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A Question of Vanity

  Many men have a funny thing about vanity and  fashion.  Some feel that if they pay too much attention  to their outward appearance then they will look like a  conceited metro sexual, not enough attention and they  will look like a vagabond sleeping under a highway  overpass. So where is the line that delineates self-care  versus narcissism, or casual versus hobo-chic?

Not too long ago, fashion trends and cultural mores changed relatively slowly so an adult man would invest in a good pair of shoes, a tailor-made suit and a weekly trip to the barber to keep up a clean, tidy appearance. Vanity was not a question but rather it was just the way that men presented themselves in public- respectable, repressed and wearing chafing pants. Now, I am happy that men have more options in terms of how to express themselves but for some, that can lead to a slippery slope and some serious style disasters.

Some men take their casualness to an extreme. Sweatpants, torn shirts, worn out pants are somehow accepted and even celebrated (I have never understood the fashion of men who wear their pants below their underwear line. It started in prison as a way to indicate to other inmates one’s “availability”). I am not a fan nor do I feel that men walking around looking like the Big Lebowski are thriving and feeling their best. My mom was sort of a dictator when it came to leaving the house looking respectable. She said that if you look good, you feel good and that way, people will respond well to you. I guess that nugget really stuck with me so I do try to look presentable, even to go walk the dog. (That is quite a feat at 8:00 am in the depths of a Canadian winter).

As such, I really appreciate when I see men out in the world looking good and groomed.  Inside the house wear the hell out of your sweatpants, but outside, please put your best foot forward. Perhaps I side more closely with vanity, however, it is still something that I grapple with in the quest for my own spiritual equanimity. I know that materialism is a trap and a form of suffering with its never ending quest for more. So, what to do?

With the birth of the metro sexual movement, men were encouraged to look (and spend) like women. Men were told to go to the salon, get a manicure and get ill-placed body hair removed. With retailers finding a gap in the market where previously men’s apparel was limited to workout clothes, suits and industrial wear, men were suddenly persuaded to obsess like women over clothes, shopping, and material pursuits. The result is that men started looking more polished but you know, no woman wants to be with a man who spends more time in the bathroom priming and preening that she does.

I had a boyfriend who, for the first time in 7 years decided to get his hair cut rather than buzz it off himself. He managed to find the cheapest place ($6 advertised on the faded sign outside) and then complained about the cost ($9 after wash, cut and style as the sign was 3 years out of date). When he got home, he realized that his $9 hair cut was lopsided. Sadly in an effort to improve his look, he ended up looking even sloppier. And it goes to show you, you get what you pay for. But how much is too much?

Where is the fine line between vanity and good grooming? So where do you sit on the pendulum of egotism? Do you think that you are indulging western superficial material values by dressing well or do you think that you are embracing an innate desire to feel good by looking good?


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