Hillary Clinton and her pantsuits. Conservative Republicans and their bowties. People can become known for their signature look and iconic sartorial, or decorative choices. A common method today in expressing one's individuality is in the form of tattoos. Back in my day, the only people who got tattoos were marines, sailors, bikers, criminals, and people of Polynesian/ Maori descent. Now it seems the rarer individual is the person who doesn't have a tattoo. Sometimes around my younger friends and associates I will get a strange look, or stunned surprise from someone who discovers I have "virgin skin". A long time ago I desired a New Zealand All Blacks silver fern on my chest, but as more and more people participated in tattoos the happier I am I didn't do it.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not bashing tattoos. But, since so many people get them to express their individuality and what is important to them, how individual and unique can it be if almost everyone has one? A rose on the boob, or tribal patterns on the bicep might be as unique to you as back hair is on a Sicilian. I'm pretty sure if you combined every person who has a sun on their shoulder, the population would support 2 senators and 3 congressmen/women. I also wonder how many people look at that drunken Saturday night Woody Woodpecker tattoo twenty years later and are still glad they got it. We live in a world where individual expression has become paramount. Hell, this blog is proof of it. We strive to stand out in our own way, to walk to the beat of a drummer, or our own very special design. Yet, we also live in a world of crushing conformity as well. Imagine the twisted confusion of today's hipsters. The duality of man so douche-ily exhibited by the hordes of very individualistic skinny jean wearing, bike riding, non-deodorant wearing, tattooed nonconformists. And you thought all Asians looked alike!
I've spent almost my entire life trying to fit in. Differences meant ostracism. Conservative communities aren't exactly welcoming and open to anything that isn't homogenous. So, it was bad enough I stood out just by my very existence. Do whatever you had to do to blend in. If people rolled their jeans up, it meant the very next day I was following in line with the trend. Mexican blanket ponchos? Put me down for quatro, por favor. Umbro soccer shorts? I'm cleaning out the entire store. Double breasted suits? I looked like a Yakuza gangster. If the cool people did it, I was like a pathetic John Hughes character just trying to get a ticket to that coveted "in crowd" table.
I entered the world of financial services after a disastrous stint at college. We can delve into the gory details of that in a future post. Let's just say the school and I had a disagreement on attendance policies. Apparently, they really expect you to show up to class. I felt otherwise. So, off to NYC I went. On Wall Street, I discovered a look I would retain for the rest of my life. To the untrained eye a suit is a suit is a suit. I quickly identified the world of difference from a Men's Wearhouse suit to a Kiton suit. Here I found my perfect blend of conformity and individual expression. People can look on tv and see a scene of Wall St. during the morning commute. What a sea of blue, grey, and black suits. Corporate penguins headed off to to their venal icebergs hell bent on global domination. But, on the molecular level you could start identifying unique quirks.
The gimmick tie is like the moonshine of the fashion world. Popular amongst rednecks, not very nuanced, and ideally should be illegal in most states. A tie shaped like a fish, or naked Santa Clauses might be cute to someone who still insists on wearing short sleeved dress shirts with suits, but in my elitist opinion, wearing something that screams HEY LOOK AT ME is not the desired effect that is ideal. A tie should always be silk, always be subtle, always be tied, and never clipped on. My biggest risk on ties might be choosing an American stripe vs, an English stripe.
Some people are fans of novelty socks. This is the schnapps of the fashion world. Peach schnapps is nice with orange juice, but chances are pretty low you have a bottle of it in your home right now, or you've ever bought it more than once. Once is enough for novelty socks. Personally, I don't trust someone who wears novelty socks. I have found there is a high probability they are the first person to sign up for karaoke, which makes sense, since they are most likely frustrated chorus directors. They're the ones who have that perfect "investment opportunity" they want you to sit in a meeting about. "It's not a pyramid scheme, honest!" They think the hero of Groundhog's Day is Ned Ryerson. RRRROOOWWWWRRRR.
Very quietly and elegantly existing since Vercingetorix went 0-a million against Julius Caesar is the cufflink. Now, for most people, the vast number being men, the only time they will ever wear a cufflink is at a formal event. They get the rented black studs with the rented tuxedo and a shirt that isn't even a proper French cuff shirt. This is also a time where they finally appreciate that buttons are a very underrated thing and something they took for granted literally their entire life. If you live in West Virginia, you can probably go to a trailer park and see some very small holes in the wall of the trailer where a very frustrated Jethro hurled his cufflinks in fury because he couldn't fasten his goddamn cuffs. Putting on cufflinks is like shaving your balls. The first couple of times you do it you really don't understand the purpose. After a while, well, you get the point.
Cufflinks are my subtle protest to conformity. When Trump says something stupid, I wear my Democratic donkey cuff links. When the All Blacks are playing, I wear my ferns. If I'm in a bad mood, I wear my crab cufflinks. If I want to reminisce about living in NYC, I'll wear my NYC Subway token cufflinks. I may look like a corporate stooge to you in my stuffy French cuff shirt, monochromatic socks, and subtle patterned tie. But, if you dig just a little bit deeper, or if I take my suit jacket off, you'll see that little flair that says, "No, I am not an automaton number. I can think independently." I have turtles that have moving legs, rugby balls, different kinds of airplanes, maps of Kutztown, PA and Anderson, IN, constellations, light bulbs, race cars, Scrabble tiles, etc. Hell, I even have Imperial Storm trooper head cufflinks.
You'll see a feature on the blog called Cufflink of the Week. Due to the popularity and interest in my cufflinks, I will post a pair and may offer a personal story as to why I got them. Stay tuned in the blog store, you may or may not see in the near term future an opportunity to purchase some cufflinks. I'm stuck with a pair of cufflinks for as long as it takes me to remove them from my shirt. You're stuck with your ex girlfriend's name on your neck for all eternity. You tell me which is the smarter expression of identity?