This Is Why Men Hate Fashion – Christine DeMaio-Rice

So what is it about women and shoes?

It would never, ever occur to me to put a shoe on the cover of a book.

I mean, shoes are what feet go into. And feet are at the other end of the body for a good reason. Bunions, blisters and broken toe-nails, ripe cheese aromas and crispy socks that can stand up on their own. Or is that just me?

Anne R. Allen has two cover artists working on her Camilla Randall Mysteries series. Though there was no exchange between the two designers they both came up with shoes…

Christine DeMaio-Rice designs her own covers (more on this next month). The big image above is a fine example of her work. And, of course, there’s a shoe in it.

Okay, it’s a book about the fashion industry. But even so… Why a shoe? Somebody explain to this ageing male brain what’s going on?!

Saffi and I have teamed up with Elizabeth Ann West to write our new China Town rom-com mystery series (Narcissus Nights due out early 2012!) and I can see already that even if there’s not a shoe mentioned anywhere (admittedly improbable, with two female co-writers dictating the storyline) there will somehow be a shoe or two on the cover. 😐

Just to add here for anyone keeping count that the China Town series will be after the first of the St. Mallory’s YA series we’re co-writing with the fantabulous teens Miriam and Charley.  So far I’ve been lucky and not seen any sign of any shoe obsessions in St. Mall’s. Are teenagers immune to such things? At what age does a girl stop wearing shoes as footwear and start wearing them as fashion accessories?

Of course, I could have asked fashion-industry insider Christine, when I invited her on to MWi to talk about Dead Is The New Black, the first of her Fashion Avenue Mystery series.

Btw, how irresistable is that title?! So irresistable, in fact, you’ll probably be wanting to head off and buy it before you read any further. You can find it on here and on here.

I asked Christine not to mention the book and do a post on fashion instead. With plenty of images, I added.

Yeah, I was angling for an excuse to run a post with lots of pics of scantily clad top totty. But Christine saw right through me, and wrote a post on men in t-shirts instead. Cruel, or what?!

Here’s Christine.

This Is Why Men Hate Fashion


I’ll send three mental images your way.

1) A man slouches on a couch outside dressing rooms, waiting for his girlfriend to exit. He looks like he’d rather be dead, or chewing razor blades, or simply watching football.
2) A man in a suit, outside the bathroom. His wife exits wearing something either obscene or absurd, twirls around and says, “how do I look?” The man in question doesn’t have to answer. We know he’s in trouble.
3) A man stands stock still as a woman dresses him in something ridiculous while she squeals about how fabulous he looks.

These are all a beer commercial waiting to happen, and we have bought them in their entirety. I hate beer commercials because they play on gender stereotypes and expectations. This is a huge injustice to men everywhere, and it’s the reason most of the men in America dress like laundry sacks.

Worse, runway shows specialize in making men look like slim, asexual fourteen year-olds, while men’s magazines mention clothing as an afterthought to the barely-dressed women on the cover. The backlash is not only understandable, it’s should be expected. Fashion has been marketed as a “girl’s thing” and sports as a “boy’s thing,” and like normal human beings we follow along.

I know, you’re saying you’re different. Fine. You’re different. Are all the men in your life like you? (If you’re gay, and all your friends are gay, please don’t answer. Gay men get this right already. We need to bring the straight boys along with us, gentlemen).

So I want you all to choose a t-shirt. Go on the internet or look in a catalog with the intention of buying a nice t-shirt. I know what you’re saying. “I wear t-shirts in the yard or to hang out with my buddies I don’t want to spend a lot of money on a t-shirt.” What I’d say to that is, a t-shirt can change the way you look, and you don’t have to change t-shirts for the yard, but it’s you’re leaving the house at all, you can affect an enormous difference by not looking like a sack of crap.

First. Ladies. If you’re in on this process, stop squealing. Do not squee. Do not fawn. Do not seduce. At the first sign of any feminine behavior, you will lose his interest. This is borderline clinical. Act like a surgeon over an open heart.

Second. Gentlemen. That little twisty part of yourself that associates looking good with being less manly? Take charge of it. Go with me here. It won’t hurt, I promise.

I want to start by showing you what a t-shirt should NOT look like. I mean it’s so bad the model looks like he’s cringing.

Why is this so bad, you ask.
Why, indeed.

