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September 19, 2006

Striped, Open, Out

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Where did this particular look come from?

Enlightenment appreciated.

I'm pretty sure that the first time I registered the look -- striped shirt, worn untucked over jeans, and usually with two buttons undone at the neck -- was when I saw a standup comic wearing it. This was a few years back, but already it looked like a well-established getup.

Are there women who think this outfit is a good idea? Even when, as it so often is, the striped shirt is worn over a, blech, white t-shirt?

More questions: Why are psychedelic stripes so pervasive these days? My own small-t theory is my usual one: that it's related to the way computers have led to everything being so determinedly visual and aggressive. Ya gotta fight fire with fire, after all. What is the overall look intended to convey? My guess: "I'm a straight guy, full of rogueish, 'Wedding Crasher' charm, who's in a breathless hurry."

I find it quite amazing how many guys are currently imitating the look in its entirety. The Wife and I attended "The Black Dahlia" this evening, and every third guy in the audience seemed to be wearing an untucked striped shirt over jeans. We later talked the phenomenon over at a bar; the tender serving us our mojitos wore the look too. Perhaps they're all members of a sci-fi cult, suited-up in expectation of the arrival of the Mother Ship.

But, really ... Isn't it the look in the photo above a mighty unattractive one? The puffy/flabby, "I used to pump iron" chests it often adorns aren't real attractive either ...



UPDATE: Jonathan captures the look live and on the hoof.

posted by Michael at September 19, 2006


Never mind the look, which almost certainly originated here in Italy and which ought to have the sleeves rolled up just so. I mean, who cares? I'm much more worried about your use of the word "tender" in a sentence immediately preceding one featuring "Mother Ship".

Dammit, if it was a guy, wearing the look, can't you just call him a waiter? Or, indeed, a waitress? Or even a Waitron? Tender? Dear God, whatever next? Will bus boys becomes tugs?

Posted by: Jeremy Cherfas on September 19, 2006 2:30 AM

"Tender" is slang for "bartender."

Yeah, the rolled up sleeves are key too. It started in Italy? Well, maybe on Italians it looks good ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on September 19, 2006 2:45 AM

He looks like a slob.

Posted by: Peter L. Winkler on September 19, 2006 2:55 AM

Its just an untucked shirt guys. Does that even qualify as a look? It looks a little accidental to me.

Posted by: Stuart on September 19, 2006 7:28 AM

Even when, as it so often is, the striped shirt is worn over a, blech, white t-shirt?

At least they're wearing undershirts. To go without an undershirt -- how savage! And yet regrettably common in the modern USA.

Posted by: Taeyoung on September 19, 2006 8:44 AM

In ITALY!!! Good Lord, I can remember when Italy produced the coolest and sexiest of everything, and now they are reduced to THIS - sloppy striped shirts over jeans? This is the most certain indication I've seen recently that Europe (and possibly Western Civ)is doomed, doomed...

Posted by: tschafer on September 19, 2006 8:50 AM

Opt out of anything pertaining to fashion for men.

I buy my shirts, white and blue oxford button down collars, from Land's End by mail. (To the extent possible, never set foot in any retail establishment in person -- that is what God made the Internet for.) Khaki pants, same thing, by mail. Shoes, brown loafers. If necessary to ratchet up in formality, a navy blazer. Ties from Filene's basement -- a biannual trip.

You will never be "in", you will never be "out".

Also, get married, have kids, have no opportunities to ever go anywhere where anyone has any interest in what you are wearing. Then it won't matter.

Posted by: Lexington Green on September 19, 2006 9:08 AM

I guess--compared to what?

It's sooo much better than some other recent options. Like, reversed baseball caps, shorts so long and baggy they look like garbage bags, ubiquitous t-shirts with some famous athlete's name on the back (Little hint: NO ONE thinks your Peyton Manning because you wear a jersey with the name "Manning" on the back). Or jeans cut so low that only one in twenty really have the bod for them. Or even immaculately tucked in golf shirts and chinoes---which just makes men over 30 look like long-in-the-tooth prep school brown nosers.

All in all, I like the look.

Posted by: annette on September 19, 2006 9:34 AM

The shirt worn over the pants look works only if the shirt is straight bottomed. Otherwise it's a slobolla look.

Of course, if the guys a flat-bellied six footer he can get away with anything. :^(

Posted by: ricpic on September 19, 2006 11:21 AM

Lex, you are a bore.

Posted by: Tat on September 19, 2006 11:26 AM

This is just another data point for the downward trend in public formality over the course of the 20th C in the West -- men stopped wearing hats and carrying pocketwatches *long* ago (and haven't been named "Winthrop" for awhile either), to the same groaning that now accompanies the disappearance of the obligatory tie.

