too much ambiguity in the message to find the humour or cutting social satire that they’re trying to present. If they’re pro-violence, then it’s an even better opportunity to educate.

Racism, homophobia, sexism, violence – all these forms of hate fester in ignorance. By engaging people who hold these beliefs in a dialogue you have a chance of educating them, showing them new ideas and the faults of their beliefs. By ignoring the problem – or worse yet, prohibiting its display – all we do as a society is send these people underground. Instead of airing these beliefs to the scrutiny of discourse, we’re enabling them to grow and flourish in an environment of ignorance. Banning T-shirts and literature does nothing more than cause the problem to get worse.

Kids – and let’s face it, youth are going to be the main wearers of this type of shirt – are impressionable. It’s their nature to shock, to rebel, and to test their limits. It’s also their nature to find a place, to learn right from wrong, and to try to fit in. They’re desperately looking for a cause to believe in, or an image to present. I remember in my teens that my beliefs were absolute – the problem was my frame of reference was far too narrow. As I’ve aged and been exposed to more and more of this diverse world of ours, I’ve learned that some of the ideals I held dear as a teen don’t stand the scrutiny of time. Now in my 30s, I’m no less passionate about my ideals, but I’m more aware of consequences, mitigating factors, and different perspectives.

Essentially, black and white don’t cut it anymore, we live with shades of grey.

Knowledge truly is power. Those people who are working so hard to have these shirts banned should channel their energies into educating those who choose to buy them. It is our responsibility as a society to call people on their beliefs, to hold them up to scrutiny, and challenge their ideals. If you see someone wearing a shirt you find offensive, ask them about it. Present your point of view and you’ll probably be supported from those around you. Trust me, most kids want to shock, but are deathly afraid of confrontation – as soon as they’re called on it, that shirt won’t find its way out of the closet again.

And for those of you willing to shell out your hard-earned cash for this “ironic” statement, why not put your money to better use? If you’re truly against violence, take that $25 and donate it to a women’s shelter or another charitable organization. That way your ideals and words will be far less empty.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved