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The Colorful Wardrobes of Jewish Men

If I had a nickel for every man that refused to wear an item of clothing because he thought it in some microscopic way impacted how the world viewed his sexuality and masculinity, I’d be livin’ large: pink, purple, micro-stripes, … Read More

By / August 10, 2010

If I had a nickel for every man that refused to wear an item of clothing because he thought it in some microscopic way impacted how the world viewed his sexuality and masculinity, I’d be livin’ large: pink, purple, micro-stripes, seersucker, risky plaid variations, boots, I could go on. In the case of fashion, men shy away, or physically run away, from anything and everything they classify as feminine. Caring about how one looks and making smart stylistic choices is feminine as well, so stop looking in the mirror. This may simply be my angsty female perspective, but it seems any stylistic concept that requires even an iota of effort can easily be dubbed as feminine, instantly granting the man in question style’s version of a Get Out of Jail Free card.

Upon reflection of the aforementioned issue, it puzzled me that Jewish men seem to be, for the most part, the exception to this rule. Embracing items labeled as feminine by other male communities, fraternities across the globe and even themselves, Jewish men flock to and from shul each Saturday in an exodus of pink oxfords. Then, they retire to their homes for a refreshing Shabbat lunch (slaved over by their sundress-clad wives) and throw on polo t-shirts which they’ve purchased in every pastel hue imaginable. As they sit together in the great outdoors that is a suburban backyard and drink their scotch-rocks (or sea breezes in my adorable father’s case), they seem as manly as an Easter-themed bag of M&Ms.

Curious as to what is it that draws these men to milkier shades of peach, elaborate pocket squares and patterns that only seem masculine when worn in Greenwich and Nantucket, I checked in with four Jewish men from all walks of life to get a better understanding of the sartorial sensibilities that make them tick.

Adam Teeter, 27 

Hometown: Auburn, Alabama

Current City: New York, NY           

Occupation: Events Director, JDub Records 

Marital Status: Just Married! (Mazal’s all around…)

The inspiration for this article when he proudly announced he’d be sporting a seersucker suit to his rehearsal dinner, Adam Teeter had tons to say about his style, aesthetic sensibility and how he’s become a trendsetter among his friends. To celebrate his birthday, upcoming nuptials and all around good spirits, Adam requested I spend my day writing about "how cool seersucker is." Instead, I turned the tables on him and why he’s so obsessed with looking like he comes from Nantucket. Having little to do with the décor of his wedding reception, Adam wisely mentioned that his fiancé, Big Jewcy member Naomi Firestone, has great taste. He then confessed that the look for their wedding is rooted in Anthropologie and wedding blogs like Style Me Pretty.

To satisfy his obsession, I immediately asked about seersucker.

"Seersucker’s bad ass! I’m from the South and I like rocking the seersucker and dressing preppy – it’s a cool material, it breathes. It’s not like I’m not going to wear a wool suit to my outdoor rehearsal dinner in July. So I’m wearing the suit, from J.Crew, with white leather Jack Pursell Converse – which are fuckin’ sweet – and a pink tie, no pocket square. The tie was my grandfather’s.

I asked why he thought Jews were into trendsetting with such stereotypically feminine items.

"I do not really see a lot of other Jews doing this, only the cool ones." He then joked, "I set the trends for my friends. Ezra from Vampire Weekend ripped his shit off me – like I see him around and when he sees me I am sure he’s thinking, ‘that’s one attractive man.’"

Still confused as to how Adam has managed to make wearing seersucker suits with pink ties feel as masculine as riding a Harley, I checked to see whether things began for him as a young lad in Alabama. He remains certain that it is he and only he that sets these trends for his peers but gave much credit to his soon-to-be wife, Naomi. "She has great taste (*note this is the second time he’s plugged his wife’s good taste, earning himself optimal husband brownie points), she helped me pick out the suit. Seersucker was my idea, but the suit itself had a lot to do with her." 

Stanley Goldberg, 48

Hometown: Mill Basin, Brooklyn

Current City: Englewood, New Jersey

Occupation: Physician, My Dad

Marital Status: Married for 25 years

I am quite well versed on the style of this next gentleman – he’s my dad and I have seen him wear a lavender polo shirt. In terms of his everyday work wardrobe, it’s button-downs with no ties.

"I wear more light blues, I have some striped shirts I rotate in. I have some purple – two or three of them. I haven’t had a pink button down in ages. Maybe as I’ve gotten bigger I like the idea of wearing pink less."

Who knew that body insecurities would be behind both mine and my father’s aversion to vibrant colors!? When I threw out the idea that my mother must have something, if not everything, to do with his style choices, my dad gave me reason to bite my tongue.

"I’ve had something to do with the majority of shirts in my closet. Nowadays with the coining of words like ‘metrosexual,’ men wearing pink or lime green and going to get manicures doesn’t have the stigma it did twenty years ago. I do not get manicures and while I may not wear pink, I do not mind it."

Check out my dad schooling me on cultural and style stereotyping! I double checked to make sure these manicured, pink donning men were not constantly making claims of masculine validation, i.e. being "comfortable enough to wear pink." I also inquired as to whether all the pale blue clad men in Englewood were making sly behind-the-back comments that these men were effeminate. In my head I developed a Montague/Capulet slash West Side Story visual of the blues versus the pinks in a no holds barred suburban street brawl.

"If someone is wearing a light yellow pant with a pink polo, I can see a reason why he might make a comment about his being comfortable with his masculinity enough to wear it, but a guy in jeans and a pink shirt nowadays is just like any other guy – It would be weird for him to make a remark like that. Even my co-workers wear pink around the hospital. The nurses, however, are usually all in scrubs."

Ariel Toran, 23

Hometown: San Francisco, CA

Current City: San Francisco, CA

Occupation: Founder & CEO, Manscaping, Inc.

Marital Status: Single, Looking for a nice Jewish Girl

After deciding to write this piece and include Ariel, I remembered that he was vacationing in Mexico. Due to the long distance, we kept it short and sweet.

What’s your favorite piece in your closet that most men would be afraid to wear?

One of my mother’s shawlsfrom the seventies. Magnified harringbone. I wear it as a scarf. 

Do you have a process when you put yourself together? What is it?

Yes. First, get really stressed out. Then, find either a caffeinated (morning) or alcoholic (evening) drink(s). Relax. Throw some shit together.

How often do you shop?

Ari explained that he dream shops. He’ll think of pieces he wants to own that may or may not exist and sometimes does not rest until he’s able to hunt them down.

 

Sartorial Joe, 42

Hometown: New York, NY

Current City: New York, NY           

Occupation: Music Executive

Marital Status: Happily married for 12 years

I figured that I’d start with the basics. Do you wear pink? Do you have a problem with the color pink?

Yes I wear pink. Do I have a problem with it? Not particularly. I did when I was seven I’m sure, but not since. I also don’t think its particularly feminine either. But, I was called "white-ass faggot" the other day. I was like, Huh, really?! Ok – That’s Mr. White-Ass Faggot to you. I was in a pink shirt and I was on the mean streets of 56th between 5th and 6th Avenues. But nonetheless, I have not been deterred. I continue to wear pink.

I thought it was only too appropriate that he was accosted for sporting pink in the Manhattan nexus of pastel menswear, only steps from Barneys New York and Bergdorf Goodman. I shared my thoughts with Sartorial Joe that all this hubbub could simply be a case of Jews thinking they are wasps.

Joe replied, "It’s all an entitled Republican aspiration. Like, who in their right mind wears madras shorts? Or madras shirts for that matter? I have a fear of stripes, though. So what do I know?"

I didn’t know if this fear was deep-set and based on a childhood Willy Wonka fear of Oompa Loompas or if it was easy for Joe to whittle down for me. In a surge of investigative journalistic inquiry, I took the risk and pushed the subject… "a fear of stripes?"

"Stripes are just too busy for me."

So I then took to his next style pressure point and accused him of being a shoe whore.

"I like shoes, I look at them all the time but I definitely obsess more than I buy. Really, I’ll buy shoes once or twice a year. I’ll buy a pair of sneakers or two a year, that’s all it is. While my wife’s buying an expensive bag, I’m buying Tretorn boots that I’m wearing right now because of the rain. She likes to point out how often I look at shoes to make herself feel better about her own spending. I like nice things, I just spend less money on them then I used to. J.Crew’s more comfortable than Armani."

We got to chatting about men versus women and the differences in how we purchase.

"Men think about clothes very differently. There needs to be a greater functionality to it. We think, ‘oh shit – its raining’ and then we go into a store and buy a raincoat. We just don’t think about it as often and we buy for function. Which is why, more often than not, guys’ clothes don’t fit. Men’s status shows up more in your watch, your tie, your cufflinks. And if you really know what you’re doing, in your shoes. That’s how you do it, so to speak. You don’t really expect other guys to know what shirt and suit you’re wearing. Plus, then it comes down to what you do for a living. If you work at a law firm, you really should not be showing up in a 3,000 dollar suit. You’re asking your clients for money and you cannot come in looking better than them. If you’re in Hollywood or at a hedge fund, its all about looking like you are the most successful guy in the room."

I then pointed out that he was none of the above, and that his executive position only required a well-fitting pair of jeans.

"I’m a Levi’s guy. But I’m too pragmatic when it comes to jeans. The other day I saw a pair that was so expensive. I’m not buying $300 Levi’s – get out of here."

 

 

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