#879 Debate time – do New Zealand men dress badly?

Image /Hallensteins

“Few New Zealand men seem to enjoy an engagement with clothes at any level beyond the practical. Few enjoy clothes shopping and a surprisingly high number have their clothes bought for them, first by their mothers and then by their wives. Left alone, most men struggle to understand both size and fit. Men seldom understand the importance of clothes in the workplace, or the degree to which first impressions count. Kiwi men seldom take advantage of the ability of clothing to disguise faults or to enhance natural attributes.”

So says Douglas Lloyd Jenkins in the 19 September issue of the Listener. His argument – Kiwi men are so afraid of being tarred with the Gay brush that they shy away from any clothing choices that might be considered in the slightest bit ‘poofterish’. You know, colours other than black, grey, brown or blue; floral prints; suits that fit well; shorts that weren’t meant for surfing; good shoes etc etc.

So let’s discuss it.

Is Douglas Lloyd Jenkins right? Do New Zealand men dress badly?

Are New Zealand men really so afraid of people thinking they’re gay if they dress well?

Do girls think well dressed guys are gay-looking?

Is it the fault of our chain store retailers for not selling better clothes?

Do we need a menswear specific fashion magazine to show New Zealand men how to dress?

How can the average New Zealand man dress better?

Comment below.


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  1. says

    I think the average New Zealand man does dress fairly badly, but then so does the average Australian, American and English man (and so on). The only place I’ve ever been to where men dress consistently well is Italy.

    I read somewhere that “In America, fathers take their sons to the ball game in the weekend, but in Italy, fathers take their sons to the tailor.”

    We don’t have a history of well dressed men here in New Zealand. Most men don’t care about fashion. To care about fashion makes you gay. The last thing most New Zealand men ever want is for people to think they’re gay.

    But we also have to blame the chain stores like Hallensteins. They consistently sell this average-Joe style, perpetuating the average-Joe wardrobe of most Kiwi guys. If the chain stores decided to get a little more directional and create edgier or even slightly more interesting ad campaigns, maybe it would inspire some better dressing.

    I think that the best way for New Zealand men to dress better is to simplify. Buy the basics. Get rid of the board shorts, the hoodies, the awful striped shirts, the terrible printed tees and the fricken disgusting faux-alligator pointed shoes.

    Get some plain dark denim straight leg jeans, white shirts, good knitwear, navy and grey suits, proper leather shoes.

    It’s a start!

  2. says

    Oh, and FQ Men, the one magazine supposedly devoted to men’s fashion, was actually devoted to rugby players and cars and gadgets in an attempt to disguise it as a men’s lifestyle title rather than an actual fashion magazine.

  3. says

    A menswear specific fashion magazine would be great, but I don’t know if it would survive here – those focused on womenswear barely do!
    Maybe you should start one Isaac?

  4. says

    New Zealand men are more aware about fashion than they were in previous years; this is probably the only thing we’ve got thank Stolen Girlfriends Club for.

    New Zealand men are just lazy.
    Take one step inside Crane Brothers and 99% of the work is done for you.
    All you have to do is turn up…

  5. jack says

    Well Isaac Really ….. New Zealanders just dress badly plain and simple the laddies too.
    Fear of GAY and Tall Poppie put together is what causes this. For Instance I can tell for a fact that the majority of men about 80 % i reckon are as vain as eachother but taste is the defining point, How many Homophobic Rugby Boof heads do u see going out on a friday nite thinking they look hetro in tight tees bootcut jeans and yeah those god awful pointy shoes. Man the Europeans have class and culture we have Rugby and Farming. Look are Tom Waits , Paul Newman, Johnny Depp, Vincent Gallo, Mick n Keith, Roberto Benigni, Jean Michael Basquiat gay no just cool and creative put it this way if your not talented the chances are your probably not going to look any good no matter how much money you have.

