My Hot Take on Men’s Fashion

Dalton Perkinson

22 February 2023

I have a hot take. Most clothing advice on the internet is trash. Journalists write reviews without sufficiently scouring the market for what's out there, what's worth it, and what's going to stand the test of time. Their advice is incomplete, out of context, and, frankly, stale.  

The parlor trick that most annoys me is avoiding a firm recommendation and, instead, giving superlatives for a long list of products conveniently linked below for an affiliate kickback. You know the ones: here’s our top pick for the budget friendly, …for the minimalist, …for the business savvy, …for you there with anxiety. Ahh! Are they looking through my webcam?! …. Yes. Yes, they are. 

Most of these writers don’t have expertise in clothing. They are more often average consumers, no different from their readers, and they take time to compile information in a more concise way. Their work is a convenience to their readers, but not a recommendation they believe in. 

Online reviews and recommendations are helpful enough that consumers use them as a staple input for most purchases. The truth is that these journalists are not bad at their jobs. Actually, they are quite good at recognizing their audience and writing content their readers want to hear. With all journalism, the goal is to speak to enough people to gain and maintain an audience. And, the majority of consumers consulting these resources find them perfectly sufficient. However, there will always be an outcrowd—a group that has a different experience than the author and the majority of their readers. With clothing, these consumers are those with figures that deviate from the mean: the voluptuously plump, the auspiciously tall, and my tea-cup kings who have the great fortune to pull from the often-cheaper children’s section. 

I’m not here to tell you what you want to hear. I’m here to tell you what I think about clothing, what you might need to hear as a consumer, and what many people won’t tell you because they have a platform they aren’t willing to compromise. This used to be commonplace. Authors of op-eds had a following not because they grabbed at the market with SEO, but because they had firm opinions that resonated with people. If you didn’t like their opinions, there were other op-eds that aligned with your views, and readers looked forward to hearing from those writers whenever they submitted a new article for print. I have no platform. I have nothing to lose. I’m serving up an honest opinion and a long list of recommendations to help you build a staple wardrobe.  

So, as author of another opinion piece on fashion, I should probably tell you where I fit in—literally. For a long time, and still sometimes, I’m a part of the outcrowd. Remember the plump, the tall, and the tea-cup kings

Am I Plump? At one time I was far more so than I am now, but I’ve recently discovered the unique challenges pestering the athletic types who just need more cloth for their thicc thighs—another outcrowd representative. Am I Tall—yes, and it remains to be a double-edged sword. Tea-cup kings? They can fit in my pocket. 

I’m 6 feet, 2 inches tall; 218 pounds with 180 pounds of lean muscle. I wear a size 15 shoe. Stubborn love handles that are holding on for their dear life, and they just might win. Four years ago I weighed 290 pounds with far less muscle and thighs so mighty they could start a forest fire. Three years prior to that I weighed 215 pounds and went head-to-head in a casting call to play Shaggy for Scooby Doo on Broadway. Lanky. And, only 18 months before, I was 280 pounds and had been comfortably rotund for the majority of my childhood. 

Today, I am in the best physical condition of my life and it’s far easier to find clothes. But, it hasn’t always been easy, and I’ve had more body types than …. There is a really funny body count joke somewhere there… 

I am uniquely particular with clothing. I like things to be trimmed fit and show off the best parts of me—my personality. Good enough is some delta away from what I deserve, which has been an expensive affliction to maintain. I’ve calmed down over the last few years—or maybe I just got better at being picky. I can look at most clothing items and know how it will fit on my body without trying it on. I can also see potential in clothing. I have, on multiple occasions, purchased cheaply made clothes only to take it to my tailor to have it upcycled into the better version of itself. I once paid for alterations to a Target-brand sweater that cost more than the garment itself. And, do you know where that sweater is right now? In my fucking closet because it’s devine! I feel comfortable making those decisions, knowing what will last, and what will be a staple attire for years to come.  

