Thursday, August 28, 2008

100% Shirt

All hat and no cowboy. That's a Texas saying. And I think that it is particularly appropriate when describing many of those modern souls whom I consider to be among the 'Afflicted.'

It takes a lot to be a man. Good genes...and the essence of hard-won, experienced character are the essentials. Manhood is something you grow into. There are rights of passage involved like getting your driver's license, having sex for the first time and burning your first Barry Manelow CD.

I'd like to think that I can judge a man by his appearance...but I can't. We are all unique it seems. Sometimes something surprising is hiding beneath a weathered face like Gandhi's, or the modest visage of Bill Gates.

I guess that is what I find so annoying about the recent fad of 'Affliction' t-shirts. Wearers would rather be judged on the status of their taste. They want to fit in. They want to run with the pack.

It's not the brand of course. Remember the Polo craze of the eighties? Fila? Maybe you'll remember IZOD and the alligator on its lapel. These are the shirts of the Alpha Male. These are the Bear Pelts of the modern age.

Certainly I like some of the 'Afflicted' t-shirts. It's not all about the fitting in I guess. Sure...sometimes it is just a matter of personal taste.

I think I have always liked 'Afflicted' t-shirts because quite a few of them have wings on them. I like wings. My favorite shirt is an 'Afflicted' shirt with an Angel on the front of it. But I don't like it because the brand is cool. I like it because I like Angels.

Still, there are just too many tools lately running around with faux hawks and wearing the latest 'Afflicted' t-shirts. I guess you can count me among them on occassion. Although, even the idea of me wearing a faux hawk is enough to make me wretch.

What's going on beneath the shirt? What are we men hiding under that collective masculine identity? Are we all shirt and no character?

I suppose that we men wouldnt like the shirts if women didnt like to see us in them. But are they responding to the design, the fad, or the man? Grab yourself a shirt that says 'Sears' on the front or 'Target' and see what happens. I think, in part, we're all responding to the power of identification. We're on the same team as the brand creator.

It's amazing how powerful a symbol can be. The question then is whether such a symbol is what we, as men, are aspiring to in life. What ideal can we identify with that will make us fit in? I, for one, think we ought to pay attention to that. Because that's life. We do that when we make political decisions or when we adhere to a religious belief or when we choose one mate from many worthy possibilities.

Course, it's only just a shirt.

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