It's a lot lighter a lot longer here in Toronto these days – giving people a good chance to see just how ridiculously freezing everyone is. Yet optimists still insist there will be a spring, followed by a summer, which is why, dear men who may be reading this, I want to take a minute to tell you that I don't hate your legs.
I feel the need to say something about your legs, men, because an interview with Fran Lebowitz in Elle magazine was so heavily circulated and trumpeted last week that I fear some of you may be developing a leg-related neurosis.
In the interview, Lebowitz went full-on "young people now, in my day we never, you kids get off my laundry" on the subject of style. Just about no one of any age is doing it right, according to Lebowitz, but she reserves her actual horror for men in shorts: "I'd just as soon see someone coming toward me with a hand grenade," she says. "It's disgusting. To have to sit next to grown men on the subway in the summer, and they're wearing shorts? It's repulsive."
To be fair, Lebowitz wants most people covered up. The problem with "revealing clothing," as she sees it, is that "the people you'd most like to see them on aren't wearing them." This is in keeping with her more general concern that people are dressing above their aesthetic station, as she assigns it.
"Most people just aren't good-looking enough to wear what they have on. They should change. They should get some slacks and a nice overcoat," she told the interviewer, denouncing those she sees as delusional enough to wear yoga pants and down jackets, when really only if you are "naturally beautiful" should you "wear what you want."
"It's hilarious that so many people think they look fantastic, because they're wearing clothes that you should only wear if you look fantastic."
By this she means that people should not only stop presumptuously wearing clothes that show off their bodies, but, the suggestion about getting thee to some "slacks and a nice overcoat" implies, they should also not risk wearing anything more interesting than the cufflinks she herself wears as part of her quasi-uniform.
Her iconic ensemble of jeans, a men's shirt and a custom-made tailored jacket is a uniform in that she dons it every day, it's highly conventional and yet is carefully designed to show rank.
It's unusual that someone should be both anti-fashion, for all intents and purposes, and anti-comfort. Usually these camps are divided: The House of Dowdy has long been at war with the Haute Couture Clan – lobbing their L.L. Bean parcels against the elegant linen walls of the clan's castle, tying plaid flannel bandages around their injuries when one of last season's look books hits its turtleneck mark.
Yet, in this interview, Lebowitz reveals herself to be some sort of indecisive double agent; surely she realizes the single most effective way to get people to dress better is to remind them that they are beautiful? And the single most effective way to get men to wear long pants is October, not shame.
So, when and if July comes, by all means, take a seat next to me, hypothetical-hirsute-guy-on-the-streetcar, just mind your leg hair doesn't get caught in the door on your way out. And in answer to Fran's question concerning men's obliviousness over their wardrobe – "But is that really worth celebrating, or imitating?" – I have to say, sure.
Not that I don't love to see a man in a suit and tie, and appreciate more elaborate peacockian attire, but that a man is not tacitly seeking my approval on public transit and elsewhere, and assumed by society to be preoccupied with earning it, is welcome, a relief to both of us, I imagine. Your legs are fine, men. Your insouciance is frankly hot – and an enviable exercise of prerogative from many women's perspective.
It's strange that it can feel mean-spirited to push back against a contrarian – whose outrageousness is somehow seen as something that raises her or him beyond even mild reproach. However for a woman who insists, despite an Internet of evidence, that "an 18-year-old has no clue" that a current fashion "is a revival. Despite the fact that they're almost always online they don't get references," there is much ahistoric in Lebowitz's assessment of our current state of dress.
Working people have never, for the most part, dressed well. They dressed well for Sunday, perhaps, for the occasional celebration, and increasingly we are all working people, living in close quarters. We will inevitably see each other in our pyjamas.
Perhaps it's best not to remark, or judge – in much the same way we do not engage with people who may not yet have brushed their teeth.
It was always a rarefied few who dressed well full-time, and humanity taken as a whole has hardly let its fashion game slide.
What we're seeing, what Lebowitz should recognize, is that we've almost gone beyond the often-remarked-upon democratization of fashion – why, what we're witnessing is something like the communist ideal that never happened politically, manifested sartorially.
Sweatpants may be dreadful and appear ubiquitous, but perhaps they are our symbol of proletarian unity – a kind of (less flattering) Soviet-era boiler suit that has evolved organically from our current labour and social conditions. Yoga pants are a uniform for the drudge-work portion of many people's day.
I don't like the way they look either, but follow befleeced folks through a week before you dismiss them as they buy milk, or take their children to the park or fly to Berlin. Below deck was hardly a catwalk, so let's stop the o tempora, o moralizing at the terminals, please.
This is how Karl Marx saw it going down: Ideally "to hunt in the morning," he wrote in a confident moment, "fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner."
Perhaps this is the rather excellent thing occurring now in our wardrobes – that which Lebowitz is decrying – as well as your hairy legs.
Obviously people require a pretty extensive wardrobe to pull that varied lifestyle off, and it is simply not practical to ranch in heels but, I assure Fran Lebowitz, the after-dinner critic in most people turns out swell.