Tag Archives: confidence

Shaped fakery: compression garments

9 May

This Internet find does not have the sexy Spanx for Men packaging, but it does show what it is to put a band-aid on a wound.

Gents, would you wear a girdle, even if you knew John Wayne wore one? How about a compression garment, even if you weren’t post-surgery or an athlete? Would you wear a shaping garment for ego’s sake?

I understand that wearing a compression piece can visually reduce inches from a person’s frame and boost confidence. This is great, but at the end of the day, you’re still you, you still live in the body you obviously aren’t happy with because you’re trying to instantly change it, and sooner or later, your secret will be revealed.

Bubble butt technology

There are all sorts of shaping pieces for different areas – stomach, back, chest, even your butt.

In my research for today’s post and found this article from a few years ago, raving about compression garments. It’s a funny piece, describing different companies making different compression garments that can pare inches off the waist, lift the butt, and straighten spines.

This led me to the Andrew Christian clothing website, which offers bubble butt technology – with frontal enhancement – in a jock strap design that pushes your bum cheeks together with side compression – I don’t want to know how it enhances the front. (Gay and gay curious men are bound to find this more interesting than straight men (though you never know)).

Equmen offers garments with “helix-mapping technology”, to “immediately improve health, well-being and visible appearance”, and in a Slim ‘N Lift undershirt with firming panels  “you can look inches smaller and pound [sic] thinner without exercise”. In other words, wear our garments if you’re too lazy to take care of yourself.

The New York Times declares men’s Spanx, shaping garments that form, contour, and compress,  a huge hit in stores and online. A Neiman Marcus spokesperson suggested that one way for men to think of a foundation garment is that it is about “problem solving, and another way of feeling secure and prepared for life.”

I consider Spanx as modern-day armor, which makes sense since we live in a society that pits us against each other and teaches us not to like ourselves – hey, it’s about “problem-solving” after all. To my mind, shaping garments sells us temporary relief from what we don’t like about our selves, keeping us as far away from self-acceptance as possible.

But it’s all about perspective. From my perspective, I say that in an arm wrestle between honesty and ego, honesty should always win.


Shaping garments are to me, the band-aid solution to a larger problem – fat, a result of low self-esteem, depression, poor education, a sluggish thyroid, or just plain laziness.  Wearing a shaping garment does not change the fact that you’ve got a weight problem. I fear that people who wear compression garments will treat this as an instant slimming insurance policy and a license to overeat.

Fat is a consequence of lifestyle choices.

“If your pipes are clogged, you call a plumber,” says Jason Brown, personal trainer at Snap Fitness in Toronto, “If your challenge is weight or an unhealthy lifestyle, you call trainers and nutritionists.”

“People want the easy way out,” he says, “but unfortunately there is no easy way out. Being in the shape you want takes commitment, consistency, and effort. Getting healthy is a process, not a product.”

As I spoke with Jason, I realized this all comes down to one concept – behaviour modification. This means change, and that can scare people.

Keep it real

Have we reached a point where natural has become taboo? That fantasy has become reality, where compressed bodies and photo-shopped faces are preferred to real people? I hope not.

Compression garments are not your savior, they are not a ticket to a better life, they will not fix the problems you’re not dealing with. Compression garments are addictive like drugs. Once you’re on them, you can’t stop, like the fateful day you decided to put a wig on your balding head.

Instead of wearing dishonest foundation garments, try these simple dressing and lifestyle tips:

  • Wear your waistband on your waist, not under your belly – this draws attention to the vastness of your abdomen;
  • Visually break up your front by wearing a sports jacket or a waistcoat over your  shirt, or wear vertical (NEVER horizontal) stripes to add an illusion of trimness while adding height;
  • Wear clothes that fit properly – not too large, not to small, but just right;
  • Become conscious of how much fat you’re consuming and make some easy changes – go easy on the butter, the milk, the cream, and dairy in general – you will notice your pants feeling looser soon enough;
  • Stand straight with your shoulders square and visually lift 5 lbs from your abdomen;
  • Drink more water;
  • Try a cleanse;
  • Go for more walks;
  • Discover self-respect and how awesome you already are.

Instantly cool with a spring scarf

14 Mar

Scarves are the unsung heroes of any man’s wardrobe. They punch up the colour and flavour of any outfit and make a guy instantly stylish.

Scarves are traditionally worn in the winter to keep our necks warm, but consider a lightweight scarf in the spring for a little added warmth and a lot of style in the early days of the season.

Gentlemen, no matter how much you spend, know that you’re going to make an impact in a spring scarf.

