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Is there any bathrobe a man can wear and still maintain his dignity (or at least look good)?

Jeff Bridges in The Big Lebowski

The question

Are any bathrobes okay?

The answer

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Here's the problem: We all need them. We think: What do I throw on if I'm just out of the shower and the doorbell rings? What do I wear when I'm just out of bed and I want coffee before I'm dressed? What do I wear walking from the shower to my bedroom when my kids/cleaning lady/dealer are home?

So they are an unfortunate necessity. But one thing you should know is that all bathrobes – or dressing gowns if you are an anglophile – are unflattering. It doesn't matter if they're silk, it doesn't matter if they are the richest, thickest terry cotton, it doesn't matter if they say "Chateau Marmont" or "Shangri-La Dusseldorf" or "Super 8 Burlington"; they do not give you a manly shape, they do not give you sex appeal.

I put together a small feminine focus group on this matter. (The group consisted of one member, who also happens to share my dwelling; accurate to within five percentage points, 99 times out of 100.) This focus group was characteristically blunt about bathrobes: "All men's legs sticking out from under the skirts of a bathrobe look like little, tiny, skinny, hairy, duck legs, with giant feet at their ends." This is, I think, not good.

The French have a word for a kind of soft, couch-potato, stay-at-home kind of guy: pantouflard. It's from the word for slippers. Whenever I see a guy in a bathrobe, I think the slippers are not far behind. I don't think race-car driver, I think pantouflard.

Even short silk Japanese-style ones, displaying muscular legs, comfortable as they might be to wear, are strangely emasculating, as they can easily be seen as posing too hard. The terrifying image of an aging Hugh Hefner is never far from a sensitive woman's psyche.

So, limit your domestic bathrobe wearing to absolute necessity. And to private moments. If you must dart through the house in such intimate apparel, ensure that it is cotton of the most pure blinding white. And that your darting is brief.

Now a towel wrapped around the waist, on the other hand, is held by many women to be the sexiest attire possible. Cheaper, too.

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Novelist Russell Smith's memoir, Blindsided, is available as a Kobo e-book. Have a style question? E-mail

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