That's what I've heard bandied about as the reason for the striped shirt -- when guys were obliged to wear ties, their shirts were simple background colors, but sans cravate, you just have a bland shirt. In order to put color back in, just add some stripes -- color without the tie! The same goes for why it's untucked -- less formal. Likewise for jeans -- who would've ever thought that jeans would cost over $100 and be designed to be worn at some offices?

I don't mind the look -- I'm more of a print man myself if my shirt is to have a certain panache. I'd also rather layer a sweater or t-shirt with a interesting but tasteful print over a plain dress shirt, rather than go for the safer stripe option. But as Annette said, safe as it may be, it beats looking disheveled, and it's an easy way to make something of a visual statement without caring too much about fashion.

Posted by: Agnostic on September 19, 2006 11:27 AM

I'm with Annette: I like the look.
With one caveat:
on my son (20 yo) and his friends.

But it's cute only if there's no stomach pouch to camouflage.

Posted by: Tat on September 19, 2006 11:42 AM

I like the look too. Men need a uniform so as to dress easily. What's the option, a tucked in shirt? Who really cares? If you want flair, show it with the shirt you pick. Deviate from the boring stripes.

As for Lexington Green's version of the uniform -- I call the khaki pants/blue oxford combo the "assistant manager at Kinko's" look.

Posted by: MQ on September 19, 2006 12:09 PM

I've never actually noticed anybody dressed like this, but maybe that's the point. It's the Anti-Style style. As far as can be seen from the photo, it looks as bland as anything (you think those stripes are psychedelic, Michael?).

"I'm too cool to bother with a look." "Check me out, dude, I'm the Albino Dahlia."

Posted by: Rick Darby on September 19, 2006 12:18 PM

"Also, get married, have kids, have no opportunities to ever go anywhere where anyone has any interest in what you are wearing. Then it won't matter.

Ha! That's the best fashion advice I've heard in a long time, and, not coincidentally, it applies to me.

I have to say that today I'd look a lot like this guy in the window, except that after a glance in the mirror this morning, I couldn't go through with it and tucked my shirt in. Momma always told me to.

Posted by: Matt Mullenix on September 19, 2006 12:46 PM

The untucked shirt makes it easier to conceal your weapon. Alternately you can save money by not buying a belt. WRT fashion, however, I see little benefit, and generally agree with my compadre Lex that buying clothes/staying in fashion is a pain in the ass. I therefore propose legislation to establish (once and for all) that men need not keep up with fashion so long as they either continue to wear the clothes they had in college or choose from a small selection of unsubtle traditional styles.

Posted by: Jonathan on September 19, 2006 1:17 PM

Like it? Heck, I wear it. Except everyone is grateful that I wear a bra under the t-shirt. I'd sit here at the computer all day in pajamas except that I might have to go out to the yard to change the sprinkler or the UPS man might bring me more inkjet cartridges.

Cheap, warm (in winter my shirt is fleece), doesn't need ironing. What's not to like?

Prairie Mary

Posted by: Mary Scriver on September 19, 2006 3:09 PM

Jonathan, a scary thought struck me suddenly: are you wearing white athletic sox today?

I need to be comforted. Preferably with a Vogue and quantities of mojitos.

Posted by: Tat on September 19, 2006 4:32 PM

I wear this look a lot, have been for at least 3 years now. It's easy, versatile, relatively stylish without trying to hard, and you can shop for it anywhere. A white undershirt is a faux pas, though, unless you're tucking in.

I can understand why some people are anti-fashion, but I generally enjoy clothes, probably because I'm a tall skinny guy who looks like a 12 year old in t-shirt and shorts. But with hairy legs.

For those of you who are interested in the clothes that regular yet stylish people wear, there is The Sartorialist. A chicken in every pot, a blog for every subject.

Posted by: the patriarch on September 19, 2006 4:40 PM

Considering the ever expanding waist lines of American men, I'd say a lot of guys find this look an attractive alternative to sucking in their gut all day.

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on September 19, 2006 6:16 PM

From the picture it looks like a decent ensemble. Clean cut without being overly formal or overly casual -- Good for everything except weddings and meetings with the president.*

Without the mitigating factor of the glass the shirt might be, as you describe, "psychedelic." I think it's probably a bit too colorful, but overall it looks decent. Naturally it looks better on the model, but then what doesn't?

Of course, I also assume this getup is geared towards 20-something males. If you're 30...

* Unless you're a blogger. Then this is fine. Just kidding on the point of being good for anything... but it's probably good to give off the vibe on a date of "I want to look decent but I don't want to look like I'm trying too hard."

Posted by: Rendition on September 19, 2006 6:16 PM

I have two shirts that fit the description: one "white" one with stripes including pink, lime-y green, brown, and grey, the other black with shades of red and purple. I love these shirts. Usually I wear them untucked, but with slacks more often than jeans, and often with nice hats. I'm not trying to be a slob when I'm untucked; my personal aesthetic sense just doesn't embrace the look of tucked shirt with belt unless there's at least a tie present, if not a jacket. (I've also gone to a wedding wearing the lighter candy-striped shirt under a brown suit with a vest and no tie, and thought it had an excellent 19th-cen feel.)