I find that menswear in general can be harsh in colour, casting a dark light on a man’s face, and giving him a hardened look. Spring colours are much more flattering, softening a man’s features and making him look more approachable. While scouting locally owned menswear shops in Toronto for this post, I’m happy to see that this season’s colour choices in scarves are soft and powdery.

Pal Zileri linen scarf

I looked at a gorgeous, tone-on-tone striped sea green linen scarf at high-end men’s store, Via Cavour at 87 Avenue Road. Their amazingly soft, handmade, Pal Zileri 100% linen scarves come in unusual colours, and are priced from $350 to $750.

When the temperatures get warmer, linen scarves are the go-to accessory because linen is one of the lightest and coolest clothing materials – air constantly moves through linen’s weave, keeping the wearer physically and visually cool. (Read more about linen.)

Marc de Rose at Via Cavour says, “Scarves are one of the best pieces to update an outfit.”

He describes his scarves as “funky” that dress up a traditional suit. He likes to loop his scarves loosely around his neck with the ends draping over his chest, giving him a youthful, comfortable look. Draping the scarf over a suit this way “frames” the collar (and tie) beneath.

  • Style tip: Scarves are meant to look “thrown on” but they are nothing but – you’ll want to spend some time arranging the fabric

I visited philip in Hazelton Lanes, a spin-off of Nanni Couture, to look at gentleman’s cotton and silk blend scarves.

Philip no scarf

Philip in a suit

Philip scarf

Philip becomes instantly cool in a spring scarf!

Owner, Philip Zappacosta, says, “A scarf is a great investment for men to coordinate with his wardrobe, and tie everything  together.”

He showed me a large, versatile, slightly crisp, colourful, square-shaped Corneliani scarf (below), made in Italy ($295), and explained how many other colours and pieces could be worn with it.

Scarves at the philip store go well with soft-shouldered sports jackets and other more casual pieces like loose-knit spring sweaters. They can be worn wrapped around the neck to create volume around the face, and longer types can be worn European style, folded in half lengthwise and draped around the neck with the ends pulled through the loop at the front.

Here, we wrapped the fabric around Philip’s neck. Notice how the added bulk seems to bring in his shoulders and torso – a trick of optical illusion, good for larger men who want to appear smaller.

  • Style tip – Look for balance in your clothing and avoid mixing warm winter weights with lighter spring weights

Queen Street West favourite, Grreat Stuff, offers reasonable price points for men on smaller budgets who like to add some pizzazz to their wardrobe. Grreat Stuff is a grreat store for menswear oddities and interesting wardrobe pieces.

They carry long, double-sided silk English scarves in traditional patterns grreat stuff twith a natural silk fringe for $95, striped 100% gauzy cotton GEOX scarves for $60, and cotton Matinique gingham scarves in a dense weave with a dry hand for $45.

Co-owners, Frances and Adam Yalonetsky, recommend wearing cotton or silk scarves loosely with a cotton blazer or lightweight outerwear.

Adam suggests that in the cool of the early spring, fold your scarf in half lengthwise, wrap European style, then tighten the loop to bring the scarf closer in at the neck. This will give more bulk to the scarf and keep the warm air close to the throat.

Adding a scarf will get you noticed and for style-savvy men, there is scarcely a better accessory.

Having the idea to wear a stylish scarf that ties your clothes together makes you awesome. Actually doing it for real triples your awesomeness.


Resolve to have a better image in 2013

27 Dec

Gentlemen, if you’re the type to make New Year’s resolutions, make 2013 the year you take five simple steps to improve your image and make a better impression in the world.

1. Keep your shoes and boots clean and polished.2013 shoes It’s a cliche by now, but I say the same still rings true – in the old days, a man’s character was associated with how well he kept his shoes, and there is no reason to think differently now.  Freshly-polished footwear is the sign of a man who takes pride in himself, and people notice.

Shoes are the base of our daily wardrobe, and if they’re dirty, scuffed, and/or in need of repair, your footwear will negate any effort you’ve taken to dress well. On the other hand, wearing magnificently cared-for footwear can actually excuse an otherwise sloppy wardrobe – shoes are powerful!

2. Keep your hands clean. hand illustrationWe meet a lot of people and we shake a lot of hands, and keeping yours clean, like wearing well-kept shoes, sends a positive message about your self esteem and your respect for others. Clean hands also reduce the spread of germs, important  especially in winter – so respect your health and the health of others and wash often!

Unfortunately, washing germs away will dry out your hands, making skin tight and uncomfortable (to the point of cracking, for some of you). The way around this is to apply moisturizer. I hear your complaints already, but  moisturizing your skin is no different than using oil to keep your baseball glove supple. To avoid the discomfort of dry hands, gents, try to apply at least once a day, preferably after your morning shower.