Look at those sleeves. He looks like a slight breeze will send him flying away. There’s a good four inches of excess fabric in there. This is bad. Worse, the outsleeves are hiking. The outsleeves are the outer edge, on the sleeve fold. Do you see how the sleeve opening angles down in toward the body? This is a no-no, and it’s making him look like a big trapezoid.

Now I’d like to direct you to the placement of the shoulders. They’re way down on his arm! Which, honestly, would be just fine if the sleeves weren’t flappy-dappy.

Which brings us to the biggest problem. Because the sleeve balance is something easy to see and obvious. But the less obvious problem is proportional. The chest fits really nicely, and when you buy something online, it’s the chest you’re buying against. You look at the chest measurements and you compare to your body measurements, and there you go! A chest that fits with these big stupid sleeves. And that’s why you need the big, shoulders, to make these two pieces to the puzzle fit together. If the shoulders were the correct size to the proportion of the chest, they’d be narrower.

But he’s wearing two different t-shirts. One fits (the chest) and one doesn’t (the sleeves).

So, why is it this way?

Part of the reason is that the customer’s gotten sloppy and doesn’t care (yes, I’m talking to you). The other reason is that those sleeves are easier to sew than sleeves that fit. In order to get the curve of the armhole to fit around the body, a bunch of cool easing and stretching techniques have to be used so there’s not four yards of fabric in the armpit. But if you make big shoulders and a straight-ish armhole, you can sew a million of them consistently and sell them for ten bucks each.

This is better. At least he doesn’t look like he’s going to fly away. The sleeve openings are level to the earth and the shoulders hit in the right place. And though the chest still fits, to be honest, the sleeves now look too small for the body, proportionally. And there are draglines on the sleeve (little vertical creases) caused by a poorly balanced sleeve cap. Fixing that is another whole order of patternmaking and sewing though, so you can ignore me.

This is the nicest-fitting t-shirt I’ve seen. The sleeves are tight, which makes it good for wearing a jacket or sweater over it, and the shoulders are just where they should be. The problem of course is that it’s generally too tight. It’s also short. You can see how high it’s falling on his crotch.

OK, so I went looking for a Guess tee, because they fit better than 90% of the men’s tees out there (disclaimer – I was employed by Guess and yes, worked on the men’s t-shirts). But this one is not good, and led me to something else I wanted to point out. When you buy a graphic tee that’s really soft and has these cool stitches and stuff, be aware they are beat to hell in the production process. Dyed, washed, printed, dyed and washed again. One medium likely won’t fit like the next medium. So you get one like this, that’s about an inch and a half too short, and the stitching on the sleeves didn’t shrink at the same rate as the rest of it – so you have these bizarre ruffle/wing things at the cuff.

OK, this one looks good. I mean I could pick it apart, but I know you guys don’t want to spend an hour in the dressing room, with your girlfriends sitting outside wishing they were watching football.

Askew images down to me I’m afraid. Still trying to blog one-handed…

I’m not going to say anything about Christine’s observation that most men in America dress like laundry sacks. As to my own fashion sense, I haven’t got any. But here in West Africa the fashion rule is simple: vibrant colours and walk tall.

In the New Year I’ll be finally beginning my West Africa blog Paradise Amid Poverty, on my life here in sub-Saharan Africa, and will be getting some great photos of the absolutely to-die-for everyday fashions that make West African women the envy of the world, and one of the key reasons I shall never leave.

Meanwhile, since Christine chose this blog to be illustrated with the male figure, I leave you with this parting image of how most men (Not me!) dress here.

T-Shirts Who needs them?


  1. Fabulous! Love those West African outfits.

    Of course, there are about four different fits in that photo…can’t you see them?


    • Four different fits? My approach to clothes is if they are comfortable and cover the bits they are supposed to while not covering the bits they shouldn’t, than all is well.

      Adam and Eve had the right idea about clothes: As little as necessary for local conditions.

      Xine, when I get some decent photos of the typical women’s daily shopping outfit here I’ll have to have you back to tell us what you make of them.

      • Yeah they’re similar, with different sleeve and body lengths, and the drape of the fabric is determining a lot for me. Though the necklines are frighteningly consistent.

        I’d love to see what they wear over there. The ladies that is. Traditional dress is, for me, the gold standard in fashion. Not just for the practicability. But for the fact that it forces you to deal with the details, and they become the fashion. And the fact that it’s not changing every season is crucial to me.

        I think the fashion loop, where we believe we have to have the new thing every season, is unsustainable from a manufacturing, environmental and even design standpoint. I’ve had designers hand work to me and say “I can’t do another &^% long sleeve boyfriend cardigan!”

