I hate my husband's clothes. How do I get him to dress like a grownup?

A reader can't abide her husband's dress sense... but should she tell him to change or embrace his sense of style? She turns to The Midults

The Midults
'My husband will only wear band tshirts.' Credit: JAMIE COE

Dear A&E,

My husband will only wear band T-shirts. No word of exaggeration. He’s 39, not 19, and every weekend and evening, out come the Iron Maiden tees and festival hoodies. We did meet at a metal gig as teenagers and back then I found him cool. Now it’s reached the point where I’m embarrassed to go out with him. A few years ago I faked a ‘moth infestation’ – then he went to a ‘vintage’ warehouse and bought a load more, and I hadn’t the heart to tell him how silly he looks. How do I get him to grow up and wear a pair of bloody chinos? – End of my tether

Dear EOT,

When we think of all the men we have tried to change, not to mention all the men we have tried to change for, we feel a little queasy. Because it has never, ever worked. And then, of course, there is that old adage that men marry women expecting them to remain the same, while women marry men anticipating that they will change, when in fact, the opposite is often true on both counts. And so, all those years ago, across a sticky mosh pit, you fell for this man in all his Metallica-clad glory. And now, here we are...

There is a kind of phenomenon whereby people will calcify – stylewise – at the exact moment when they felt their most relevant. Fashion choices are directly connected to self-definition and so, perhaps, your husband is clinging to the headbanger that he once was. Or maybe he just really likes his band T-shirts.

The beautiful thing about your letter is that you clearly love him. You’re not talking about finding him sexually repellent, irritating, unkind or dull. It made us smile because – at this confusing time – it feels like such a happy problem. Nonetheless, it is preventing you from spending time together and that could give birth to a host of more insidious problems.

But, before we tackle the T-shirts, let’s examine the idea of dressing ‘like a grown-up’. And, in doing so, remember that what defines an appealingly grown-up man are things like compassion, honesty and an ability to listen. Chinos and a nice white shirt can equal an emotionally stunted child on the wrong man, so there is gratitude to be found in tackling this immaturity from the outside in, rather the other way around. Like the men who hold open doors for you but sleep with your best friend – we’ve met a few of those.

Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t feel judged by association? If we were happy to let those closest to us dance to the beat of their own drum without feeling embarrassed? You could, of course, take him to every party (when they’re allowed again) and see how you feel. Because we can guarantee that your friends would rather hang out with a diamond in a dodgy T-shirt than a sharp-suited crasher.

Listen, if you want him to dress like a grown-up, you need to address the problem like a grown-up. Fake moth infestations are charming but obscure the problem, which is that his choices bother you. It might be time to say, ‘I adore you, but I do not adore the T-shirts. Please can you explain to me why you are so devoted to them?’ By the way, you’ll need to be ready for him to respond with, ‘I hear you and I really don’t like your hair/shoes.’

And this is when the deals get done. Maybe you should have a go at styling each other and see how that looks and feels. Perhaps you go shopping together and find a middle way. There are some great band T-shirts, so what if he sticks a long-sleeved white top underneath for a bit of varsity hotness? Or wears one under a jacket for that ageing rock-star élan?

We feel that you should make a plan: he gets to wear them at home but not to when you go out. Or, during the winter, he wears them under other layers so he still feels like himself, but you are not clenching with concern about how others see him. Because this is about how others see him. You love him. And that, in itself, is the happy ending.

Do you have a dilemma that you’re grappling with? Email Annabel and Emilie on [email protected] All questions are kept anonymous. They are unable to reply to emails personally.

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