3. Keep scent to a minimum. cologneKeep the smell volume down low, because you may be the only one enjoying the fragrant symphony hanging around you.

Remember that most, if not all of your grooming products, from shampoo to shaving cream, are scented. If you wear aftershave or cologne, this is another fragrance on top of these scents, which  gets to be overpowering quickly.

To make things worse, I just read an article about the fragrance industry using human and animal feces in their products – yuck!

4. Wear well-fitting clothing.  When dressing for business or casual, if you’re not paying attention to the fit of your clothes, you’re doing yourself a 2013 fitdisservice. It doesn’t matter how big or small a man is, ill-fitting clothes visually change your body shape.

Wearing too-small clothing makes bodies bulge and pushes us out of proportion. Too-big clothing (left) gives visual obesity while making us look insignificant as we swim in excess fabric. A correct fit (right) accentuates the positive and makes us more confident. Wearing well-fit clothing feels great!

5. Stand straighter. Want to lose a visual 5 pounds and feel more confident? Inhale, straighten your spine, lift your eyes, and square your shoulders.

People often don’t pay attention to the way they stand, but posture speaks loudly; it can diminish us in the eyes of others or boost our presence and mood. People notice confident people, and confident people stand straight.

I encourage you to watch this 20-minute TED talk with social psychologist, Amy Cuddy, who explains body language and how to turn up your testosterone and your confidence by assuming 2-minute “power positions”:

Without spending extra money, you can sharpen your image by following these simple steps, making for a more confident and memorable 2013. Happy New Year!

Note – In the Key of He is taking January off – see you in February!


30 Sep

All sorts of kooky things happen when we are in that stretch of time that connects the end of summer with the beginning of autumn. People aren’t sure what to wear in this changeable weather, so they’ll step into flip-flops in their coats and scarves, or wear autumn boots with sleeveless t-shirts. There is more confusion than consistency, but one thing I notice remains true is that when the temperature dips, Toronto reaches for drab.

Yellow wardrobe pieces add interest and style.

I’ve been shopping for some new fall pieces lately and everywhere I go,  it’s the same story – collections of greys, blacks, and other dark neutrals to camouflage us into the sidewalks of the urban jungle. It’s curious.

“Does the fashion industry conspire to chromatically induce seasonal depression?” I mused, noting yet another shop window holding grey-clad mannequins,  “And wouldn’t it be interesting if the pharma companies secretly lurked behind the scenes…”

Whatever happened to the human ritual of mimicking nature through clothing? It feels natural to wear gorgeous blazing autumnal colours when the time is right; warm browns, deep greens, bright oranges, golds, rusts, and reds, especially if they’re warm and wooly, and even better if they’re well fit and stylish. (Autumn is a fun time to dress because of the sensible layering options for warmth and expression.)

On a cool but humid day last weekend, I was out for a walk to the city’s east end. I passed a very attractive man in a yellow t-shirt.

The vibrant colour (plus the brand done in rhinestones emblazoned across the chest) drew my eye to this handsome dread-locked fellow. He absolutely stood out but not in a demanding way – he was confident enough to wear something he knew looked fantastic on him, and though the colour was bright and quite obviously YELLOW,  it was flattering and blended harmoniously with his colouring and his person. He totally pulled it off.

Yellow just isn’t that common.

I know that many people are afraid of yellow, but when it’s done right, it can be glorious.  I often see pale yellow dress shirts as a choice for business wear and many men own yellow ties. Yellow is a good choice for men because our culture hasn’t labelled it gender-specific, and it is unusual enough to stand apart, but not to the point of alienation.

Yellow is heavy with meaning: caution, happiness, the sun, and jaundice, and it’s uses are varied:

  • A yellow card in soccer indicates a conduct warning
  • If you are called “yellow-bellied”, you are considered a coward
  • China’s Emperor, Wu-Ti, was known as the Yellow Emperor and wore yellow silk robes
  • It is the colour of the chakra associated with the solar plexus and left-brain reasoning
  • Yellow is the colour of the Beatles’ famous submarine

Yellow is a good colour to pair with the dreary neutrals that are forced upon us when the weather cools, and it comes in many forms: mustard and custard yellows, golden rod, tan, canary, harvest gold, butter yellow, saffron, ochre, lemon, banana, and turmeric yellow, to name but a few.

Now that we’re moving into the darker months, give yourself a hint of cheery yellow in a scarf to brighten your outdoor gear, and if you can find yellow shirts and sweaters to suit you, snap them up – I’ve been clutching my wool daffodil yellow sweater for years and I refuse to let it go!