How to Dress Your Man
By Charles Hix
Crown Publishers, 172 pages, 1981

I love books like this — dated guides that give a keen insight into what was fashionable at the time of its publication. This book in particular is also great because it’s all about menswear and making over your man to fit the image that you want, something most of us have learned simply doesn’t work. Little tweaks here and there are possible but the prospect of pushing a man into a head-to-toe new look he didn’t choose for himself seems unrealistic and a bit daft. But never mind that. Let’s suspend disbelief for just a moment and get into the pages of How to Dress Your Man.

The first thing you’ll notice if you were an ’80s style fiend like myself is that How to Dress Your Man is designed and laid out almost identically to The Preppy Handbook by Lisa Birnbach, published the year before in 1980. The book’s author, Charles Hix, has also adopted Birnbach’s tongue-in-cheek writing style in parts, but is keeps it serious and informative in others. For example, when describing one of the style stereotypes he has identified, Hix writes: “The Character Actor doesn’t usually strum a woman’s heart strings unless she experienced a traumatic experience in childhood.” Several pages on, there are charts for hat sizing, sleeve lengths and glove sizing — all information that’s handy and true. It’s an odd juxtaposition, but easy to get past when there are so many photos (exclusively in black-and-white, sadly) and fun line drawings by artist Abby Merrill throughout.

It’s also what some would call a good “bathroom book.” With short, punchy sections and lots of breakout boxes and sidebars, How to Dress Your Man doesn’t have to be a cover-to-cover read. It’s great fun to pick up and open to a random page and read.

I’ll admit that I merely skimmed the more practical parts of the book, and went straight for the descriptions of ’80s menswear style and read the advice on how to make over a man. And while a man-makeover is all very amusing to think about, I think I’ll stick with it on the page; it’s not something I’m about to try at home.

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