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Do Clothes Make the Man?

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Co-written by Andre Frey and Mario Blanco.

How do fashion choices affect our emotional, creative and social lives? Is contemporary man doomed to wearing boring clothes? Would swap out your monotonous wardrobe of blue jeans, brand name T-shirts and tennis socks for a collection of Hawaii shirts, polka dot bow ties or red shoes change your state of mind? Would it affect who you are and your experience of life?

Style is important and shapes your self-perception, the perception of others and your sense of belonging. In the '80s, men wanted to dress like Gordon Gekko, from the movie, Wall Street, with snazzy suspenders and bow ties or to look cool and casual like Don Johnson from Miami Vice, with pastel T-shirts and oversized sports jackets. In the '90s, men switched dress pants and shirts out with Docker's and Polo shirts to look relaxed like George Clooney or tough and bold like Bruce Willis. Seems like now we all want to look designer casual and minimalistic like Steve Jobs.

The past 30 years have offered limited choices as to how men can express themselves with fashion. When compared with women's fashions, our choice of clothing, shoes and accessories have been quite limited. Global conformity and prevalence of safe brands to wear may be part of the reason. Today's logos are twice the size of those thirty years ago while offering little real differentiation. Do we really need logos to tell us what to wear or will men decide to express themselves through their clothing choices as women continue to do today?

The past few years have seen unprecedented technological progress, e.g., materials with memory, natural materials grown organically in developing nations, without the use of ecologically damaging petrochemicals, with superior physical properties (breathability, texture, color) augmented by modern technology. Seersucker suit meets SMA (smart metal alloy), wires of TiNi (Titanium Nickel alloy) embedded within the seams, capable of imparting the just-back-from-the-laundry look after just a short power charge. But with all this explosive technology, men's fashion still looks stogy.

Will multi-functional clothing soon be the norm? Will accessories serve as solar collectors (e.g., Konarka's power plastics to charge your iPad) part cell phone? Maybe LCDs will be built into smart briefcases to keep you in touch with social networks. Perhaps piezoelectric materials will be built into shoe soles to convert sidewalk steps into electric impulses for charging smart devices while giving you a soft cushioned stroll.

Unlike the automotive industry, the garment industry has much lower barriers to entry and exit, lower investment and production costs, more distribution opportunities and vastly higher profit margins. So given the opportunity to differentiate yourself from other men, would you continue to copy the look of a movie star or define your own style based on who you are?

Special thanks to Andre Frey and Mario Blanco for researching and co-writing this article.