Afterthoughts: Action Time

Men, consider the jumpsuit.


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This time of year, thanks to HONOLULU Fashion Week, my thoughts turn to clothing. The office is buzzing with conversations about local style, and a higher than average number of willowy models and edgy designers are wandering through the halls, waiting for their next fitting. I’m admittedly on the periphery of all this—my daily style tends to land squarely in the middle of standard menswear, which, let’s be honest, is a pretty shallow pool, compared with the bounty of options available to women. 

 

There’s a comfort in this, knowing I can reliably create a work or evening outfit in a minute flat, using my collection of 15 shirts, five pairs of slacks and two pairs of shoes, while my girlfriend agonizes for an hour over the subtle differences between a closet-full of outfits she’s not even sure she likes anymore. Less is more, sometimes.

 

I’m so used to the predictable sameness of menswear, even a little innovation can throw me off. I recently bought a new pair of Levi’s trousers and was amazed to discover they had rear pockets so skimpy my cell phone no longer fully fit inside them. It’d be one thing if I was experimenting with some funky new clothing brand, but Levi’s? Of course, this moment will impress exactly zero women, who have been suffering from puny or nonexistent pockets forever, but it was weird for me.

 

If this wasn’t just an isolated incident, and mainstream menswear is starting to become more like the complex, changeable world of women’s wear, maybe in addition to the unpredictability, guys can get some of the freedom that comes along with it.

 

For example, the women of the HONOLULU Magazine team have embraced jumpsuits, from designers ranging from Fighting Eel to Matt Bruening. They’re sleek and slouchy and totally of the moment. 

 

I’m jealous. Not about the sleek and slouchy part, but about being able to wear something in the office that isn’t just another set of pants and a collared shirt. Here’s my pitch: What about jumpsuits for men? I’m no fashion experimenter, but jumpsuits have a long, fine tradition as the burliest of getups. Mechanics? Engineers? Astronauts? It’s a classic, action-packed look that anyone can pull off with confidence.

 

I know this from experience. There was a point in my career when I wore a jumpsuit, and I remember looking and feeling great. The year was 1999, and I was a full-service attendant at the Kīhei Chevron Foodmart and Car Wash. One of the attendents’ duties, at the end of the shift, was to scrub out the aforementioned car wash. The job entailed spraying industrial-grade cleansers all over, so we were issued a heavy-duty canvas jumpsuit for protection.

 

It was badass. Walking through the car wash with a spray bottle of acid, clothed in a rugged, dark-gray, Chevron-branded jumpsuit, I felt like a ghostbuster. It almost made up for the skin irritation and the minimal pay. Sadly, when I left the world of gas stations and manual labor, I had to leave the jumpsuit behind, too.

 

Fashion designers love creating runway versions of men’s jumpsuits, but the suits never seem to make it to the streets. It is, admittedly, a bold statement to roll into your office in a one-piece outfit—no one wants to be the first one, I guess.

 

There was one Hawai‘i man who rocked the jumpsuit. Mr. Shaka himself: the fearless Frank Fasi. You might remember that, as mayor, he regularly wore a white jumpsuit—not only at press conferences, to convey the image of a hands-on, take-charge leader—but even just around Honolulu Hale on a normal business day. It was no big deal. Granted, with his big personality, it was unlikely anyone was going to make fun of Fasi’s fashion choices, no matter what he wore.

 

I think it could happen again. Maybe we need another Fasi-like trendsetter, or maybe all it would take would be for one local designer to create a jumpsuit that looks right for Hawai‘i. The fit is crucial. I’m picturing something that’s neither an oversize potato sack nor a skin-tight gymnast’s costume. Make it comfortable, with a sturdy canvas construction, and dark, solid colors (no one is ever going to be able to pull off an aloha-print jumpsuit with a straight face). Short sleeves, definitely, to beat the heat. Are you picturing all this?

 

It’s almost 2016, people. Let’s make the jumpsuit happen.

 

READ MORE STORIES BY MICHAEL KEANY 

 

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Honolulu Magazine November 2018
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