Back in early April, we stumbled upon a Philadelphia Inquirer trend piece all a-drool over the latest meme in man-style: the “Retrosexual.” According to the piece, such a fellow, largely inspired by Don Draper, trounced about with a trilby atop his pomaded ‘do, clad in a three-piece suit, cigar in mouth, impossibly dashing and debonair and manly. People were doing this! they said.
But upon reading the article, we thought to ourselves: Bullshit. Swap out the suit, and how is this any different than, say, a metrosexual, or a hipster, or any self-professed “type”? In fact, we postulated that a retrosexual is really just a metrosexual with a wardrobe change. And, when it comes down to it, isn’t that true of any clothing trend? A metrosexual is really just a grunge guy, and a grunge guy is really just a metalhead, and so on.
Meaning: These are all costumes, and defining yourself by what you wear is kinda…silly. Nothing against fashion — wearing something because it’s beautiful is one thing; wearing something because it fits the persona you’ve manifested for yourself is…well…the essence of a trend piece.
And, as it comes to be, the main subject and representative of the trend in the article — Leo Mulvihill, 26, fomer Drexel University law student, law firm clerk awaiting the results of the bar, purported Retrosexual, who, according to the Inquirer, sashayed around campus “sporting a vintage Brooks Brothers three-piecer and authentic 1960s Florsheims, his trilby cocked just so” — sort of agrees. We got down to all this this retrosexual business with him recently.
First off, “the author branded me a retrosexual,” he told us. “The first question she asked me was “So, why do you consider yourself a retrosexual?” My answer was along the lines of: “I don’t. I think that’s a silly label for a silly trend.” Naturally, that didn’t comport with her angle for the article, so it was left out.
What are the retrosexuals, then?
I think it’s the same people as metrosexuals…the guys who like dressing well because they enjoy clothing as a hobby. They like to look good. And then there are the people falling prey to the Mad Men trend, trying to evoke the essence of Don Draper. I’m not doing this because it’s a fad; I told the writer that. I just want to look respectable. In a world where so many guys don’t give a shit about how they look, and when the job market is bad — if they can remember me, at least I have that.
So, why do you dress the way you dress?
The way the article was written made me look like a super dandy guy. I think the first line was how I walk around with my trilby…
But I just put it on in winter to keep my head warm, and to keep my eyes out of the sun in summer. I like to wear suits; I wear one every day. I like to put the extra effort in, and make sure my clothes fit me well.
Did you get a lot of flack for the article?
A bunch of my friends thought it was funny. It went up on my professor’s Facebook wall. I got compliments, but also, people in my neighborhood will say, “Who the fuck do you think you are?” Some people stop me and say, “I really like your hat.”
You’re married, right? What does your wife think of all this?
My wife likes my style; she knows I’m doing it for myself. And she likes that I try not to ever look sloppy. Jon Hamm is a handsome looking dude, and the wardrobe designers are great. But this has been my style for a long time, even before Mad Men. My real transformation happened way back when I was working my way through school at Starbucks and found out I could wear a tie — I started wearing one every day. I thought, “I’m gonna class up the joint.”
What are you wearing today?
Sand-colored boat shoes, khakis, and a blue gingham Oxford button-down. I got the shoes at a thrift store and the shirt from American Apparel; the khakis are from Daffy’s.
Retrosexual or not? You be the judge. But we can’t argue with Mulvihill’s main point:
“The most important thing,” he said, “is, regardless of what you’re wearing, treat people right. If you can do that and be well-dressed dude, well, there are no disadvantages to that.”
Consider our trilbys tipped.