  6. says

    Most of the men’s titles currently available feature weedy little boys as models – I dress men (& women) for a living and it is a real struggle to find an image in GQ or Esquire or Mensstyle that a kiwi male would relate to. I don’t think that is because kiwis are particularly blokey, I think it is more that, like with the womens titles, the stylists want to “create” a look or mood that is often unrealistic for real life, and women are better at deciphering that than most men. Good, relatable fashion advice for men is found in Men’s Health, because that magazine knows it’s audience.
    Kiwi males are definately very practical in their approach to clothing, but so too are most kiwi women…There are very stylish men out there as there are very stylish women, but the majority of NZers aren’t that cutting edge – not just men.

  7. Anonymous says

    The last couple of debates have been highly engaging on your blog! I think NZ men might have what in social studies is known as “pioneer or settler mentality” where the primary concern was being involved in economic activity that would help build a good colony in the eyes of the Motherland.This woud not have left much time or inclination to be concerned with attire.Although this may no longer directly apply,the hang overs of colonialism might mean a general lack of concern with clothing.Post colonialism,we pride ourselves on an egalitarian society where the disparity between the have and the have -nots is not as wide as other countries.So maybe males that have the means(time and money) to dress well do not for fear of “showing off”.maybe they just do not know where to begin as they did not see those before them (father/gandfather etc) being engaged in such an activity.
    In a lot of places around the world,clothing connotates social standing.Hence in countires such as India or Italy for example,I have noticed a certain pride associated with clothing that also alludes to family,upbringing,lineage,background etc.But as mentioned before,since nz is not as class-conscious as some other countries(atleast in my experience),maybe men do not see a need to portray their success through clothes.
    I also think a lot of the other points others have made here are valid and maybe it a culmination of all these factors.

  8. says

    I agree with what everyone’s saying – so wont repeat it all in my rant. I think kiwi men (and alot of women) go for the safest option, they cant really be bothered stretching themselves outside of their comfort zone. I also think alot of people are uneducated (therefore indifferent) to things like quality of cut and fabrics and how they can make the simplest item (denim, a classic shirt, knitwear) infinitely better in both feel and look.

    I definitely think alot of it (with regards to the male species in our country) is down to the ingrained belief (tall poppy, macho culture) that a man taking care in his appearance must be vain, egotystical and “a gay”.

    Pet Peeves
    – Man-pris
    – Baggy boardshorts
    – stripy shirts
    – … and their cousins the bird poo + print design shirts
    – pointy faux-gator shoes
    – expensive thermals (icebreaker etc) as day wear at cafes etc
    – guys STILL wearing skate shoes
    – or even worse… running shoes with jeans. kill me now.

    anyway, i could go on and on.

    LOVE this topic isaac. you should do a girls one too!!

  9. charlotte says

    yes, generally kiwi males do dress badly. it’s the gay thing especially i think, rugby obsession (which fuels homophobia), prominence of hallenstines and the like (glassons for women), our casual kiwi lifestyle and attitudes etc etc. (though my older bro is an exception, he shops more than i do and thoroughly enjoys it, LOL.)
    even if you go to a city as close as sydney, on a whole males there are a lot edgier and better dressed than kiwi males.

  10. Anonymous says

    I suppose it comes down to what you define as badly. Fashion and style are separate distinct (sometimes mutually exclusive) entities. Aesthetic pleasure is a subjective thing.

    Personally i think that New Zealand Men are no more ‘badly’ dress than anywhere else. However all men i know are concerned with their appearance and have a persona they want to portray through their clothing, which doesn’t often fit their body type (jocks in tight jeans anyone?).

    It is this that makes me draw the conclusion that maybe NZ men are badly dressed due to the lack of education and dare I say it being a slave to trends(that filter down so slowly) that they adopt even though they don’t suit them rather than creating a wardrobe that fits all aspects of their lives. But then a large percent of the female population have that issue too.

    Also the lack of decent chain stores makes it hard to shop being a guy. At least as a girl you get a choice of badly made things. Guys are stuck.

  11. Anonymous says

    I suppose it comes down to what you define as badly. Fashion and style are separate distinct (sometimes mutually exclusive) entities. Aesthetic pleasure is a subjective thing.

