Get in style or you're going down fast

  • 2002-08-22
  • Jorgen Johansson
Latvia urgently needs government action to fight one of its most pressing problems - badly dressed men. Jorgen Johansson reports.

It doesn't take long for anyone to see that Latvian women are concerned about how they look and how they dress. It doesn't matter if they are just going 100 meters to the local shop for a carton of milk or a piece of cheese. The hair, the make-up and the clothing has to be perfect.

But for some reason, males do not do the same. Quite frankly men here could not care less about their apearance.

This is why this reporter would like to suggest that the Latvian police authorities create a new and special department to deal with the problem - the Fashion Police.

Watching you

This would involve sending young men and women to fashion meccas such as Paris, London, Milan, Rome, Madrid, New York and Los Angeles to make them study how people dress. These eager young officers would then return and do a little correcting.

Not that this reporter can afford to keep up with the latest Italian fashion, but there are certain rules when it comes to dressing that should be universal for both men and women.

First, stripes and squares don't go together. Neither do stripes going in different directions. It should be punishable to have an outfit with vertical stripes on pants and horizontal stripes on the shirt or vice versa.

Secondly, it is fun to mix colors and patterns, but we must not forget that the 80s, the decade of decadence, is over. Pink, red, purple and orange don't go together. When deciding to wear other colors, don't go for flaming red or screaming green. A much better choice is to go for the more subtle light blue or pale gray.

The best start for ensuring healthy dress codes is to instruct mothers on how to dress their children. It is not wise to tuck every piece of clothing on the upper body into whatever is worn below the waist. There is hardly ever a reason for tucking a T-shirt into a pair of shorts and a shirt must never, never, be tucked into the underwear. This not only looks bad but could also be seen as a sign that your mother still tells you how to dress.

As for socks, there are certain givens. When wearing mainly black or other dark colors, don't wear white socks. The self-proclaimed king of pop Michael Jackson still does it from time to time, but until you can push him off his throne, don't try to copy his sock style.

Another thing to be careful with are sandals. There is a reason for wearing sandals, and that is that it is too hot for regular shoes. Thus, there should not be a need to combine socks and sandals, especially not white socks, no matter what.

When buying shoes, don't go for white or pink loafers. The Fashion Police would be there in an instant if they saw you.

So, back to the Fashion Police. As part of the equipment carried by these driven young men and women, there should be the latest issues of current fashion magazines such as Vogue and Cosmopolitan, a make-up set and some needles and threads in various colors. It will not be necessary for them to carry hand-cuffs or firearms as cross dressing and bad dressing are not major offenses.

The uniform of these law enforcers should be black since it never goes out of fashion.

Some of the tasks to be carried out by the Fashion Police should include making sure people are not wearing counterfeit clothing brands such as Bugo Hoss, Kalvin Clein, Cuggi, Mike or Addiddas. A color-matching pallet could also be used to make sure people don't clash.

Whoever violates the country's agreed fashion code does not have to go to jail without passing their tailor. Instead, they could be deported to fashion havens such as the French Riviera and Malibou beach, expenses paid by the law breaker. Another sentence could be to watch Fashion TV 24 hours a day for a week or two.

Women's wisdom

There are a few mitigating circumstances in Latvia hampering the development of the fashion industry. To start with, designer clothing is as expensive here as it is in Western countries. Unfor-tunately the salary situation is not comparable, making it a daunting task for most people to spend $350 on a jacket, $100 on pants, $40 on a shirt or $150 on a pair of shoes. Furthermore, television in Latvia cannot afford to show the latest films where current fashion is worn.

Another factor to consider is that, for men, there is very little to buy between beach wear and suits. Regular everyday clothing is hard to find unless you really know where to look for it.

Latvia also lacks what most other countries have in this area - role models. There are simply not enough well-dressed famous people out there to set a standard or give ideas of what's hip. This is why most of the contemporary dressing styles come from music videos on TV. The only problem is that music also arrives a bit late here. This could be a reason why local hip-hop guru DJ Ozols still dress like Run DMC did 20 years ago.

But beware, there are people on the screen who should not be copied. Cher's outfits from the 80s should not be considered, ever.

The government should also be involved in raising the awareness of the fashion industry in the country. There are already a handful of foreign companies producing men's and women's wear in Latvia using the country's cheap labor. They then export their products onto the world market at a price far higher than production costs, netting a nice profit. Here is where Latvian law makers should step in. A suggestion could be that foreign clothing producers in Latvia must sell at least 25 percent of their annual production on the local Latvian market at a price matching the production costs. This could stimulate the know-how of dos and don'ts when posing in front of a body-sized mirror at home.

Throughout history, women have taken charge when it comes to setting trends. They have also realized that if they don't tell their spouses how to dress, they are likely to end up married to men who don't see a problem in wearing a T-shirt with "Sex Pistols Forever" printed on it. This is why it is recommended to listen to your woman in this case. She might not be right, but at least she will make you look as she wants you to look - and not like your mother wants.

Latvian women have already realized en mass what it means to get dressed. They are equipped with knowledge of what and what not to wear. It is truly amazing to see how they can make anything look good as they trot by in Riga's Old Town.

Following some simple rules and principles will never ensure a best dressed man or woman title, but it may help when looking for a job or a spouse. Huey Lewis and the News sang "It's hip to be square" many years ago, but don't let this be a beacon when trying to find your own style.