Posted by: J. Goard on September 19, 2006 6:50 PM

Among the sartorially inclined, this look has a precise name. It is called the American Jackass look, or the Am-Jack look. I believe the name was coined in a GQ article.

It has become the "clubbing" standard for young men, thought the shoes should be something like square-toe Kenneth Coles, rather than white sneakers.

Posted by: Disgruntled on September 19, 2006 7:01 PM

I'm not quite as austere as Lexington, but I'm close. Twill khaki trousers, of various shades of buff, taupe, off-white and dun. Solid-color button-down shirts, with a few faint, subtle stripes or checks. No red, no orange, no yellow. No visible brands or logos, if I can help it. I've been dressing this way since I was about 25, and don't see much reason to ever change.

Posted by: Derek Lowe on September 19, 2006 8:18 PM

Face it, we owe it all to the "Queer Eye" guys. I don't pretend to follow these things very closely (I'm a little long in the tooth for that), but I live in a trendy, fashion-conscious part of Los Angeles and I don't remember seeing the untucked-bold-striped-shirt-over-jeans look until Carson et al. started doing it on the show, after which it IMMEDIATELY became the uniform of choice for L.A. gays and soon spread to straight hipsters as well. Can't say if QE started the look, but it certainly popularized it.

Posted by: Stephen on September 19, 2006 9:05 PM

Good Lord! That's exactly how I dressed when I was pregnant with twins and got to big even for maternity clothes! As for the look on men, it's better than looking like a guy who absent mindedly wandered out of gym class.

Posted by: Bradamante on September 20, 2006 8:47 AM

Down here, Below the Canal, this look has been in since the 1960's. Preferably Oxford shirts, blue or some other solid color. Always worn outside of the pants, so as to give a "rolling hills" look to one's gut. If the shirt was worn inside the pants, the visual would be more of a ""tsunami of fat; a sight to leave one restless in the night. Wearing the Ox outsise of one's pants also provides a ready napkin. Not sure if that's the reason the Italians revived this style, but consider it an extra bonus of this slimming look.

Posted by: DarkoV on September 20, 2006 9:01 AM

Whoa, dude, I want to look like you!

Posted by: Jonathan on September 20, 2006 2:24 PM

>I buy my shirts, white and blue oxford button down collars, from Land's End by mail... Khaki pants, same thing, by mail. Shoes, brown loafers.>I buy my shirts, white and blue oxford button down collars, from Land's End by mail... Khaki pants, same thing, by mail. Shoes, brown loafers.

Good God, speaking of "waiter...waitress...or even a Waitron". Can I get my salad up front, please?

To Mr. Blowhard's complaints...

Men's choices are solid, striped, or plaid/checked. That's it, that's the list. Stripes are hardly new but, yes, some stripes are an exponential of neon and should be ridiculed (if not confiscated and burned).

Going untucked -- or as my friend says, "tucked out" -- has been a preference for many including, admittedly, me.

A white t-shirt under a shirt not buttoned at the collar is a no-no unless you're a lumberjack wearing a flannel shirt.

Same goes for 2 or more buttons unbuttoned -- a big no-no unless you're name is Tony Manero.

Posted by: ruddiger on September 22, 2006 9:41 AM

Here’s the look:

1/ Get to the gym, or exercise at home regularly, and watch what you eat, for Christ’s sake, look at you! You look like a slob! How you look naked translates pretty faithfully to how you look dressed.

2/ Wool dress pants and crisp dress shirts (tucked in) with interesting, yet not freaky or eurotrash shoes. NO SNEAKERS! The shirts of choice for me at Brooks Brothers non-iron or Jos. A Bank Travellers.

3/ Get a little tan on if you’re melanin-impaired

As you get older the untucked look, if you’re not in the process of cleaning out the garage, looks sad.

It’s up to you, guys, you either have dignity, or you don’t.

Plus, you won’t have to rely so heavily on your brain to get laid, women (your wife, girlfriend, even that tall drink of water at the bookstore) will be drawn to you as if by sheer magnetism. It’s like a vacation every day!!

Posted by: Matt S on September 22, 2006 10:28 AM

I think it's a nice look and can vary from younger guys to older. Younger guys can wear the whole thing a bit baggier and with athletic shoes and older guys can wear it a little more taylored and with a more mature shoe. I know my Grandmother would hate the non tucked in part but let's face it most guys don't have rock hard abs so tucking can be unflattering. So if the shirt is a good color, crisply ironed then I think it looks very sharp and the white t under it always looks good - love a guy in a white t!

Posted by: Dawn on October 2, 2006 6:37 PM

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