You’re an adult; you’re a teenager. You’re dressed up; you’re dressed down. You’re runway-ready; you’re ready for a scrimmage.
Make up your mind already!
After attending a party recently in downtown Manhattan where four guys were affecting the hoodie-under-blazer look, I got to thinking about what’s become of men’s fashion. I don’t mean to state the obvious: that layeringof fabrics, of styles, of eras, of everythinghas gotten out of control. Or that sloppy chic is now de rigueur. I mean to decry the New Indecisiveness, as exemplified by the hoodie-blazer combo.
You might think there’s a certain continuity between the untucked-dress-shirt-and-suit look and the hoodie- blazer look, but the thing about the contemporary untucked-dress-shirt-and-suit look is that the shirt is usually tailored: It’s meant to be worn untucked. The fashion world has deigned to respond to the demands of the common man, and so the shirttail in this combo has been truncated or even eliminated, setting up a pleasing horizontal linea clean, distinct horizon between torso and legsin lieu of a belt (the young cad’s version of Sansabelt style).
But with the hoodie-blazer look, there’s no clean, distinct nothin’. Except intent. Obvious intent. Because the hoodie-blazer is a signifier of the desire to belong to a certain club. Actually, two clubs at once. The look is an eager plea for a dual-membership pass into manchildhood, a.k.a. quasi-post-slackerdom. One foot’s in the sandbox, one foot’s in the champagne room.
“You caught me red-handed,” says James Rickman of the New York band the Rinse. When I met with him recently, he was wearing a black hoodie, so I asked him what he thought about the whole hoodie-blazer thing. “Um, I actually just took off my blazer.” He insists that he wears the combo solely for comfort although lately he’s been a bit distressed by its ubiquity. “Our band did an audition for a beer commercial recently,” he says. “It was us and about 50 other guys, and we all more or less looked exactly the same between our hoodies-and-blazers or peacoats and our shaggy hair. It was very humbling to know that we’re that interchangeable.”
“Men are just pack animals,” says Jenny Little of the Brooklyn-based label Little by Jenny, whose collection includes screen-printed hoodies. “It’s like guys think, ‘Oh, okay, my friends are wearing it. This is the designated style.’ Whereas women know what’s hot, but they don’t want to look like all their girlfriends. Boys with those hoodies-and-blazers, you’ll see a pack of them wearing that all the time. It’s, like, the hipster’s uniform. And it’s always a black hoodie, too.” (Oh, James.)
Usually we get over these sorts of things pretty quickly. Remember how we collectively rejected the upscaled trucker hat like a bad kidney? But the hoodie-blazer look stumbles onward, decisive in its indecisiveness. Maybe we’re stuck with it.