What a tracksuit says about you

I was speaking with some older Italian gentlemen last week and, in that characteristic Mediterranean way, we were all talking over each other. It was all making wonderful, noisy sense.

Dressed in their mid-week finery and adroitly wearing the four-in-hand knot with its careful asymmetric irreverence, they were ready for whatever the day may throw at them.

As is the way, despite meeting with these men for a purpose, we spoke on many topics and social concerns.  It seems that a 60-year-old Italian man has very little time for MasterChef, something my own European sensibilities could agree on.

Anyway, it eventually turned to attire and all three men were most upset at the mention of the publicly displayed tracksuit. I agreed again.  We clarified the need to go to or return from the gym in the garment, but no grown man worth his salt should be seen out in a tracksuit.

What are you saying to the world, what are you preparing for?  Are you like Chas Tenenbaum and his kids Ari and Uzi, who having suffered extreme trauma and shock following the death of their wife and mother in a plane crash, wear a bright red tracksuit in readiness for survival?  If so, I apologise and offer my condolences.

If not and you get looks and accuse your maitre d', shop assistant or host of unfair treatment, don't cry foul, don't blame it on a superficial society.  Blame yourself. You're the breakdown of society.

Chances are you're unaware that your wife or girlfriend is walking their favourite strip secretly wishing you might end up at a nice restaurant or bar. You've told the world you don't care. In a weakened state of capitulation you escort your dear partner into a bar.

Sure, you're a tough guy: "What is everybody looking at?  Why did he put me in the back?"  Well, the answer is, you're just not cutting it and no one wants to look at you in this.

My new three friends, cut from the same Italian tailoring cloth, would have none of it.  "What does this guy want? He shows no respect, he show's none for himself, for me or his wife.  She would like a nice day out, but he is a mess."

And we're not all Hip Hop stars in 24-ed Phantoms; even Jay-Z and Diddy know a thing or two about respect, timing and place.

Thing is many men don't know how to dress, they have not been taught or they have forgotten.  There is this misunderstanding that to care about the way you dress is to be superficial or worse yet, gay.  In the eyes of the average male it's as if all of a sudden caring about the way you look is going to make you instantly attractive or attracted to the same sex.  For some of you, this may sound old hat or old news or just plain stupid, but believe me it still exists and for those in question, who will probably never read this, they will continue unabashedly and sadly, unaware.

For most this is social etiquette and no doubt many of you will have your beliefs and views on the subject, but you wouldn't eat a fine meal with your hands, would you?  Well, wearing a tracksuit to a restaurant is the sartorial equivalent.

But let's leave the last word to Jerry Seinfeld as he explains to George standing before him in track pants:

"You know the message you're sending out to the world with these sweat pants?  You're telling the world 'I give up, I can't compete in normal society, I'm miserable, so I might as well be comfortable.' "

This article What a tracksuit says about you was originally published in The Age.