    Personally i think that New Zealand Men are no more ‘badly’ dress than anywhere else. However all men i know are concerned with their appearance and have a persona they want to portray through their clothing, which doesn’t often fit their body type (jocks in tight jeans anyone?).

    It is this that makes me draw the conclusion that maybe NZ men are badly dressed due to the lack of education and dare I say it being a slave to trends(that filter down so slowly) that they adopt even though they don’t suit them rather than creating a wardrobe that fits all aspects of their lives. But then a large percent of the female population have that issue too.

    Also the lack of decent chain stores makes it hard to shop being a guy. At least as a girl you get a choice of badly made things. Guys are stuck.

  12. says

    I wonder if Dan Carter ever gets called a ‘faggot’ whilst innocently walking down the street for wearing tapered jeans or a scarf or something? I don’t particularly admire his sense of style, but I admire the fact that he at least has one, and publicises it with his involvement with that GAS thing he’s got going on. If anyone is in a position to change the minds of the bulk majority of NZ it would be him, he’s arguably NZ’s greatest sporting idol right now, and if it’s alright by him, should be alright by the rest of them right?

  13. Anonymous says

    Zing!i indeed Isaac. I often wonder why there is a massive unfilled gap between the lower tier (Hallensteins & Taro Cash) and designer? The argument can’t be simply that there is no market for simple well made/cut pieces for men in NZ. My partner spends enough money on AA and Topman to keep a chain store in business.

  14. Anonymous says

    I saw a guy at the petrol station the other day who was wearing a black singlet printed with the Batman logo, no-label jeans (moderately baggy), a hard-out mullet, and black hi-tops. He was carrying a crate of beer and looked really happy.

    Whatever he would have had to say about this, I think we can all take it to heart.

  15. Anonymous says

    if you go out to a gig in AK city, you will see lots of young guys who dress really well, i think, not really anywhere else!

    I think guys that dress well are attractive and have dated a few and they were usually vain self obsessed philandering cunts,

    my current guy dresses really badly on his own, but lets me dress him to go out, that’s fun and he’s really nice and not vain or self-obsessed, so i think its a great compromise, most of the time he looks like a slob tho…

  16. says

    Last anon – “I think guys that dress well are attractive and have dated a few and they were usually vain self obsessed philandering c*nts,”

    VERY FUNNY! You just made me literally LOL. I love it.

  17. says

    Anon 5:14 you are AWESOME. totally agree with the SOPC comment. i think that minority + the badly dressed majority is the reason i just never seem to date in general haha

  18. says

    sure explains a lot J – well dressed = more confidence and attracts more females = self obsessed womanizers

    ..just kidding

    ….sort of

  19. b says

    isn’t there some sort of ‘society’ for stylish people in auckland?
    i’m quite sure you have to be invited into it. i assume the majority of the members are girls – it’s much easier for them; with all this alexander wang etc at their fingertips.

  20. Anonymous says

    Maybe its an Auckland thing, I’m from Wellington and men dress very well here, myself included. Haha.

    But seriously, come to Wellington and walk from Lambton Quay to Cuba Street on a good day, and you won’t be dissapointed.

  21. says

    There’s absolutely no excuse for a so called ‘lack of options’ in New Zealand.
    It’s called the internet.
    It literally puts the world at your fingertips.

    I’ve been working in retail since I was 16 and fuck, I’ve seen them all (well, most of them). The guy who has to check with ‘the boss’ (the boss, there’s your first problem mate) before buying a garment is like, Jesus Christ guy, do I have to sew them back on for you?

    Seriously though, the average New Zealand male couldn’t give less of a shit about what he wears so you have to understand what you’re dealing with. I mean him coming into my store is like me going into Westpac. We don’t have a fucking clue, we don’t give a shit and we want to get the fuck out as soon as possible.

