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Confessions of the Man Repeller

Bergdorf Goodman Essay

Leandra Medine on how Women's Fashion Perplexes Men

8 30 2011

“It’s not you, it’s the shorts.”

On a second date last summer, a man really said this to me, it was followed by, “You would be cute if you dressed nicer.”

I’ll have you know those were premier designer shorts.

There was no third date.

Perhaps if it were slightly earlier in the year, I’d have been hurt, tormented even, but because I’d started to digitally chronicle my thoughts on the dichotomous nature of high fashion in a blog, it was okay. It was now not a problem but a concept: how something so appealing to the female eye could read unattractive to a man, so I laughed, and quite hard at that. It was the first time my hypothesis had been so clearly proven correct.

For the uninitiated, this mysterious phenomenon is what I’ve dubbed: “man repelling.” Man repelling is the verb form of The Man Repeller, a fashion blog—my fashion blog—that records and celebrates all the fashion trends that women love and men hate.  Still slightly confused? Let me paint a picture for you.

You’re walking out of your bedroom dressed for a night out, feeling like a million bucks. You’re excited about the ready-to-wear you picked up earlier that week; it’s a neon geometric-print pleated maxi skirt paired with a silk counter-print top. You’ve intended to wear it for this particular event on this particular night, and you’re glowing.

But then, there he is: your man friend. He looks toward you, but not at you, dumbfounded. He wonders about the contraption strapped to what looks like your body though whether or not it actually is your body still seems debatable in his eyes. And then with four words, assembled to ask the dream-killing question, your rosy glow turns to green.

“That’s what you’re wearing?”

At this point you have to make a decision. You can either go back into your bedroom, change into the token little black Hervé Léger dress—yes, the one that’s previously done wonders for your social life—or you can laugh proudly in admiration at the tentlike nature of the silhouettes you’ve chosen and simultaneously smack him around, physically or verbally—I’ll leave this up to you—and get on with your night. Once you’ve reached your destination, you’re confident that all the women in the room will swoon.

Of course, they do. And that is, after all, the only thing that matters.

As for the curious or baffled man friend, it’s up to you to decide whether or not he should stick around, but if he walks away on his own, consider yourself lucky.

In considering the aesthetic gender gap, the Man Repeller feels description is vital. I compare runway looks and high-end trends to farm animals, casino tables, children’s books and things of that sort. In one noted Fall/Winter 2011 show, roosters and pilgrims seemed to inspire the collection, which featured orange and yellow colored fur and interesting head coverings. To me, it was about a very chic pilgrim farm, and I could understand subsequent flocks of rooster girls pecking and scratching on the Upper East Side. I know that combining red Rag & Bone, green Equipment and black Louboutin wedges had me looking like that casino table, and in an aquatic blue-and-green sequin dress I would evoke memories of everyone’s childhood favorite, The Rainbow Fish.

I also intend to be read in good humor. And while I don’t mean to toot my own horn, it was once generously pointed out that I am sort of like “the Sarah Silverman of fashion,” so to take me too seriously is not in your best interest. To push this a step further, to say that all men will never be attracted to women who dress for themselves is slightly extreme, even silly. Definitely silly.

But behind the blithe light commentary there is some semi-serious fashion research going on. I’m conducting social experiments that utilize both leather minidresses and green-and-purple printed palazzo pants while trying to analyze and catalog the types of men that reject unattractive fashion versus the ones that can handle it.

If a man can’t handle it, he’s driven far too hard by the female exterior. And even though he’s having dinner with you, not your outfit, his seeming inability to get past a little tribute to MC Hammer only promises even worse consequences down the road should Yves Saint Laurent have correctly predicted last fall that church-wear nun-chic becomes this season’s must.

But if a man can get past it, or perhaps even begin to like it, and he doesn’t bat for his own team, if you know what I’m saying, this is your cue to do the victory dance.

You’ve not only succeeded in maintaining full control over your style but may have actually landed a man more concerned with what’s inside your head than on it.

Ultimately, you see, man repelling isn’t just about fashion and pretending that you are installation art, it’s not even really about dressing for yourself and having fun with it, it’s a process of elimination. One that removes the bad seeds from your soil and only allows the good one to blossom. This in turn makes for one hell of a floral print, and that too is cause for celebration.

Now I invite all of you to test out this theory. Pull together the most coveted outfits of your sartorial dreams and let the social experiments begin. BG

Leandra Medine

LEANDRA MEDINE is a freelance stylist, writer and the author of the fashion blog The Man Repeller, a site about trends women love and men hate.  Her work as appeared in The New York Times, The New York Post, Harper’s Bazaar, Lucky and Grazia.  When given the choice, she will always opt for designer ready-to-wear over companionship.

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