I was walking down the main street in my local area the other day when I noticed a short fellow wearing a bright green duffel coat walking towards me. Now, green, above all other colours, has gradually ascended in my estimation to such an extent that it now holds the place closest to my heart. And, despite a full wardrobe collected over a number of my adult years and a promise to myself not to buy any more clothes, I felt envious of the man’s coat.
And it was here that I encountered, once again, the phenomenon of clothes envy. Clothes envy is rife in our culture. It is apparent in the tabloids and the glossy magazines when they show celebrities on the red carpets in their apparel. The costly outfits in the photographs are meant to seduce and to arouse emotions of jealousy and want. Often, they lead to cheap high street knock-offs. Women on the London Underground often give away clues as to their clothes envy. They carefully contemplate another fashionable woman’s outfit with their eyes, remembering the combinations of colours and textures, ready to mimic the style on their next shopping expedition.
I want to write here about clothes envy in relation to gender, and I wish to write as a man. Now, for any man interested in fashion, a particularly sore point is that women’s clothes are much more fashionable than men’s clothes. Women’s clothes are more experimental, more flamboyant, more colourful, more stylish. Not only this, but women’s clothes are also much more various. So, from the perspective of a man interested in fashion, clothes envy is at its highest peak when he sees a fashionably attired woman.
This is not to say that I am interested in wearing women’s clothes. Quite the contrary. Despite my own experimentalism in fashion, I would never wear anything that I thought of womanish (I wear bright pink, for example, but don’t associate this with women or femininity, but would never wear leggings, for example, no matter how fashionable they are deemed to be). The point is merely that women’s clothes are so much more better than men’s clothes. Even my cherished suits are outdone by women’s suits, whose cloth and cut are far more superior. Women also have cufflinks and better shirt designs (I was recently talking with a purveyor of fine garments and was telling him that I liked the design and colour of a certain woman’s shirt much better than its alternative green in a man’s shirt that he had for sale). I think this is why fashion designers, above all, wish to be associated with women’s fashion rather than men’s fashion. For me, even though men’s clothes are generally much more expensive than women’s clothes, they are really not as ‘valuable’. Thus speaks the man afflicted with clothes envy.