We live in an age of multiple sexual and gender identities, which now include unisex bathrooms in some high schools. It’s a wonder how we cope with this confusion.
But do not fear for I have stumbled upon a topic that is both reassuring and reorienting. This week I interviewed Mr. Style himself, Marty Hackel who is the fashion guru of Golf Digest Magazine.
My suspicion was that men, myself included, have little or no fashion sense and I wondered why. So, I invited Marty down from his compound in New Canaan and we were joined by the amateur golf powerhouse Troy David to enjoy a round of golf and chat about men’s clothing concerns.
Marty is now a contributing editor at Golf Digest, but if truth be told, Marty Hackel has been the voice, the heart and the soul of men’s golf fashion for over three decades and has dressed many of the world’s greatest golfers. He has been a wardrobe consultant on films and on hundreds of photoshoots, including ones with Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Arnold Palmer and more.
My question to him was simple. “Do men care about fashion?” Marty is facile, fast and funny and said: “Few men will admit to it, but in their heart of hearts they all want to look good. Men will often use fashion to make a statement about their power and their status.”
I asked him to give me an example of a man’s fashion statement and he said “Watches are one example. IWC watches, Richard Mille, Rolex or Hublots are all examples of men wearing fashion.” He remarked that many of these watches cost as much as $500,000 (you read that right, one half a million) and I said, “But geez watches are so small, why would anyone invest $500,000 in such a small item” to which he quipped: “Yea, Tom, diamonds are small, too.”
Asked if men care about how they look, he said: “If two women are walking down the street and see another well-dressed woman walk by, they will talk about it. When was the last time you heard a man talk about how another man dresses?” I think he’s right. When my wife returned from Milan, all she talked about was the way the women dressed.
Marty said our fashion sense is developed in childhood. Little girls grow up playing with dolls by dressing them up and playing pretend games like dressing up in Mommie’s clothes. A few years later, they will be reading Vogue and Elle. A little later, the girls are spending their free time and money shopping for clothes with increasingly higher price tags.
Little boys, on the other hand, are playing with GI Joes, then go on to touch football and later will be reading Sports Illustrated. Girls are given fashion and boys are given sports.
Marty told me that men dress by formula. Get a white shirt, put on a brown suit, put on brown shoes, now march to work. Women dress by looking in the mirror. They will spend time observing how their outfit looks in the mirror and make adjustments. They are far more creative and have more fun with their clothes.
I asked him to describe men’s fashion sense in America and he said American men do not understand the importance of well-fitting clothes and think that loose fitting stuff will hide all the sins of weight and age. He said that by far the best dressed athletes in America are players in the NFL and the NBA because they are so large they get all their clothing custom fit. I once met Michael Jordan and he really did have nice clothes.
My greatest personal concern was how to deal with my problematic pot belly look. It makes for an ugly fashion statement. Troy had been talking about the way men dressed in the ’70s with polyester and Sansibelt, which was the elastic belt that held up the pants, and it dawned on me that may be the way to go. Marty quickly said “no way Jose.” Just match your shirt color to your pant color and by all means avoid white belts. Lol
He told me the new color trend this year is bright blue. I was pleased to hear this since I had unwittingly chosen some blue pants from the pro shop.
Golf has always been the enclave for sporty dress for men with all those plaids, knickers and bright colors. One of my favorite short stories was by the British writer P.G. Wodehouse on the magical plaid knickers that transformed a 36 handicapper into the club champion.
I asked Marty to describe the most iconic dresser in golf and he said: “Ben Hogan. He had a perfect fashion sense, well-coordinated, perfect use of beige, brown and grays, impeccable, refined, clothes with the best fabric.” He said Payne Stewart had a great fashion sense as well. I did ask him who he thinks has fashion consciousness on the PGA tour and he said Adam Scott always looks good and that Patrick Reed and Dustin Johnson have a nice look about them and a masculine swagger.
Last night I watched the award-winning documentary “Unzipped” about the fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi. Isaac is one of those boy geniuses and makes clothes for women that are full of fun, warmth, color and wit. Women have fun with his clothes. Girls start by playing with dolls and grow into women who have fun with their dress. Boys start out with bats and balls and grow into men who play with bats and balls and bikes. That’s our fun.
So, though we live in an age where sexual identity seems broad-based and chaotic, it seems to me that when you research men’s fashion vs. women’s fashion, it remains remarkably binary. It’s either Mrs. Dalloway or Mickey Mantle.
So, thank you, Marty, for being the voice of color and fun and reason as we cave men in our baggy khaki pants and untucked shirts shuffle down the fairway counting our strokes and hoping for a hole in one. Marty Hackel, you are simply the best.