Well? Can a grown geek guy, a 40-something comic book fan, still dress cool?
Nope, not a chance.
Now before you get all loud and judgey let me explain.
The height of 1990’s fashion wasn’t comic book and movie inspired clothes it was grunge, or hip hop, or dressing like these trendy folks…
Granted I was a few years older than the 90210 crowd but the cast of Friends, they were my age. And their characters ran the gambit from career people to unemployed actors, yet not an X-Men shirt among them. In fact in most of the pop-culture of the 90’s comics, sci-fi, gaming, all were treated like something done by “other people” and those people definitely weren’t cool. Enough has been written about the rise of the nerd so I’ll leave that alone and move back to my point.
This is probably the first time in history that comics and video games have been categorized as cool or trendy. Great right? Tv, movies, magazines, everyone’s on board with geek culture! Let’s head on down to hot topic or even Sears or Kohls and get some sick Batman v Superman merchandise to parade around in!
That would be great except that what you wind up with is, more often than not, the comic book guy from the Simpsons. Grown men in Batman and Superman tee’s look like, well, grown men in Batman and Superman tee’s.
Those clothes we covet so strongly, that were made to celebrate franchises and characters we love? They aren’t really made for us. Oh they come in our sizes and they’re sold in our sections of the store but very, very few men over 35 (and heaven forbid over 40) can wear that stuff and not be looked at like there’s something not quite right.
And I wish I was just talking about the reactions of strangers. Our very families and friends do it to us as well. And yes I’m speaking from experience. I’m married 21 years this September and I have a wonderful, caring, intelligent, thoughtful, funny, beautiful, wife. A wife who has supported all my crazy endeavors. But still if we’re going somewhere, anywhere really, she’ll ask me why I’m not wearing that “really nice shirt that looks so good” on me. And keep in mind when she met me I was a scruffy looking long-haired earring wearing dude who lived in Harley shirts, jeans, and cowboy boots. But with age, fatherhood, and business ownership she suggests that I look more “established.” I usually (try) to take it as a compliment, she’s telling me I look good dressed up right? But I think I’d prefer an occasional “hey, cool shirt” remark.
I also have the dubious distinction of being a stay at home, ahem work from home, parent. So if my grocery shopping wardrobe for the day consists of my vintage 1990’s Wolverine shirt or my Captain America’s shield shirt, or heaven forbid my B.P.R.D. t-shirt I get looked at like I’m either simple, or just sloppy. And if the person in question happens to be a 20-something I get the creepy dude look.
So what’s the answer? Well your mileage may vary but I have found a bunch of comic and movie inspired clothing options that work for me. Like the really great t-shirt I bought a NYCC last year from Spaghetti Kiss or these beauties from First Law of Mad Science (see slideshow). They go well with a cool dress shirt or sport jacket over them. And they have the added benefit of not just being a “comic book” shirt. Like the great indie band shirts of the past these promote art and artists that not everyone has heard of.
Into mainstream geekery? There are some pretty damn fine dress socks (I’m wearing my Darth Vader socks on the flight home from the Midwest as I type this and no one knows…) And several friends have been sporting any number of comic book universe inspired sneakers.
Hopefully that trend will continue. And maybe if enough of us over 40, professional, happily married, fathers, continue to flex our style opinions then our wives, friends, and even the 20 something grocery store cashier will give us an occasional “hey, cool shirt” comment.