Priorities Straight, Pants Wrinkled

Some men go through life constantly adjusting their appearance: straightening their ties, re-puffing their pocket squares, running their fingers through their hair. As some astute internet observers have already noted, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has spent the past few years fiddling with his cuffs in Sisyphean labor—but because his hands are so large and muscular, he is forever unable to button them. Such obsessions are not, however, a modern phenomenon, induced by an excess of selfies or state surveillance. There have always been fops struggling against their garments.

Consider Harold Lloyd in The Freshman. Lloyd plays a try-hard first year at Tate University, “a large football stadium, with a college attached.” In an effort to impress his classmates, he throws a “fall frolic,” and hires a tailor to dress him in the latest fashions. Unfortunately, this tailor has fainting spells, and when the big night arrives, he’s only just basted the outfit together. Lloyd spends the rest of his evening busting out of his tux, with his tailor surreptitiously attempting to sew him up again. Hilarity ensues, at the expense of poor Harold, who winds up running around in his underwear.

The lesson here (other than the necessity of comprehensive healthcare for tailors, and everybody else) is the foolishness of a person who spends all his time fighting against his own clothes. And in the warm months to come, things will only get worse for these neurotic souls. Blazing heat, torrential thunderstorms, spurts of ketchup and yellow mustard—such forces can conspire to break the will of even the most attentive groomer. Better, I say, to embrace the forces of entropy, better to embrace dishabille.

Smartly buttoned up menswear heroes are easy to find, but men who understand the power of dishabille are more rare. Assuming you don’t want to look like a penurious schlub or a porno director, your choice of icons is limited. Jason Alexander is out. Burt Reynolds is a hard pass. But what about Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park? In a scene midway through the film, his character has been injured. The dark room where he’s been placed to recover is hot, and he’s sweating profusely. He wears his shirt open, baring his chest. This is a man who has his priorities straight. Who has time to bother with buttoning a shirt in a situation like that? He has a broken leg—there are killer dinosaurs on the loose.

We live in an age of great uncertainty, a moment almost as terrifying as the scene in Jurassic Park when that dinosaur spits black sludge into Newman’s face. Now is not the time for the fussy inspection of pants cuffs and collar points. Leave your shirt open, accept your pant wrinkles, and sweat freely. If your only tuxedo is still in basting thread, just wear something else.

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