Clinging to tradition is your prerogative. Go ahead and refuse to trade in your “perfectly good” 2001 Lexus; shampoo with Pert Plus even though something in a better-looking bottle might make your hair look shinier; order the lone chicken dish on the menu at a sushi restaurant. But there’s a point at which a resistance to modernization stops being charmingespecially when it leads you to do something that’s profoundly detrimental to your appearance, such as cramming a wallet in the back pocket of your pants.
“Beauty is about symmetry,” says Robert Verdi, host of E! and the Style Network’s Fashion Police. “Unless you’re carrying two wallets, you look lopsided. Even when you have a vented jacket on, you’ve still got a bump on your ass. Why would you want a bump on your ass?”
Necessity long ago ceased to be a reason for a man to have an ass bump.
“Since the eighties, men’s clothes have become much more about the contour of the body than about practicality,” says Andrew Bolton, a curator at the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York. “Our society doesn’t need clothing with a lot of pockets in it anymore. Everyone takes credit now.”
Alternative stuff-carrying methods are also a lot more sophisticated today than they were in the Reagan era: The “man bag” joke is as old as the hills; classy money clips and paper-thin billfolds are plentiful. There is absolutely no need for you to shove an engorged wallet in the pocket of your $400 jeansor worse, to seek out “roomy” pantsin order to accommodate that sartorial appendix. Your cell phone is the size of a baby’s thumb, the pictures of your kids are on a digital camera, and unless you’re a stripper or a gas-station attendant, you have no cause to pack a wad of singles.
“I think it’s lazy,” says Richard James, a tailor and designer on London’s Savile Row. “It just means you’re carrying around a bunch of things you don’t use.”
All this makes it clear that the contemporary pocket-stuffer is one of three things: an oblivious creature of habit, a man too insecure to carry a shoulder bag, or someone lacking the organizational skills to pare down the clutter that sits like a benign tumor on his right cheek to a couple of $100 bills and an AmEx. Are those really the qualities you want to project? Do you want to be the guy at the business lunch, sitting George Costanza–style on the banquette, lifting his butt up to reach into his back pocket at the end of the meal?
Isaac Mizrahi, who makes pants without any rear pockets at all for his high-end men’s line, can think of only one reasonable excuse for a man to stick with the back-pocket bulge.
“It’s one sure way a woman can tell if a guy is straight,” Mizrahi says. “No gay man would ever deliberately put a lump on his butt.”