        And they can’t. It’s absolutely deadening. Fashion design’s need to reinvent the wheel every season based on some new technology or trend is the cart driving the horse. Because there’s nothing wrong with last year’s cardigan except our stupid desire to have a new cardigan.

        • Too right about the necklines, Xine. But these are functional everyday clothes for men here. Not sure what you’d call the fabric, but it is wonderful to wear, looks fantastic close up, and can withstand the rigours of handwashing with a scrubber board or pebbles, which would tear apart most western clothes.

          The women’s “designs” are even more colourful, and elegantly simple, relying on colour and pattern rather than any crazy fashion industry dictates.

          Sadly there’s also a growing influx of Western clothes coming in, and especially second-hand clothing “donated” back in Europe and America that is then shipped to the poorer countries. While it provides cheap clothing and is welcomed for that, it is slowly putting the local tailors out of business,

          And a shame for me personally because I came here to get away from this homogenization of culture. But it’s still a country with no railway, no McDonalds or KFC, and no peoccupatiion with reinventing the wheel every season. Long may it stay that way!

  2. Marc, I’m with you on the shoes. I hate having a closet full of shoes to go with every outfit and if I buy shoes they better darn go well with ten outfits! (hence why I’m nearly always in black, brown or navy shoes… ha ha)

    As to why Charley and Miriam aren’t obsessed with them? That’s because you found two sensible teens who care more about how their words read than how they look. (Okay I made up that last part. *giggles*)

    Now back to reading your post… (While trying not to disturb my coworkers with laughter)

    Occasionally my hubby but proper t-shirts, but most of the time he just goes to those Computer Security Conferences (like Black Hat) and comes home with fifteen new slapped together Tech logo t-shirts. His group has their fun though – like going to one of the parties all in vibrant pink (Marc’s South African men would have been proud of the color). All but one said “I’m with [name]” and the last one said “I am [name]” They are boys, such boys…. *grin*

    :} Cathryn

  3. Christine! You are amazing. I need to dress my men better.

  4. I suspect your idea of “better” would be chainmail and suits of armour, Sarah.

    • Mark you need a like button for comments. (Cause it seems silly to just leave an LOL and nothing else). :}

      Now I have to sheck Sarah out, seeing as she sounds like a woman of my own interests.

      :} Cathryn

  5. You know what else I’m noticing about the gentlemen in the traditional garb? Some of their tops all have the creases in from when they were packed in the bags.

    See? Anywhere in the world, men just don’t give a crap. (except for the guy in the jaunty cap. He’s bringin’ it home)

    • Packed in bags? LOL! The only clothing in bags here thankfully is the designer imports for the expats and the idiots who aspire to Western values.

      Curiously the unironed one you pick out is worn that way deliberately. It proudly shows the item is straight from the tailor. and on first wear. 🙂

      Irons here are charcoal-filled, so little control over heat, and ironing boards unheard of. That’s what a floor is for. Buy you rarely ever see anyone out and about who isn’t dressed pristinely.

      • What a ditz. Of course they were just folded and not bag packed. (facepalm)


        At my last job, I did the packing instructions and I kept begging not to pack things individually in bags, because it was so wasteful. But everyone looked at me like I’d lost my mind.

        • Here it’s economics rather than environmental concerns that means excess packaging is avoided.

          Which is just as well, as trash disposal is a huge problem for countries without the infrastructure of the industrialized nations. Many African countries have banned plastic bags and packaging for this reason.

  6. Christine… my son has your rules down pat. My husband… meh! He’s a WIP… but we shall get to publishable quality after a zillion edits, I assure you.
    As to shoes, Mark… my weakness… but contained now that I live mostly by the sea and work on the farm. Even so, there is a favourite pair in my cupboard (JP Tod loafers: pale turquoise that I moved heaven and earth online to possess) Once owned I thought they were the bees knees.
    And then the tiny rubber stops on the bottom clung to a carpeted step as I turned and I fell, tearing ligaments in three different parts of ankle and leg and requiring 3 months on crutches and 18 months rehab. And even so I have to have an op as a bone-cyst has developed on my aged joint. The shoes? Husband, he of the WIP, wanted to throw them away. I ADORE them and had them on yesterday. He’s trained our 8 week old pup to chew them I swear, but I shall prevail! (fist in air, Bridget Jone’s style)
    Christine, I love your style. your book covers, your blog and I defy you to dress my fantasy characters or my early medieval protags from the latest hist.fict heading Mark’s way!