  22. jack says

    yeah good one anon at 5;15 you sound like just the kind of low self esteem fishwife that guy’s with a bit of artistic flare are trying to avoid, its not the guys fault if he attracts girls cos he looks like he knows how to dress himself bet you knit your boyfriends jumpers for him actually i bet you knitted him and all

  23. Anonymous says

    well at least we can say that however bad nz men dress and the mainstream is pretty bad, we are no way as bad as the australians! with the trend of pink polos with collars up and cheap pointy fake euro shoes and distressed jeans still being the norm, i can safely say we kick arse, but only in this corner of the world!

  24. says

    I used to care. I’d love to have at least 10 suits instead of the one bespoke (Working Style) 4-button blue pinstripe I have for all purposes from job interviews to funerals.

    I’d love to kick it in one of these maroon suits you blogged about today. I’m 6’6″ tall and dress shoes in my size (US15) are as rare as hen’s teeth or have to be ordered unseen over the Internet. C’mon, you’d only buy running shoes or skate shoes over the Internet because then it doesn’t matter how they fit.

    In the current NZ men’s clothing market you’d be fair pushed to actually have the option in my size of getting anything off the rack, which means bespoke, which means that a wardrobe like the above would cost high five figures easily.

    So I’m still wearing a $30 pair of army surplus dark khaki, a $5 fluro yellow t-shirt, a greyblue icebreaker hood, and $10 jandals from the chemist. I don’t give a fuck about the “dreams & illusions” of the likes of Karl Lagerfield.

    If someone paid me a wardrobe allowance to wear fashion, then I wouldn’t say no. I like the spectacle of wearing something that no one else is wearing. In NZ? Not possible. Thinking of hitting some Indian tailors when I go over there in January as my clothes are all tired and the shops are uninspiring.

    I do still love to look at Fashion porn, but for the life of me I can’t remember the last time I saw a magazine editorial that blew me away. Rachel and Grant pointed me at Twill, and that was . . . almost there.

  25. says

    You know, I think men the world over dress poorly. In fact people in general don’t understand the difference between quality, style and trends. Just watch Gok Wan’s show and see the difference between the High Street and the designer outfits. Men in NZ have sporting figures as their role models and they are generally not particularly well dressed as many of them are sponsored by clothing companies that can afford to dress them and want the profile creating a self perpetuating low brow style.
    i am typical shape for a kiwi male (albeit a little on the shorter side) and i find it incredibly difficult to buy items of style and quality that suit my lifestyle and I work in the fashion industry. Imagine what it must be like for Steve and Grant the builder and plumber from Hamilton?

  26. Leonie says

    I’ve been thinking about this. I’m from Australia, but I think it’s safe to draw some parallels. I can look back at old family photos and see men from working class backgrounds looking quite dapper. They dressed for the occasion, in well-fitting stylish suits for say a wedding, and on the tennis court, phew! And then the seventies arrived. And I think that’s when shopping changed. Products were manufactured quickly and cheaply, and they WERE cheap. But easily accessible. So rather than go to the tailors, it’d be off to Lowes for a cheap acrylic jumper. I mean, even the change in the types of fabrics available, all that synthetic stuff. Enter the age of materialism and the throwaway society. Perhaps in Europe, there is a stronger sense of the importance of class and status, and people here tend to shy away from exhibitions of wealth. But surely they could have ONE good suit for a wedding! I think women do the same as men. They might be more interested in clothing (not fashion, clothing) but they get excited about a bargain.
    P.S. I bought a NOM*d jacket yesterday. Weeeeeee!

  27. Anonymous says

    So for me, all has been pretty much mentioned, then you’ve also gotta come back to cost also….

    The cheap, average, mass produced shit in New Zealand for most is there, affordable, a no brainer. I’d rather wear the stuff i love and is unique to death, which i do as I’d rather have it falling off me with holes than wear a printed slogan or something tee from the Steins.

    Then you got the opposite end, where the shit thats nice, different, sometimes more unique is unaffordable, or is but at the cost of basic living. I’d love to have better clothes, know what I like but cant get it here, easily. So where does that leave me, people like me?? Plus I got two kids to clothe, feed, etc…

    In christchurch where I live there is possible 5 stores I’d buy stuff from, but simply cannot afford, and I work full time, make an alright buck, not massive but not minimum…..

