Urban males can wear sportsmanlike, humorous styles on weekends

COUNTRY COMES TO THE CITY

October 25, 1990|By Lois Fenton

Q:I live in the city and work in an office. I don't ride horses, I ride mass transit, and I do my jogging at a health club. Basically I never get to the country. I notice that store windows are full of great looking country clothes. Where could I wear them?

A: If you can believe the designers, this year every guy's sportsman. Not as in driving sporty cars or playing rugged games, but as in hunting, shooting, and fishing.

Unlike women's constantly changing styles, most men's clothesthank goodness, stay pretty much the same from year to year. Still, every so often the designers come up with a whole new approach, some new angle that seems to pop up in manufacturer's designs everywhere you look.

This year it's "ecology," the outdoors, and things that take onback to nature. It's sort of a cross between the upper-crust Ralph Lauren foxhunter look and the Earth Day crowd. Hunting is in. Fishing is in. Ducks and feathers are in. Trees and backwoods are in. Everyone from Sen. Sam Nunn to Madonna has jumped on the "Don't Bungle the Jungle" bandwagon.

Even for the city guy who never ventures into the woods, casual clothes that are environmentally correct are newly popular. Stores are chock full of countrified looks . . . sometimes, even when they seem to have no connection with anything.

As an example, in sleeping-and-loungewear, the "fish pajamset" from Joe Boxer is a feature of his "Log Cabin Couture" collection. See what I mean?

But, tongue in chic or not, these colorful 100 percent cotton pj's are fun to wear, especially for men whose day-to-day work wardrobe allows for very little playfulness. Don't wear a hunting shirt with leather shoulder patches for resting a shotgun against when you're in the office rifling through files, but on week ends these humorous clothes are quite practical . . . and borrowable. If you're not careful, outdoors or indoors, they could easily turn into the one that got away.

Q: Please help us settle a dispute. Is it appropriate for a man to forgo wearing an undershirt when dressed in a shirt and tie? We all agree that some men find an undershirt more comfortable, but there is a vocal group of women at the office who insist that a man looks aesthetically better when he wears an undershirt. Does it really make a difference?

A: My immediate reaction is that a man's undershirt is his owbusiness. Since it does not show when he is dressed in a shirt and tie, it is purely a matter of his own preference. But on further consideration, with less-than-totally-opaque shirts, the undershirt -- or lack of it -- is indeed quite visible.

An undershirt helps to give a white or light-colored shirt a smootlook, both in how the shirt drapes and in how completely it covers the body. Just as an entire industry exists in women's wear to rid them of "unsightly panty lines," so an undershirt is often worn by men with dark complexions, deep tans, and dark body hair to give a neater, fresher, more uniform look.

Sometimes men get so used to going without a T-shirt undesports wear that they don't wear one when perhaps they really should with a shirt and tie. Many men believe avoiding the extra layer makes sense in the summer.

Actually, in warm weather -- and overheated offices -- an undershirt wicks away body moisture, absorbs perspiration, and helps protect against unappealing crescent-shaped stains under the arms of shirts and light-colored suits. The fabric should always be 100 percent cotton.

The cycle goes around. American men all wore undershirts untiClark Gable appeared in "It Happened One Night." In a bedroom scene with Claudette Colbert, he shockingly, for the time, removed his shirt to reveal a bare chest. After that, it took years for the undershirt to reappear as an element of good grooming.

Q: I am in my 80s. I've had trouble all these years having a suit fime. I am 5-foot-2. When I see nice suits in the windows of the men's shops, I go in and am told they cannot fit me. I've had suits made to order and been conned ($700 for suits not worth $100). What can I do? Where can I go to get a nice fitting suit for a reasonable price? Thank you for your help.

A: Finding quality -- or even decent -- clothes at a reasonablprice is a challenge in any size. In short sizes the hunt can be even more elusive.

Many powerful and admired men fit this category: Among them, Paul Newman and Aristotle Onassis. But not every shorter man can afford their custom tailors.

As you have discovered, alterations on regular sizes do noalways provide a correct fit for a shorter man. Snipping fabric from a suit made for a 5-foot-10-inch frame produces a silhouette that looks baggy and ridiculous on a man who stands 5 feet 3 inches. And slicing inches off a pair of pants does not address the problem of pockets that dip down nearly to the knees.

The "short man" does not have as many options as the "petitwoman." He may resort to shopping in better boys' department, not the most satisfactory solution.

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