25 March 2013

A Rant on Men's Clothes in Second Life

I'm going to go completely off-topic. This is my blog, I'll write whatever I like!

Despite my past efforts to convince Kara Trapdoor to the contrary (it's fun to pull her leg), I am in fact male in the physical world. And like a lot of men, shopping for men's clothes appeals to me about as much as cleaning up after an overstuffed and rancid-smelling garbage bag bursts on my bare legs. Possibly less. I almost never do it. A friend once gave me a gift card and it took me a couple months to even go to the store. It doesn't help matters that few stores in SL pay much attention to men, let alone men with my particular tastes. (Me in a store when TP is down: "Help! I'm a male and I can't get out!")

So when I heard about the 49L Sale For Dudes, I thought I'd check it out -- at least I might find one or two stores with worthwhile men's clothes. The experience was almost enough to put me off clothes shopping for a year. Alright, that's partly my own damn fault, I should've dragged a female friend around with me. I have zero patience for shopping; they have zen.

First, pleeeeeze large and even medium sized stores, especially in malls: I'm not shopping for women's clothes. If I want women's clothes I'll send a female alt (assuming I have a female alt). Right now, I'm looking for the men's clothes. So you gotta help me find the men's section! I shouldn't have to spend 15 minutes camming everywhere to find the 3% of floor space where the men's clothes are. Put up a teleport system, or at least a map! I want to get to the men's section fast, find the one or two things I'd actually wear, and scram. Point #1: Figure that I want to arrive at the right spot 45 seconds before anything's rezzed. (Yep, I'm zen-deprived.)

Ducknipple is right over ... right over ... ummm ..... OK, truth in ranting time: the reason I didn't find the teleports inside Ducknipple is that I couldn't find the store. There's no directory at the landing point, and there weren't store names above all the entrances. I ended up camming like mad until I found men's clothes. Yeah, stupid me, not knowing instinctively that Ducknipple was the big store with its name way off to the sides in gray lettering over a slightly lighter gray background. (Click photo to enlarge.)

Second, let's assume I've found the men's clothes and now I'm looking around. What do you have to offer me? Let's see ... oooo a pair of jeans! Yay! It can join the 47 freebie jeans already in my inventory, where yours will be indistinguishable from the ones I picked up five years ago! Woohoo, I gotta spend my money for those! And OMG, a tank top saying "Suck my Richard," gosh how can I live without wearing that! Over there, wow, a leather jacket ... a business suit ... a plaid sweater ... a solid-color tux .... /me keels over, nearly comatose with boredom.

I'm not kidding, look at the photos in the website for the sale, you'll see what I mean. A couple of items are worth a TP, but nothing is a stand-out. I can't entirely blame the designers -- men's clothes in the physical world are excruciatingly boring too -- but seriously, with all the ideas they pour into women's clothes, surely they can spare a few for guys too. I suppose even crap sells, and undoubtedly the tepid as well, but possibly it sells because men aren't given many alternatives. In any case, once I have (say) one decent leather jacket, I'm not going to waste my money for another unless it really has something special. Point #2: Don't bore me to death -- if you want to sell to me, then make something interesting and unique. I'm never going to buy just another leather jacket, but I might buy a very different one.

Top row: Two of the items in the 49L sale. Yes, I know, if I don't like it I don't have to buy it; the issue is that this approach to men's clothes is depressingly widespread. Shoot me now. Bottom left: One store's men's section. Bottom right: Did the designer get a license from DC Comics to use the Superman insignia? There are definitely ways to appropriate other people's work that come under "fair use" (in the UK, "fair dealing"), but this is not one of them. But the point here is the utter vacuum of imagination required to simply swipe what already exists. And yeah, more tank tops.

I told a female friend about my frustration with men's clothes; she agreed, but added that men's roleplay clothes can be really sexy. Maybe I'll join Gor, just for the fashion sense. (Sigh ... ok, not my style either.)

After visiting some of the stores participating in the sale, I went to Hoorenbeek, which a friend suggested I check out. What I found was very well made, but mostly standard issue stylistically. However, to my amazement, they did have some shirts that were kind of neat, up on the second floor. (At the store I visited, the entire first floor offered whole outfits, which isn't a bad idea since piecing together an outfit from one's inventory as about as dismal a prospect as buying the stuff in the first place.) So I checked the price and had myself some sticker shock. L$480? For a simple shirt?? I checked out a couple of the women's stores nearby and saw attractive gowns for less than that, plus full outfits for L$500. I don't know whether Hoorenbeek thinks that their work is so fantastic or their customers so desperate for anything half-tolerable, but I'm not buying it, in either sense. I don't think the shirt is mesh, but that too would be no justification for overpricing. (Besides, mesh is both overused and overrated.) Point #3: Selling me something for L$200 may be L$200 less than you think it's worth, but it's L$200 more than not selling it to me at all.

Interesting men's clothes at a reasonable price definitely exists. For example, a few years ago I picked up some vests from Pixeldolls in various colors (colors!!) and with different designs on the chest (designs!!). But eventually my women friends told me they were sick of my vests, go find something else. I've been miserable ever since. I even pay attention to Fashion Freebies for Men, but usually it seems to be a lost cause. I'm not simply being cheap: if a store offers free yet appealing clothes, probably there's more and better to be found there. Presumably that's why designers offer freebies for women.

And in fact it works. I was frustrated by Ducknipple's lousy outside signage, and the item they offered in the 49L sale looked like a "maybe" in the photo but didn't grab me when I looked at it up close. Still, while I was there I noticed a few other men's items that I'd actually consider. Yep, a bit of style there -- and good prices (mostly L$195, for the women's clothes too). Ducknipple focuses on casual clothes somewhere in the continuum from funky to spunky. Probably a little "young" for me, but I'll probably look again.

So, clothing designers: I know some of you are earnestly striving to offer good men's clothes, and I appreciate that. Here's what you need to know: I'm well over 35 (like most of SL), I didn't discover my Richard three weeks ago, I'm intelligent, and I don't need to prove how tough or powerful I am. It's fine by me if the women who have the hots for guys with huge muscles leave me alone. (Well, sorta fine ... I mean, I wish ... oh, never mind.) While I'm nobody's idea of a butterfly, I do have an aesthetic sensibility. I don't just want excellent execution: I want interesting. I'd like a dash of flair and creativity in my clothes. Maybe even more than a dash. Subtle is good, but so is directness. I've seen plenty of women's clothes that hit that mark. Surely you can make some for men?

[End of rant. We will now return to our regularly placid programming.]

PS: The fact that I hate to shop for myself does not mean I hate accompanying women when they shop. In addition to the pleasure of spending time with a friend, I get to satisfy my wish to see clothes that are both sexy and smart, and help her look attractive too.

PPS: After reading a draft of this post, one of my women friends threatened promised to take me to some men's shops, and then she dumped a boatload of LMs on me, so we'll see. Maybe I'll take this all back. Or maybe I'll need psychotherapy due to the trauma of shopping. I've probably doomed myself by writing this post....