“Spring” is a literal term for many men. As the weather warms, our jackets and sweaters come off and there’s a little more “spring” above the belt tops. For some, it’s just a few cold-weather pounds. Others jiggle like a Tasered Jell-O mold. But all of us can use a little help.
In the ’40s, guys covered winter weight by hiking their pants a little higher. But by the early ’50s, men were hitching their belts at the nipples and women were seeking beauty elsewhere. Today’s menswear is even less forgiving.
So let’s review some of the tricks guys can use to mimic a good physique: The “suck in”: Upside: Takes inches off your waistline in seconds! It’s good for extremely short-term scenarios, like fetching the newspaper with your shirt off or walking from the ocean to your beach towel. Its only downside: Keeping the weight “off” will eventually make you pass out. And you’ll wake to the sound of paramedics saying: “Hey, he’s got a gut!”
The angle: Women inspect themselves from every angle before going out. Guys just need one good one and they’re done. It can take a lot of twisting, squinting or the “suck in” (see above) to get that angle. That’s why men hate three-way mirrors. Too much to know there.
Posture: Most of us walk through life C-shaped, like upended duffel bags. So when our middle gets too thick, we use a little of that posture. Upside: Distracts even those who know you’re heavy. (“Hey! You’re standing up straight!”)
Downside: Keeping your shoulders at shoulder level makes you work up an appetite, and a vicious cycle ensues.
Sometimes, when body English isn’t enough, men resort to fashion tricks, including:
The sweatshirt: How many love handles have hidden from ridicule in the forgiving folds of a sweatshirt? Created as a workout accessory, they have become the puffy man’s leotard. Downsides: They’re a little awkward in church, and they don’t hide salsa as well as . . .
The plaid flannel: There’s a reason sports bars flash more plaid than the Scottish Highland Games. Plaid flannel is the witness protection program for runaway lard. How many stains are hidden in that busy pattern? You don’t know and you don’t want to. The unbuttoned flannel with the thermal undershirt is the official uniform of the Midwest. But those of us in warmer climates are forever grateful for . . .
The Hawaiian shirt: God bless Hawaii, home of Jack Lord, the hula and this free-flowing banner of the middle-aged man. Its patterns are as look-away blinding as the worst casino carpet, and protocol demands it goes untucked. (Genius!) Now even student sumo wrestlers can look “big boned,” thanks to this button-down bit of deception from the Aloha State. And, if all of these fail, a man’s greatest weapon remains:
Denial: “My summer clothes shrank”; “My head is just smaller”; “My shock absorbers always whine like that.” We have a million excuses, and repeat ’em like mantras until we don’t see that belted ballast anymore. And the stuff in back? If we don’t see it, it’s not our problem. Not unless we shut the car door on it.