The Pretty Little Man-Dress, for Dad
Father’s Day in 2012: the pressure. The stress! The onslaught of vaguely embarrassing and stereotypical TV commercials! The slew of cards with BBQs on them!
Like any holiday that becomes a commercial juggernaut, contemporary Father’s Day suffers from a case of performance anxiety, and it foists its burden on everybody in its path. Have a father? A partner who IS a father? A grandfather? An uncle? A pet who loves the man in your life dearly?
The Hallmark machine that is contemporary Father’s Day exhorts everybody in the immediate vicinity of modern-day fatherhood to cough up time and money to ensure that Dad feels deeply cared for and attended to on his special day.
Now, this can be a really good thing. Dads are important, and men today are playing new nurturing roles that will likely have huge and positive impacts on the lives of their children. No longer is Dad just a pipe and slippers fixture on the armchair of our sociocultural family imagination.
But. We’re doing a crappy job of celebrating him properly, people. We’ve swapped out the old stereotypes only to replace them with new ones. You may feel obliged to make Dad’s dreams come true on Father’s Day…but what kind of dreams does Father’s Day merchandising actually sell?
Judging by the card selection at my local stationery shop, apparently all Dads live for the following:
1. new golf clubs
2. a personalized set of BBQ tongs
4. fart jokes
Now, I enjoy a good fart joke as much as the next person (well, not if the next person is my six-year-old, but still) and beer never goes out of season. But seriously, world. A man can only use so many sets of golf clubs and steak implements, and all that golfing and standing out on the deck grilling and farting and drinking kinda perpetuates the old “Dad is the fun parent when he’s here but really, he’s secondary on the domestic front and relegated to the deck” mythology.
Truth is, the deck is fun. I’ll happily stand out there and BBQ, at least when it’s not January. But to get past the slightly snide ways in which we celebrate Dad as parent and caregiver and truly honour him as a well-rounded person and not a Homer Simpson caricature, we need to bring BACK the standard Father’s Day gift of yore.
Yep. Let’s be clear: the necktie, with its straight, stuffy reputation? Is actually the most subversive, saucy gift you can give a man for Father’s Day. Why?
Because ties are – looks around, whispers – actually pretty little man dresses.
Back in the Renaissance and European Restoration era, dudes got to wear velvet and lace and fancy little hose with those pointy shoes at the end. They practically pranced around in drag, swathed in sumptuous fabric. And ribbons!
It can’t be easy being a man in this day and age. There’s nothing sumptuous about most men’s clothing choices. Avenues for self-expression – and velvet! – are limited. Hair is short. Hose are a niche market. You can’t wear band tshirts forever and get promoted.
So what happens? Men in the Dad phases of their lives end up falling in line and standing on the back deck in bland golf clothes drinking beer and wondering why everybody swoons over Mad Men and not over them.
The answer is simple: not enough ties.
Ties, ladies and gentlemen, are glorious. They’re expressive and varied and rich in texture and colour and pattern. Pretty little man-dresses, I tell you.
Better, every single man – and plenty of women, hello Annie Lennox – looks absolutely smashing in them. They exude vintage style and power, a la Mad Men (purr), and they inject a little bit of joie de vivre and jauntiness into the otherwise drab landscape of men’s fashion.
Worn right, ties are hot. It’s that simple. They get noticed, and they reap compliments, and they make a man feel kinda
purdy like a player. Whatever floats his boat. Ties are the one place men get to be playful and still professional in their wardrobe choices.
So for Father’s Day, do the Dad in your life a favour and help him out of the beer & BBQ box and beyond: buy him a tie. Or three.
Maybe he’ll like feeling pretty.