Cross dressing at the office: Glad rags and man bags

Published 13 years ago -  - 13y ago 27

It has been a while since I have given much thought to what I should wear to the office.  A suit, starched shirt, and a tie seem to work just fine.  I wear more slacks and polo shirts during the summer.  Every now and then, the whimsical side takes over and I don a pair of Keds with the slacks.  I figure my age and stage in my professional career allow me the occasional fashion frivolity.

My older daughter is just starting out in her professional career.  Her summer law internship required a combination of business formal and business casual attire.

“What’s the difference between business formal and business casual?” she asked, as if I would know.  So, I guessed.

Business formal would be a suit and tie, while business casual would be the occasional slacks and polo shirt, I suggested.

“I don’t wear a tie,” she pointed out.

And I don’t wear a dress, I answered.  At least not at work, and never, ever, with Keds.

I have since found out there are those who do know.  Bernard College, a private school for women in New York City has a dandy set of web pages that unravel the mysteries of business formal and business casual.  At least for conservative young women and flamboyant young men.

I also found some newspaper clippings from a few years ago regarding business fashion and the business greeting.  At the time, according to one article, women were buying men’s clothing, such as dress shirts, polo shirts, jackets, sweaters, and boxer shorts.  Today, such attire does not look out of place.  Many businesswomen wear starched, white dress shirts under their tailored jackets.  Polo shirts come out of the closet for casual Fridays.  I’m not so sure about the boxers, though.  It’s hard to see who is wearing them without being hit with a different kind of office suit.

There is a name for this fashion crossover.  It’s called cross-shopping.  Back where I come from, we used to call it cross-dressing and we politely avoided folks (mainly men) who preferred to walk on the wild side.

Some retailers say women cross-shop because of the perception that men’s clothing is made better.  It’s true and there is a perfectly good reason for it.  We men wear our clothing longer, especially our boxer shorts.  For instance, if I choose not to go commando, I can wear the same pair of boxer shorts at least three days in a row.  And that’s in the middle of the humid Houston summer!  Pretty impressive, huh?

My favorite jacket is a brown cord I’ve had almost 35 years, which is longer than I’ve had my wife.  I like to remind her of that, too.

I have not seen men rushing headlong to the women’s department to participate in this cross-shopping experience, however.  And I can tell you why.  Women button their shirts wrong.  The buttons and buttonholes are backwards.  We men are not creatures of change (see aforementioned reference to boxers), and we are quite comfortable buttoning our shirts correctly.

As for underwear, well, women can get away with wearing boxer shorts, but most men I know would feel a bit creepy in a crotchless teddy.  Bob Frapples, down at Sparky’s Diner, once confided that he used to wear lacy bikini briefs.  He said he started wearing them after his wife found a pair in his suitcase.

Some men have crossed over.  I discovered this in a rather awkward fashion when a colleague asked to see my man bag.  She was impressed until she discovered it was trimmed in faux leather.

Don’t ask.

The other new-fangled wave, which hasn’t caught on around here, was the Power Kiss, another female innovation.  The idea was to replace the manly, crunch-the-bones-and-wring-them-dry handshake with a softer, gentler kiss.

Meet a business associate on the elevator and say “Good morning” with a kiss.  Greet a new client with a smooch on the cheek.  Say “Hey” to the mailboy with a peck on the forehead.

Power kissing is nothing new to Europeans.  Neither is cross-dressing to the English, for that matter.  Total strangers will greet one another with kisses on the cheeks.  Heads of state will pass along a little national saliva with some national pride before getting down to business.  I don’t even want to know what Bill Clinton might have passed along.

Eskimos used to slobber a friendly hello before they found it meant spending a long winter attached to another person’s face.

Real American men have not adopted this little custom, just like they have not embrace women’s wear daily.  I mean, really.  Imagine the following scene:

It’s five-thirty on a Friday afternoon in downtown Houston.  Lawyers have spent hundreds of billable hours hammering out the details of the multi-billion dollar oil and gas deal that rests on the table.

“Well, there it is,” says Sam Houston MacConnell as he slides forward in his chair, his Givenchy stockings caressing the soft insides of his waxed, manly thighs.  “What do you say, Bobby?  Can we seal this here deal with a big, sloppy, kiss?

Nooo.  I don’t think so.


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