We’ve all been there, wondering how gay you are because you took note of a well-dressed guy on the subway. Maybe you’re hoping that your girlfriend doesn’t think his outfit is too nice, lest there be suspicion that a better put together individual than yourself exists.
Every guy can relate to the victory of knowing that other guys can’t help but notice the life wins emitting from all over your wardrobe. Surpassing peers in the Wow, That Motherfucker’s Fresh department is what, like, 75% of the male ego can be attributed to.
Making other guys jealous isn’t a taboo subject. It’s the inspiration for at least half of 2 Chainz’s discography. It’s the reason why Migos scream “Versace, Versace” for three and a half minutes. It’s the source of rap’s persistent rally cry against “haters,” whose envious ways are no doubt piqued by clothing, a telltale signifier of another's prosperity.
There’s never going to be a shortage of men telling the world that they’re awesome and that their awesomeness should make other men feel pitiful. The pyramids were basically built because some dude was really cocky. We know that dudes are obsessed with themselves. But what’s not discussed is how, even rooted in our confidence, there’s a distinct feeling and line of thought associated with how we react to the presence of another male who displays similar, or greater, levels of taste and affluence.
This is due, in part, to the instinctual competitive nature that’s been instilled in us since we were Neanderthals and shit. It’s not cool to acknowledge that another man is doing well, and it’s hardwired into us to view his opulence as a threat, or to take it away from him. Another dude flourishing interferes with your ability to attract women or be perceived as successful, and produces an internal conflict that’s the reason behind every chain-snatching incident in history.
It’s kind of like when Jay Z said, 'We give Dre his props, but that’s where it stops.'
This isn’t to say that we’re all so pathetic and latently jealous. Seeing your friends win is a beautiful feeling. It's the way Pharrell felt when he said, “Me and Puff hopping off the plane, both us laughing.” When you’re secure enough in your own placement, the “look at you, now look at us, all my niggas look rich as fuck” disposition that comes with being surrounded by other ballers is fine, but you still want to be the best, even amongst companions.
It’s kind of like when Jay Z said, “We give Dre his props, but that’s where it stops.” You might be around a homie who’s killing it and not say a word because what do you look like sweating him? Sometimes you’re the guy killing it and you suspect that no one’s mentioned it because they can’t handle it. It’s these unspoken thoughts that define how most men respond to others’ dress.
I was talking to friend about this phenomenon and he told me, “I might be in the locker room and glance around and be like, ‘Those are cool boxer briefs,’ before I look away like, ‘What the fuck am I doing?’” Honesty will make you feel like, “Those Calvin Kleins are tight, I should probably throw away all of my Hanes,” but it’s a personal revelation—something you keep to yourself.
It’s good to address this so we don’t all feel isolated because we really peeped and sort of admired the way the cuff was done on some dude’s pair of jeans. But, at the same time, it’s also good that most of us are egotistical enough to not really give a fuck about what another dude is wearing, good or bad. Regardless, there’s something to be said about that initial moment of admiration, even if it's not to anyone else.
Photo courtesy of Tommy Ton
Ernest Baker is a writer living in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter here.