Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Underwear, Outerwear, and Innerwear

Earlier this week while waiting in line, I observed that the man in front of me had ripped the pocket of his levi’s so that most of his right buttock was showing. However, he was wearing red boxers so that appeared to be OK – at least in his estimation and that of everyone else. At one time even a small hole in the seat of your pants would have been a source of mild embarrassment. Apparently that is no longer the case and men go to great lengths to show off their underwear or in some cases their – no wear(?). While in (where else) San Francisco, I observed two men walking down the street holding hands. A common sight in SF but as I neared this strolling pair of love birds I noticed that one had some sort of odd back pockets. As I drew closer I realized that he didn’t have any back pockets – what he had was two circular holes where the pockets should have been and he wasn’t wearing any underwear at all. He had his little rosy cheeks exposed for the world to ---- enjoy? Similarly, and on the same trip, I observed this very large woman approaching me. She stood out because of her size – easily six foot three – and with a Prince Valiant haircut. She was wearing a very short little dress which caught my attention but as she neared I came to realize two things. First she wasn’t a she, she was a man wearing a woman’s slip – very lacy and I’m certain intended to be quite sexy but appropriate as street wear? Obviously my lack of fashion sense and tolerance for diversity is showing because no one seemed shocked by any of this so I guess some how I missed the new rules that said underwear is in and can substitute for outerwear.

All of this has caused me to reflect on the recent fashion (?) of boys wearing their trousers somewhere below their buttocks which leaves their boxer (always boxers) shorts totally exposed. How they keep from exposing themselves I have been unable to determine but I can assure you were I to wear my pants in the same location they would be around my ankles before I could say “hey check me out”. Of course at my age I wouldn’t be arrested for indecent exposure but would probably be cited for a shocking display of fashion failure and offending public taste. But more to the point – what makes anyone think that exposing your drawers is something that everyone wants to see? In fact, what’s up with the drawers in the first place? Women complain about wearing brassieres but any man who has ever worn boxer shorts knows how uncomfortable they are. While they offer a certain feeling of “freedom” they also chafe and bunch up and that freedom can be achieved by simply not wearing any underwear at all.

I’m reminded of the little boy who opened the family Bible and a leaf that had been placed there long before, fell out. The little boy took the leaf and ran to his mother waving the leaf and said “look – I think I found Adam’s underwear”. Now the history of underwear goes back a long way but it is unlikely primitive man found it necessary to wear something under his bear (or is it over his bare) skin but at some point people found it necessary to wear something underneath their outer-clothes. Without delving into the history of underwear any further, it is worth noting that underwear became more and more elaborate and restrictive until the 20th Century. The first World War changed things in the world of underwear because the military gave up the “union suit” in favor of the shorter underwear now known as “boxers”. This shift also affected women who began to join the work force in significant numbers and who needed less bulky underwear and by the 1920’s women were wearing short slips and panties.

Then in the 1930’s Jockey introduced what became known as “Jockey Shorts.” These rapidly became the underwear of choice for men and were almost universally worn by men until relatively recently. The important point here is that from the time of it’s inception underwear was not on display – which is why it was called UNDER WEAR. However, somehow boxer shorts have become fashionable once again but not really as underwear, although that is what they masquerade as. In reality these new boxers are INNER wear. That is they are worn more or less under the outer clothes but with intent of being exposed for all to see. Unfortunately this fashion trend has dramatically underscored a rampant lack of aesthetics and certainly taste as this innerwear is displayed in garish colors, tacky designs, and questionable taste, for example the pair of boxers with the happy face on the front, giving the observer a glimpse of a happy face with a NOSE.

Of course there are signs that this fashion trend is beginning to fade as some of the boys begin to grow up and realize that permanent “wedgies” don’t have to be a way of life. While they haven’t achieved enough maturity to totally abandon the trend they do want to abandon the “wedgie” so they opt for the “boxer brief.” While this may be an improvement since these tend to revert to underwear rather than inner wear, they also mark the wearer as somewhat indecisive. This is a person who can no longer live with the boxer but who cannot bring himself to return to the brief so they compromise. They give up the wedgie but retain the “bunching” meaning that they still constantly “adjust” themselves which gives their peers the impression that they have not abandoned the boxer. The probable outcome of this fashion cycle will be the return of the “commando” as the stylish give up discomfort in favor of comfortable freedom, which of course will renew the cycle. But then hopefully, the commando will bring the britches back to a place above the buttocks rather than its current location above the knees. Hopefully this shift in fashion will occur soon because every time I see one of these young men with their pants hanging below their butt I filled with the urge to give their trousers a gentle tug knowing that they will fall down. However, so far I have been able to resist this urge but it gets more and more difficult.

While on the subject of fashion, who has decided that men who are unshaven are attractive? Guys with three days of beard are everywhere and they simply look like they have very little regard for their appearance and it certainly makes their hygiene suspect. What’s even funnier is you see these guys in the movies, where they have three days of beard throughout the entire movie. Their beard never grows and they never shave – how realistic is that? Wearing a beard is one thing and some men actually look better with a beard than without just as some men look better shaven than with beards, but no one looks good with just stubble. What is even funnier is when you see these guys who have obviously shaved the beard under their chin because stubble there can be very annoying – so they shave that but leave the rest of their beard stubbified. Presumably these are men who are fashion sensitive but they come across as men who are uncertain, unsure, and insecure about themselves. These are men who feel they must conform and need to have approval from others. Not the type to lead others into new territory.

But I must confess that I couldn’t grow a beard if my life depended on it and would be hard pressed to even produce the currently popular stubble after a month of not shaving. The same is true of the low slung look so popular among the young. If I let my pants slide even a little they almost immediately succumb to gravity and I am left with my pants down. So maybe I am just one of those people who have been left scratching their head wondering where everyone went. Maybe I need to go out an buy a pair of really appalling boxers to demonstrate that I am really part of the current fashion scene. Perhaps those boxers with the Happy Face and (in my case Pug) nose.

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