The Art and Irony of Trendsetting: Featuring Crocs, Hawaiian Shirts, Voss Water, and WWJD Bracelets

Trends are only truly cool when they’re not quite cool yet.  And by the time they are in style, they’re pretty much going out of style.

Recognizing the hilariousness of how in many offices in America, it is standard that everyone dresses professionally Monday through Thursday, but on Friday, everyone goes casual with jeans and often t-shirts, at the beginning of the summer I decided to start making Thursday a “buffer” day for how I dress in the office, encouraging everyone else to participate.  How do you transition from khakis and dress shirts to jeans and t-shirts?  Hawaiian shirts.

They are button-down shirts with collars.  Perfect, tacky transition.  At first, only one other coworker would join me in Hawaiian Shirt Thursday.  But then, if for no other reason they felt like they were missing out on something cool, one by one, others began joining us.  By the end of the summer, I had half of the office on my side.  Some people dug through their closets to find the shirt; some actually went out and bought one.  And now, even in autumn, many of us are keeping the tradition going.

Of course, this isn’t the first trend I’ve started at work.  In an effort to make sure I was drinking enough water everyday, I went to Whole Foods and bought a glass Voss water bottle that I refill several times throughout the day.  At first, coworkers joked with me, “Isn’t it a little early in the day for vodka?”  By now though, several of them have privately approached me to ask where they could get a water bottle like that.  And sure enough, the glass Voss water bottle is no longer weird in my office, but instead it’s the norm.

But the irony with trendsetting is that by successfully coming up with an original and unpopular idea, it eventually becomes unoriginal and popular.  Prime example: Crocs.  For the last couple of years, I’ve looked on from a distance at the weird plastic rainbow colored Birkenstock rip-offs.  They were so trendy.  You’d see moms and their kids out at the mall, all wearing Crocs.  Even though I wanted some, I refused to buy them.  Because they were too cool at the time.

However, this week I came to a realization.  The Birkenstocks I have been wearing were given to me by my parents Christmas 1999.  I had already paid $35 five years ago to have them resoled.  It was time for me to either have them repaired again, or pay $110 for new ones.  Or… pay $30 for some brown Crocs.

To entertain the idea of buying Crocs, I checked around Cool Springs during my lunch breaks while riding my mountain bike instead of driving (another office trend I’ve been trying to start since April), but sure enough, I had trouble finding any Crocs for sale.  Eventually, some girls behind the counter at a Hallmark told me to check out the Croc stand across from Fossil in the mall.

Needless to say, with yesterday being Thursday, I wore my Hawaiian shirt, with Crocs, while drinking water from a Voss water bottle.  And boy was I cool.  Yet I wouldn’t have been caught wearing Crocs if they were still trendy.  The trend of wearing Crocs is over; which is why it was more difficult than I had imagined to find them.  I’m not saying that Crocs aren’t cool anymore; they’re just no longer a fad.

And so an important rule for a trendsetter is to not get involved in a trend that is overly popular.  But once a trend is over, then it’s “game on” to participate.  Some fads, after their prime, become an outdated, yet timeless classic.  Like Hawaiian shirts.  And Chuck Taylor’s.  And the wondrous Rubik’s Cube.  WWWD bracelets?  Not so much.


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How to Wear Dress Pants, If You’re a Guy: Don’t Wear Them With Sneakers and Avoid Khakis

Despite what you heard, don’t wear khakis.  Just because these men’s pants are classic, it doesn’t mean they’re timeless.  In fact, they’re starting to represent a dull and generic image for men’s attire.

Some articles of clothing go with anything, like Chuck Taylor’s.  Then there are specimens like Hawaiian shirts, that arguably go with anything simply because they clash with everything, technically meaning they go with everything.  And then there are khaki pants, which truly look good with anything they’re paired with, in theory.

But not for me.  I’m very particular when it comes to wearing khakis:

1)     They’re the same color as my legs, so I kinda feel like I’m not wearing pants at all.

2)     Because of their good reputation (“you can’t go wrong with khaki’s”) and popularity, they are a bit boring by now.  It’s assumed that a man automatically looks better because he’s wearing tan pants.  I say, not creative enough.  Deduct one point unless worn in moderation.

3)     Despite popular belief, they don’t truly look good with anything.

What has put these thoughts in my head?  Surely just random observances over the last twelve years:

1)     In high school, every Friday the football coach had all the football players wear khaki pants, a white dress shirt, and preferably a tie.  But  many of them wore running shoes.  It came across as predictable and forced to me (which it indeed was).  You want to look nice?  At least change the shoes.

2)     In the movie 40 Year-Old Virgin, Andy (the lead character played by Steve Carell) wears khaki pants in almost every seen.  His attire is most noticeably awful when he first goes to the night club wearing a yellow polo and khakis.  Nerdy, man.  Nerdy.  Same thing in Sideways with Miles (played by Paul Giamatti).

3)     In the past 15 years, khakis and polo shirts have become the official uniform for employees of places like Best Buy.  So now khakis are starting to represent a dull, generic work uniform.

Instead of khakis, try this. Note: Black shoes with black pants. Not brown shoes.

Khakis have become part of a stereotyped outfit of an outdated man from the year 2000: Khaki pants, faded polo shirt, cell phone holder on belt.

Noted, there is a difference between what a man wears to work and what he wears to every other public events.  I know for myself, I don’t care that much what my coworkers see my wearing as long as I don’t look like a slouch.  So yes, I do resort to polo shirts and once every week or two, I’ll wear khakis.

But for many, work isn’t as a professional environment as we often pretend for it to be.  I don’t take as good of care on the clothes I wear day in and day out to work.  Who cares if they’re faded or a little wrinkled?

Bottom line: For a man to truly dress nicely, and appear to be modern yet not trying too hard, he should simply try doing so sans khaki pants.

How?  Charcoal colored pants.  Dark brown pants.  Slate (very dark blue/gray) pants.  But not tan.  Heck, even dark jeans can look better than khakis when done right.

P.S.  If you must resort to wearing khaki pants in an attempt to look nice, do not be temped to wear a navy blazer or jacket with it.  That’s for CEO’s who are 61 years old and don’t realize that it’s no longer cool.  Wearing a navy jacket with khaki pants is for guys still wearing Levi’s jeans similar to Jerry Seinfeld in 1994.

And one more thing… Now that you’ve read my take on pants, why not read my perspective on being a dad?  That’s right- parenting from a dad’s point of view.  I have been documenting my thoughts as a dad since the week we found out my wife was pregnant.  I formally invite you now to read my “dad blog” by clicking on the link below:

dad from day one