Middle-Aged Women: The Mothers Of Rare Hemlines

“If you haven’t embraced rare hemlines you are decidedly fucking up.” – Jon Moy

On November 1, 2013, an inside joke was born at Four Pins HQ.1 Mr. Moy, writing about Cash CA’s lame name/cool product conundrum, hit upon a gem: "rare hemlines." A search for garments with similarly bold tails, slits, curves, lengths and so forth began. We (I) measured a degree of stylishness from the number of times I could stun Woolf with atypical edging.2 Reverse layering and pushing the boundaries of acceptable lengths for men's T-shirts followed—John Elliott’s zips, Machus’ slits and ADYN’s androgynous look surfaced as guides. Then, around Christmas, I had a thought: After several years of #menswear’s championing of “Dad Style,” is it actually possible that we are now ultimately taking style cues from our middle-aged mothers?

"Fuck, Mum, those are some rare hemlines," I said to my mom (she’s English, so I address her using the "u") two days before the holiday.

"Don’t swear," she said, reminding me that even at 33 there are expectations of decorum.

She was wearing a black cashmere sweater with a scope neck and deep vents at the sides. The hemline extended four inches longer in the back. Beneath three quarter length sleeves, she'd layered a black turtleneck. Her pants, naturally, ended half an inch above her shoe.

My mom shops at Eileen Fisher. Founded in 1984, Ms. Fisher's eponymous line sets standards for middle age casual style. It's all about draping and loose cuts and the types of hemlines young men call rare and older women just call regular. It's the type of brand that outfits stylish women in towns like Amherst, MA and Chicago and Sante Fe. It's like a sleek Chico's, giving girlfriend’s everyone hope that, in the future, they won't be totally resigned to velour tracksuits.

Traditionally, men have been limited to four hem options: Custom shirt makers offer a shaped hem, good for wearing either tucked or un-tucked; a curved hem, with a triangle gusset to strengthen seams; a straight hem, famously worn by Southern mooks for "going out"; and a straight hem with a slit. The latter works on guayaberas only. The range itself indicates the confines of sportswear.

As we break from the shackles of heritage—with all its rules and pseudo-historical leanings—we can readily acknowledge that what we can learn about dress from our fathers only goes so far. The rebels of #menswear attempted to push boundaries through patterns. First plaids. Then camo. Then finally, and worst of all, they wore an assortment of awful animal prints. Pioneers of the new aesthetic3 have embraced the relaxed silhouettes of contemporary streetwear and challenged the status quo. The adage "you buy classics, but classics change," rings true. A new standard of swag is set, and it looks like cool old ladies.

What about high fashion, you ask? What about Damir, Rick and Yohji? What about the fucking avant-garde? In a climate in which the high purportedly mixes readily with the low, there certainly exists a moderate trickle down aesthetic. However, it doesn’t come with the intellect and it’s devoid of coherent concept. Instead, the buck stops with the look. Prime example: A.P.C. x Kanye.

Mr. West’s hemlines—elongated on tees, slit on hoodies—reference a high-low dynamic without backbone. Fuck it though, at least in photos the collection looks cool. Who cares about thinking? Who cares about proposing an alternative to big box sold shapes? Not Ye, goddammit. He just wants to lead us to a land of fresh outfits (alphets?). And, we’ll follow. if not in strict lock step, at least in theory. (OK, sometimes thinking does play a role in our choices.)

The more the street tries to reference the avant-garde, the more it aligns with the Eileen Fisher aesthetic. And, when menswear plays nice, the corollaries get tighter. Bollocks to grunge and brooding stick-figure models. Layer a long, curve-hem T-shirt under a Western shirt, under a jean jacket, roll jeans up to the ankle, and say, "Fuck, MONKS ARE STILL THE SHIT." Trads can go fuck themselves. They are a bunch of tight-assed bros still mourning the closure of J. Press. #Menswear has a new role model and her name is MOM.

#Menswear is getting steadily more casual, embracing broader influences—not just tailoring or mountaineering—and its having more fun than ever. But there also remains a moderate apprehension to push boundaries too far. Yet, rather than a detriment, that soft step toward mutating silhouettes actually allows the niche to mature and remain distinct.

Hemlines are getting rare. More aptly, options for appropriate hemlines for men are simply broadening. Give the ladies some credit. They’ve got undeniable swag. Look closely. Take stock. Learn from their wisdom. Our mother's casual elegance can, and should, inform our approach to balancing cozy boy with actually being able to get into a decent bar.


1 Four Pins HQ is a desk within a row of desks demarcated by a pile of struggle jeans that have been sent to Lawrence.

2 Yes, trying to impress Woolf is lame. However, as the oldest contributor to Four Pins, I am confident in my admission.

3 Pioneers = Four Pins, bruh.

  • connor

    Straight talkin it like it is

  • HL Merkin

    I feel so vindicated. I wore an Eileen Fisher jacket all last spring and hoped nobody noticed it buttoned on the wrong side.

  • Diabolus ex Machina

    k.

  • Guest

    Feel like I’m reading DFW¹

    ¹David Foster Wallace