I know a thing or two because…

Without further ado, I present my firm, unapologetic opinion on what you should have in your closet. I've collected my go-to wardrobe pieces including narratives when I think extra advice will make the difference between you settling for what kinda fits and finding clothes you love that become part of your wardrobe for the next decade.  

The theme of the collection is sustainability. Not environmentally sustainable—even if they claim to be, most companies are not—but sustainable in that you won't find yourself replacing these pieces at the behest of fashion trends, or when your pants don’t hold their structure after a few rounds in the wash. Love it or List it Marie Kondo that shit.

I have lots of opinions. And, to your dismay or delight my personality simply requires that I begin with a long exposition that ground my opinions in factual evidence. You can blame my graduate professors for that.  

Let’s get started!  

To set a backdrop for consumer behavior, consider that people are uniquely different consumers than 15 years ago. There are a few truths, derived from the internet era and the rearrangement of the global economy, that have fundamentally changed how consumers approach decision making. 

First, consumers are buying more clothing online and ecommerce is expected to grow exponentially over the next decade. Next, online marketplaces give consumers infinitely more options to choose from, which makes decision making harder. Finally, consumers have access to more information that can help them decide what to purchase. 

This phenomenon is true for all age demographics and income levels. From the new teens being curb-stomped by puberty who are trying to compete with their peers to the 55-and-up-community-dweller searching for their first pair of compression socks per doctor’s orders, everyone shops online. More than half of low-income households, those making less than $25,000 per year, report making purchases online; and even more report using the internet to research products they are considering. Fewer consumers from the low-income bracket reported having internet access at home. This means that, even in situations of financial hardship, even without home internet, even without homes, consumers are finding ways to engage in ecommerce more efficiently than they are using the same tools to access healthcare resources in their community. Consumers give more space in their lives to consumerism than maintaining their health. And they do so in great volumes. 

In the United States, 17 million tons of fabric was thrown in the trash in 2018. It would cost you $38 billion in fees to check that amount of luggage on Spirit Airlines. Of those textiles, 85 percent went directly to landfills or were burned. The environmental impacts of the fashion industry are alarming, but there is an even greater threat to individual consumers that often goes overlooked by the news media. In their journey to ride the latest wave in fashion trends, not only are consumers feeding one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emission of the decade, but after ascending to the stage as the fashion moguls they hope to become, there is a far greater tragedy. They still look busted.           

We also need to discuss the term “fast fashion.” Because it doesn’t seem the academic community is even on the same page with what that means. Consumers think it refers to cheaply made clothing produced in sweatshops abroad.   

The definition you’ll find for fast fashion is that it is a production model to quickly turn out large amounts of clothing and distribute them around the world with every new season—or multiple times per season called micro-seasons. That’s not actually true. That’s just the definition of a manufacturing business. What clothing manufacturers have done, and what any business works to do, is build more demand so they have a market to produce more supply and, therefore, increase profits. Fast fashion is not the supply, it’s the demand.

Fast fashion is elite consumerism specific to the fashion market. Manufacturers can make cheaper clothing, but if consumers are happy with what is already in their closets, the racks will stay full. This distinction is important because some fast fashion clothes are great additions to your wardrobe—they have a more than adequate quality for their use, and it’s the act of tossing it out for a new version that defines it as fast fashion. Your behavior defines what is fast fashion or not—if you choose versatile clothing that can be layered with other parts of your wardrobe for a new fresh look whenever you want, you build a sustainable collection. If you let a single item be the spectacle, once it’s been seen, it’s never as rewarding to wear a second time.

The oldest pair of pants in my wardrobe I bought from H&M 9 years ago—and my ass has never looked better. They are a simple, navy chino that I wear on business trips as frequently as I wear dancing at the club. I wear them weekly, wash them frequently, and have put them through absolute hell. I don’t remember how much I spent on them, but, as an unemployed college graduate 9 years ago, they were no more than $50. I often choose them over another blue pant I have that cost more than $200 and were handmade in Germany.

Work in progress...