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Why Aren't DC Men Better Dressed?

DC poorly-dressed stylishness quotient

The last blog post discussed the question of whether men in DC are poorly dressed and ultimately came to conclusion (however unscientific) that yes, DC men are not particularly well dressed on the whole.

If you accept my assessment, then the next logical question is: why aren't men in DC better dressed? Here are some possible reasons that I have heard thrown around as well as some personal observations:

1) DC is a company town of sorts, with our "company" being government - a traditionally conservatively dressed sector

I sometimes take issue with the characterization of DC as a purely political town. Shows like House of Cards and others set in DC give the impression that everyone is directly or indirectly involved with the government. This may be truer in neighborhoods like Capitol Hill, but the vast majority of people in DC are not working for the government. However, it's within reason to think that the uninspired political wardrobe (grey/navy suits, white shirts, power ties) does have an overall influence.

2) People in DC are wonky, pragmatic types that are unconcerned with trivial pursuits

This is certainly part of the equation, but you can't lump together an entire metropolitan region into one personality type. Although it seems to me that DC has a lower ratio of creative types to population than you'd normally see in a major city. This could also have to do with other factors, such as high cost-of-living. Regardless, I think it's fair to say that creative people tend to be more fashion-forward than other segments of society.

3) Though people may be interested in pushing the envelope, there seems to be a general aversion to standing out

To me, this is possibly the most compelling and overlooked factor. A lot of the men that I outfit struggle to find the balance between wearing colors, patterns, and cuts that they are drawn to and conforming to the unspoken DC dress code. At worst this equates to purposefully dressing poorly and at best dressing mundanely.

Perhaps the very best way to illustrate this point is to poll a few of the DC men in your life on this simple question: Have you ever thrown caution to the wind and worn a bolder-than-usual outfit to work?

If they answer affirmatively, ask them how their coworkers responded and you might be surprised how many will look a little deflated and say "they called me GQ". I've heard this exact story countless times. Think about it for a second - men whom have taken pride in their appearance and tried to break the stale dress code mold have been mocked for doing so! As I have worked in clothing for almost all of my adult life, this has not been an experience that I have had - people in the clothing world are more likely to err on the gauche side if anything.

4) Some men aren't sure how to put together nice outfits and/or feel intimidated by clothing

This is also definitely a factor and fortunately there are resources such as stylists and clothiers that can help. But I do think this is not particularly specific to DC, so I wouldn't count it as a major piece of the puzzle.

It does seem like DC is slowly improving in its overall stylishness and cracks are starting to appear in the uninspired attire foundation. As men continue to take more pride in their dress, will DC's reputation change or are we destined to extend our stay in fashion purgatory for a couple more decades?




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