Most people, men anyway, think that it is only women who are fashion conscious to a fault. While many women are very fashion conscious, so are many men, and the fashions that some of the men wore can be just as dangerous. When fashion consists of the wearing of articles of clothing or accessories that have the ability to cause death or injury, we are in danger of sacrificing too much in the name of fashion.
Some fashions do no harm, but looking back on them, we can see just how silly they looked. Nevertheless, powdered wigs were in fashion for men in several different centuries. Long hair was considered a show of status, for both men and women over the years. In ancient Greece, long male hair was a symbol of wealth and power, while a shaven head was appropriate for a slave. The problem occurred when the person, usually the men, but women too, had thinning hair. If their social status depended on that hair, they would need a way to fix the problem when it did not exist. The powdered wig helped with that, and some men wore their wigs in very elaborate styles. In the 1760s, aristocratic British men donned large wigs with a small hat or feather at the top. The young men who took up this fashion trend reportedly brought it back from their “Grand Tour” across Continental Europe in which they intended to “deepen cultural knowledge.” The style is, in fact, named after the Italian pasta dish…macaroni, signifying sophistication and worldliness. It is here that we get the song many of us have wondered about called, “Yankee Doodle,” the lyrics of which pointed out that the feather on top was supposedly called macaroni.
The shoes of the men have taken some strange turns as well. Known as the Poulaine, this super long shoe reigned supreme with men across Europe in the late 14th century. The shoes, called Crakow were named after Krákow, Poland because they were introduced to England by the Polish nobles. Once the shoes were seen at court, they became all the rage…even though the shoes were six to twenty four inches long. I’m sure you are thinking to yourself, “Who would be crazy enough to wear these?” Well, I’ll tell you that current styles (or maybe just a year or so in the past) saw women, and men too, wearing shoes that had an extra long pointed toe, so it isn’t just an oddity of 14th century Britain. The shoes were a quick indicator of social status…the longer the shoe, the higher the wearer’s station. Some of these shoes were so long that chains were sometimes strung from the toe of the Crakow to the knee to allow the wearer to walk. Other times the toes were stuffed with material for the same reason, making the toes stiff. The strange shoes were considered ridiculous, vain, and dangerous by many conservatives and church leaders, who called them “devil’s fingers.”
In the 19th century, men began wearing detachable collars, that were heavily starched until they were quite stiff. While the collars didn’t look all that odd, they could be deadly. Because they were so heavily starched, taken to the extreme of the collar being nearly unbendable, and because they were attached with a singular or pair of studs, the collar could slowly asphyxiate a man, if he fell asleep or passed out while drinking. It had a similar effect to a cord being wrapped tightly around the poor man’s neck. Another dangerous aspect of the collar was its pointed corners. A Saint Louis man, wearing one of these collars, tripped in the street and the pointed corners of the collar jabbed into this throat, “making two ugly gashes.” If the gash happened to be in the vicinity of the Jugular vein, death could come quite quickly. These collars were so lethal, in fact, that they were known as “the father killer.” I can only imagine how many women and children pleaded with their husbands or fathers not to wear the collar, which maybe should have been called the choker.
I can understand the need of people to have a certain fashion sense, as I am also one who likes to look up to date and to have a good fashion sense too, but people really need to also consider their own safety when it comes to style. It pays to listen to others who might know something about this certain idea of fashion, that could not only benefit you, but possibly save your life.