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Real Men Wear Starched Shirts

Vivia Chen

February 8, 2012

 Sean Connery as James B#10762EI've been getting flak from male readers that I'm too female-centric. They say I'm always writing about women's stuff—work/life balance, the glass ceiling, peep-toe shoes, etc. I plead guilty. One reason for my myopia is that I'm female; the other is that I assume men have it made. I mean, aren't they the ones in control?

Well, it turns out that male power is quickly eroding—and they are doing it to themselves—beginning with the way they dress. According to the Unwashed Advocate, a blog by a West Point grad and a former military lawyer, men are in mortal danger of becoming sissies:

To all men out there who bemoan the notion that women do not have (enough) respect for men and what it is to be a man, let me share something with you. The reason they don’t respect you is because you don’t act like a man. You don’t dress like a man. In fact, you’ve eschewed everything that it means to be a man.

So are you a sissy or a manly lawyer? Here's the official Unwashed Advocate guide to help you decide:

Real men tie their own ties. (They do not need a mirror, wife, girlfriend, or other female support to do so.) "At a minimum, you should know how to tie all varieties of Windsor, four-in-hand, small knot (for woven ties, and no, not the ones that look like they’ve been crocheted, the real woven ones you find at Brooks Brothers), and a bow."

Real men wear starched shirts. Not a "light spritzing," but "the kind of starch that allows the shirt to stand upright on the ground. It should crunch when you don it for the first time. It lasts one day. Then, you have it laundered and restarched."

Real men do not wear pleats. Real men wear plain-front pants. "Pleats are designed for men with gelatinous lower abdomens."

Real men never button the bottom button on a jacket. Real men also don't wear jackets with more than three buttons. Anything with more buttons would looks "ostentatious" and thus "shameful" to real men.

Real men do not wear loafers. They wear shoes with "laces–small, black laces. . . They will not have tassels."

Moreover, real men use shoe polish. "You will buy shoes that are meant to be shined. . . You will not wear suede." And "you will accept that wearing patent leather on your feet is a sign of emasculation."

Real men do not have a shoe closet. "You will not have a lot of shoes, just a few that you’ve maintained, lovingly, through the years. My favorite shoes are ones I bought in 1992. They are brogue style. They are shined before every use, and the perforations are cleaned of excess polish with the tip of a knife."

Real men carry a handkerchief and pocketknife in their pants pocket. "The handkerchief is not for show. . . . It is for practical purposes only. The knife is a small one or two-blade knife—preferably 'Case' brand. Again, it is for practical purposes. Exceptions must be made to the knife rule when flying—because the TSA is scared of real men."

Gentleman, are you taking notes? If you want to look unquestionably masculine, lose the metrosexual attitude and burn those casual Friday get-ups. Real men look tailored and stiff—not relaxed. (James Bond never looked comfy in his Savile Row suits—and that only served to intensify his sexual appeal.)

What do you think—have male lawyers lost their sartorial way in recent years?

Hat tip: ABA

Photo: Sean Connery, From Russia With Love (1963)

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I take it that real men aren't litigators then, since the habit of carrying around a pocketknife will result in countless incidents involving irritated courthouse security guards and apologies for forgetting to leave them in the car.

Meh. Real men don't care about the clothing attire and accessories donned by other men. Just sayin'.

I address male professional attire in my first book, "The Organized Lawyer" (Carolina Academic Press, 2009). Respectfully, I think "real" men can manage to maintain a professional look -- even while wearing (gasp) loafers -- provided, of course, they are not scuffed. Thanks for an enjoyable read.

Airline security procedures have created an exception to the "no loafers" rule, if you are flying that day.

Real men focus on producing success.


While looking professional is indeed important, this man, in all candor, doesn't usually have time to ensure that, my "style" comports with another man's perspective on what is right.


And, as to losing our collective "sartorial way in recent years," I can only comment that, while characterizing someone as such implies a concern with "quality of dress," being a man, and dressing like one is an entirely different manner altogether... it's about how a man carries himself; and, N O T what he wears, or how he wears it in, or out of, accordance with someone else's directives.


And, to capitalize on the homophonics here... to embrace what is put forth by the Unwashed Advocate's list is to embrace a uniformed existence, i.e., a pseudo-marxist existence.


And, while we're on the way French Existentialists could offer some perspective here... Let's remember the words (paraphrased of course) of, the one and only, Jean-Paul Sarte:


"[A]uthenticity and individuality have to be earned but not learned."


Don't let these guidelines turn y`all into sheeple... Just be a man, and earn your authenticity through action, not grafting someone else's definition of manhood onto your undefined meatsack of existence that, we play at being manhood.

Real men are confident enough to (a) have their own sense of style and (b) act accordingly. That's right, act your sense of style. Style encompasses everything from how to wear a hat (because it gets cold and rains sometimes; I prefer a fedora) to how to speak to a waiter.

And please, what kind of OCD loon picks the polish out of the perforations on a pair of shoes with the tip of a knife?

Real men are indominable and therefore do not pay attention to someone else telling them how to be a "real man". Weak, followers listen to others' opinions rather than doing what works for them. Don't matter if you graduated from West Point West Hollywood High, a real man is confident enough to wear anything he chooses, well. People who think they know what a real man has to be have never met one, not even in the mirror.

No patent leather...!? What about at black-tie events, when even a Real Man must break out his tux (he would never rent one)?

Why don't you also address the dearth of manners? Real men are gentlemanly in both dress and deportment.

One important issue that the Unwashed Advocate left out was hats. Do real men wear hats? If yes, what are the proper hats for real men? I'm talking no sissy hats but real, manly hats. All suggestions are welcome.

Some have lost their sartorial way; the blogger has lost a bit of his satirical way.

He makes some good points, but carrying around a snot rag for actual use? Nah. What next - carrying around cloth toilet paper?

Real men have the confidence to wear whatever they damn well please to the office, including pleated pants and loafers (Gucci please)

Wow! Maybe it's the fact that Valentine's Day is around the corner, but I think I love Eric! He states clearly and concisely how things are slipping away when it comes to the way men dress. Is there anything better than a starched shirt and fab tie combo?

Hmmm. It all sounds very 40's to me. But then, that was a good-looking time.

I myself hate all of the current ladies' fashions, and have been thinking of going 40's myself.

Starch? Ick. But at least she (he?) didn't say "white." I wear a suit every day and I buy the ban on tassels and non-silk ties 100%, but I don't own a white shirt.
As for pocket knives - I may be Swiss but I leave the army knife at home, given what happens to them at the courthouse door ... I don't even want to think about what could possibly happen to me!

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The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: [email protected]

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