    Best thing to do is buy good shoes, re-sole them suckers and they’ll last forever….. Good cut jeans and the rest you can get away with, basic colour, good fitting tees, wool, jackets etc.

    Then again the “brand” never means quality..
    had some shit years ago from Helmet Lang, all fall apart within 3 months… bullshit..

    Got a pair of costume national shoes, had 9 years, worn to death but survived…..

    All I know is some things are good, some shit, some supposed good shit is crap and some cheap stuff is gold….. Variety….

    Sirry for the random rant…….

  28. Anonymous says

    I think kiwi culture can be described in one simple example my lecturer once gave to me.
    I was once lost on Remuera, I asked a kiwi gentleman whether there is an “establishment'” around these parts and he replied, “We don’t have establishments… but if their were I would be in it”

  29. Anonymous says

    Fashion seriously who cares? 99% of people I meet who are well dressed are absolute stuck up self-righteous snobs. I suspect the reason they care about fashion so much is because they know that if they didn’t dress well they would literally have nothing going for them. Personally, so long as someone isn’t dressed like a slob (e.g. – dirty, ripped, or ridiculously old clothing) and so long as they aren’t dressed like a COMPLETE dork (I’d draw the line at something like jeans with running shoes) I don’t really care what someone wears. I think that there are other things far more important than clothing – a nice body (muscles not some pre-pubescent borderline anorexic boy), good personality, and intelligence trumps nice clothes any day of the week. I’m not gonna hold it against anyone just because they aren’t ‘fashionable’ enough to wear a floral print or a shirt that isn’t black, grey, brown are blue. Most of the time the guy wearing the bright coloured shirt is only doing so in a hopeless attempt to distract you from his shortcomings elsewhere (the shirt usually keeps you distracted for about 30 seconds).

  30. says

    I work in men’s clothing, and for a lot of guys they can’t see the point in spending big bucks on one decent shirt or suit, when they could buy several cheaper versions for the same money – they don’t see clothing as an investment, whereas the fashionistas of Europe do, male or female. There’s too much cheap shit available for guys to pick up, and not enough high-end quality yet classic clothing for men to really invest in. When asked why the prices of my product are so high, I usually have to explain that they’re good quality, will last a lot longer and will be far better to wear – and you’ll end up spending more money on replacing the cheap Hallensteins/Barkers/Tarocash shirts than buying a good quality one from the start.

    That’s my two cents anyhow… and in answer to the women’s debate, I think it’s the same philosophy – buy something cheap because it’s more affordable at the time and it’s an instant fix, rather than reserving your hard-earned dough for something fabulous you can wear for 10 years.

  31. says

    I think it is more men’s view of fashion that has to change, rather than chain stores themselves. But yes, if good clothes are not affordable, how will men’s fashion improve?

    NZ’s do-bro, binge drinking, stubby loving, dirty suntan culture doesn’t really allow for smart vests and well fitted shirts (if only). That is obviously not all our culture is, many don’t find anything in common with that side of life down under, but I do think that the clothes suit the life if you know what I mean.

    Well tailored clothes absolutely seperate the men from the boys.

    If I see one more male in faux alligator pointy WHITE shoes I’m going to rip them off his feet and spank him with them.

  32. says

    hey here’s a snip of a response I wrought which was puplished in the Listener a couple of weeks later. full transcript- see my blog!

    “Preoccupied with the ‘bad dress’, how would DLJ define ‘good dress’? Obviously a higher appreciation of local designer menswear is desirable, but how appropriate is this form of dress to the wider population of NZ males? Isn’t this just a closed and singular vision of elitism? What about the guy in the crusty Breton stripe T-shirt, his girlfriend’s jeans and a vintage pair of winkle pickers? Or that guy in the lava-lava down at the market on a Saturday morning? You can’t tell me they’re in fear of their masculinity or that they dress ‘badly’.”

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