    • A challenge!
      Ha! I defy you to STOP me from dressing your characters!

    • Prue, you are even more crazy than I first thought! A ceremonial bonfire of pain-inflciting footwear is in order.

      I seriously think you and Xine should get together and create some designs for the Erie Chronicles characters. Would love to see Lalita’s outfits! A perfect opportunity to exploit epub-3 and the enhanced ebook future.

    • Miriam Joy
    • December 16th, 2011

    There is a reason I have no hair (well, little hair) and I dress in my sister’s cast-offs. It’s quicker in the mornings. It’s easier on the purse. And it DOESN’T require shopping trips, dressing rooms, or mirrors. I hate shopping (my male friend is constantly trying to persuade me to come with him, I think he’s hitting on me), hate bothering, and would rather walk around in a PSYCHO MAGNET baggy hoodie any day 😉 Although sometimes I like to look nice, so I get my sister to choose my clothes and do my hair and stuff.

  7. Do I get to squee about seeing all three of my Camilla Randall Mystery covers together on a blog? Two different publishers; two different designers, but don’t they look fabulous together? Squee!

    It’s so funny that I’m writing shoe books. What I actually wear myself, most of the time, are Crocs. Yup. Plastic gardening shoes. I threw out all my stilettos a few years ago. Life’s too short to be in that much pain.

    That’s great fashion analysis, Christine. I worked as a theater costumer for a while and you totally nailed it.

    And I love those African shirts! Gorgeous and sensible. I want me one of the purple ones with the gold trim…

    • Squee away! Sending me Kate’s cover this week, just as Xine’s post was delayed from last week, was a perfect example of serendipity in action!

      Crocs are great. Or at least, the affordable imitations are. Perfect for our sand roads, and for the local climate.

  8. Fascinating stuff, Christine. Shoes are sexy, Mark, because they add length and slimness to legs and can be very suggestively placed, as was often done in older films – entrance at the top of stairs, shot showing only the shoes and legs; foot in shoe stretched out on chair, showing leg, etc. Think of Marlene Dietretch (spelt wrong – what should it be?). The idea continues.
    Looking forward to your blog about your life in Africa, Mark – I’ve been nosily interested in finding out more about this for some time!
    Anne, the covers of your books are amazing – make me mad to read the series. They sound (as well as look) great!

    • Thanks, Gerry. I agree shoes can be very attractive and figure-enhancing, but have never seen the point (or attraction) of completely unnatural and potentially posture-damaging (not to mention ankle-breaking) shoes that are the typical book-cover adornments. Catwalk fashion should stay on the catwalk.

      Interesting point about films. But sounds like foot-porn to me.

      Hopefully I’ll have the West Africa blog started in the next week or two. Sadly this is a growing tourist destination, and I hope the new site will help introduce some of those flocking here for the winter sun to discover the real Africa beyond the hotel zones.

    • Lee
    • December 17th, 2011

    I’m a shoe gal. Yesterday went for a holiday lunch in a posh restaurant with a punch of girlfriends. We’re all retired cops, so to be a fly at our table!!! But the main topic of conversation was my shoes. I pulled out a pair that kill my feet, I rarely wear, but are so darn cute and make my legs look impressive that I couldn’t resist. After all, I’d spend most of my time sitting anyways. But I nearly twisted my ankle walking into the place, hence the reason they stay in the closet for most of the year, besides the pinched toes. I have a lot of shoes my hubby complains about, but my favorite, are my hiking boots. They are comfy, beat-up and reliable. They don’t pinch my polished toes and no twisted ankles.
    I love Anne’s covers. A good cover of a book tells the tales before you open it..It’s inviting and fun and it’s a shoe! Who can resist? I can’t.

    • Lee, you just confirm what I was thinking when I responded to Gerry, above. When fashion equates to discomfort or even pain then it just ain’t worth it! 🙂

  9. Great article. I used to be one of those guys proudly displaying fashion ignorance. Through a lot of research, I have improved. So many men need to wake up to their fashion potential. You are on the right track here.

    Thanks for the post.

    • Thanks Jeremy! Lots of American men take pride in looking like complete tools, because they have no choice. No one’s told them how to look and so they react that way. That led to the feminization of anyone not looking like a tool…and here we are. Potbellies and winging sleeves. Sigh. It’s tough for a girl in the US.

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