Why Do We Feel The Need To Make Men Over?

Illustration for article titled Why Do We Feel The Need To Make Men Over?

I have a friend, very stylish and awesome, who not long ago started dating a sweetheart of a guy. When I met the guy, he was a lovable shlub in a flannel shirt and Jansport, who sang Bob Seeger at karaoke. The next time I saw them, I did a double-take: he was kitted out in skinny jeans and a vintage cardigan, what appeared to be Frye boots, a cordovan shoulder bag in place of the backpack, Buddy Holly glasses and an artfully disheveled coiffure. My friend beamed with pride. To look at him, her boyfriend was now any Brooklyn hipster with a working knowledge of Moby Grape's discography, a taste for boutique bourbons and a casual penchant for art films. But, the thing was, he wasn't. Today's Seattle PI brings us a cute piece on why women feel compelled to make men over. Author Diane Mapes is comforted by the reality that women are simply blessed with "a highly attuned aesthetic sensibility." I wish it were that straightforward.First of all, I should probably come out and admit that I may have the zeal of a convert on this subject, as I have forced myself from desist from the practice. I think it's the time I've done in retail; while I love to advise friends and will certainly volunteer an opinion if asked, making a boyfriend over has never been my drug of choice. There's nothing I hate more than seeing a guy dictate his opinions about clothes to a girlfriend or wife, and I'd hate to fall into that trap. Do I wish my boyfriend didn't wear Birkenstocks? Obviously. Do I hate that vest he sometimes sports like an early 90's jazz musician? All signs point to yes. But I wouldn't really cotton to his attempts at a subtle makeover on me, so I don't feel I have the right. (Also, he's kind of a stubborn cheapskate, so it's really not worth the effort.) That said, I do absolutely realize that men tend to be less sensitive about this stuff. Whereas we might take a criticism of an outfit as a deep insult, a guy's probably just been holding onto it for a few years and doesn't really want to think about shopping. Even the most foppish dandy — like my brother — is unlikely to have his ego very involved in such choices. Men's fashion choices seem often to adhere to a misguided idea of appropriateness rather than self-expression. And yes, obviously these are generalizations. Plenty of men need help choosing clothes, are happy to cede the responsibility, don't care, or want to please you. I have friends who have really benefited from a little tactful making-over and are deeply grateful for it. However, as in the case of my friend, helpful advice can sometimes segue into a dangerous form of egotism. When a guy's appearance is another carefully cultivated accessory, that's just weird. It feels yucky to admit we might be embarrassed by the way a companion dresses, but I totally get it: we put so much energy into our own self-presentation, considering the ramifications and implications of each component, that such a slapdash approach can be deeply frustrating, especially when you just know someone could look so much better. But sometimes it seems like this kind of reflexive making-over becomes a form of ownership, a wish to overcome the influence of prior girlfriends, moms, even an earlier identity. Like redecorating a house, it does seem like some dames feel the need to put their stamp down. I worry, too, that at times this making-over becomes a form of willful whitewashing: by making a guy into someone who looks like the kind of person you should be dating, you've somehow glossed over the realities of tastes, personality, even values. The power dynamic of people dressing each other is a complex one; anyone who's shopped with her mom knows that. It quickly ceases to be about the clothes and becomes a tug of war over how you see yourself versus what someone else thinks you should be projecting. Sure, guys might not be aesthetically sensitive as a rule, but anyone knows when someone thinks they're not good enough as they are. In sum: Have I hidden my boyfriend's vest? Maybe. But I am making every effort to not replace it with a simple corduroy sports coat that he really needs and would look rad — because at the end of the day, it's his closet. Single Shot: Why so many women want to remake their man's wardrobe[Seattle PI]


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Stranger Bird

My husband has a much better sense of style than I do, and I've benefited muchly from his advice. And I've felt what Sadie talks about - to a degree, I want to look like our style matches and we are components of a unit. Is that bad? I've started wearing mostly skirts since we got together, but then he also got me watching Mystery Science Theater and listening to Belle & Sebastian all the time. I think it's more me absorbing some of his tastes than him imposing them on me (though I'm sure this does go on in some relationships), so I don't think all couples-reflecting-each-others-styles should be tarred with the same brush.

Anyway, I've managed to keep my making-him-over to trying to convince him that no one should wear pleated pants (so far unsuccessful).