A Careful Defense Of The Male Romper

By | 2017-05-23T14:56:57+00:00 May 23rd, 2017|Categories: Style|Tags: , , |4 Comments

Menswear is a funny thing.

By now you’ve heard of the male romper, lazily branded as the RompHim. When it went viral, two people reached out to me with a link to the RompHim in as many days via my Facebook page. One genuinely asked, “What do you think of this?” and the other pretty much mused aloud that the male romper’s existence was proof positive that the world was going to hell in a hand basket.

Until we find another thing about which to be hot and bothered, the Internet is up in arms about it. It seems that there are two sides that everyone’s falling on in a Stones vs. Beatles-style debate:

  1. “I don’t want to live on this planet anymore,” as seen in Esquire.
  2. “I don’t hate them,” a la Buzzfeed.

Though it’s just a piece of clothing, there’s a lot to unpack here.

My Thoughts On The Romper For Guys

My first comment about the RompHim was, “I dressed my six-month-old son in something like this earlier this morning. And he cried.”

Baby In A Blue And White Onesie

The author’s son, decked out in romper with rakishly contrasting stripes and lightning bolts.

But the more I thought about it, the more my dismissive comment seemed unfair. I’m not saying you have to wear a romper. Hell, I’m not even saying you need to like the romper.

You should, however, understand that there are two main points that should prevent us from dismissing the romper right off the bat:

  1. Historical context
  2. Gender and sexuality issues

The RompHim Is Not The First Male Romper

Don’t get it twisted: though the creators call it “The Original RompHim,” it’s not the first male romper. It’s just the first male romper to be named a RompHim. These are not garments that were inspired by a women’s trend that started six or seven years ago.

They’ve been around for decades.

Sir Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill In OnesieBeing a men’s lifestyle blog, we discussed the RompHim at length at the office. Paul, our resident Brit, brought up one of his heroes in a conversation about rompers: Sir Winston Churchill.

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The former wartime British Prime Minister was one of the men who led the Allied Powers to military victory against the Nazis. The Russians called him the “British Bulldog” as a compliment to his tenacity and focus, and he’s still revered as a symbol of strength in the face of extreme adversity.

He also wore onesies.

No, I’m not kidding. When Paul informed me of this, I was incredulous at first, but it’s true.

They were called “siren suits” because they were made to be easily put on over an existing outfit in the event of an air raid, in which case there would be warning sirens. He also referred to them as “romper suits.”

He had them commissioned by Turnbull & Asser, the famed Jermyn Street custom shirt maker. In fact, he had twelve of them custom made, the most famous of which was green velvet.

There’s nothing much more badass than defeating Nazis in a green velvet romper, let’s be honest.

Velvet Green Romper Suit

Sir Winston Churchill’s green velvet romper.

Sean Connery As James Bond

Many of us have seen this image of Sean Connery as James Bond in 1964’s Goldfinger. This is clearly what the RompHim is based on.

A big difference here is that Bond’s is terry cloth, not a smooth cotton, and is thus really beachwear.

The fit is similar in slimness and overall proportion. The obvious difference, though, is the placement of the waistband, which was much higher in 1964.

Regardless, Connery looks good in this. That he’s handsome as all get-out is helpful, but still.

A Question Of Masculinity?

Anything controversial on the Internet will soon get its own meme, and the RompHim is no different. There were countless memes joking about men looking better than their girlfriends in rompers, women cat-calling men in rompers from their cars as they drove by (an eye-opening gender harassment role reversal, for sure), and more.

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While they’re “just jokes,” these memes say a lot about how society views masculinity through the lens of clothing and style.

It’s no secret that lots of men often consider two things when getting dressed:

  • Will this make me look feminine?
  • Will people think I’m gay?

These aren’t necessarily conscious questions we ask ourselves, but rather feelings we get if something in an outfit violates some kind of arbitrary, unspoken man code. It’s unsophisticated (to put it diplomatically), but it sometimes happens when men see other men wearing pink, sporting opera pumps, painting their nails, or perhaps wearing rompers. As a result, we are trained to check ourselves before we leave the house.

Our concept of masculinity is quite fragile. It’s like our worst fear is to be seen as effeminate or gay, as if being womanly or LGBT are somehow negative or “less than” being masculine and straight. It’s a tired way of thinking, and from a sartorial point of view, only serves to limit the things we can wear and do.

For a man of style, this is quite unfair and ahistorical. Rich, influential men in European royal courts only a couple of centuries ago wore heeled shoes, jewels, makeup, and other things that have since been relegated to the domain of women.

That which is “masculine” changes over time.

Glenn O’Brien, one of the most stylish men to ever walk the planet, often told his readers that he’d wear fragrances or perfume marketed to women because they just smelled good on him. In fact, all fragrances used to be unisex, you simply wore what you liked based on the season. Paul often wears The Coveted Duchess Rose by Penhaligon’s, which is a women’s scent.

It makes neither of them any less of a man, and they smell(ed) terrific. I’d bet that though he wouldn’t be a fan of the romper, Glenn would at least give it fair consideration.

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It’s one thing to reject rompers for guys on aesthetic grounds. Perhaps your body type wouldn’t work with it, or you’re not a fan of the “bro” marketing campaign of the RompHim. Fine, we respect that.

Rejecting them because you feel that they’re not manly enough (whatever that means), though, is something that’s worth some introspection.

Do We Recommend The Male Romper?

Yes and no.

We are not advising everyone to go out and buy a RompHim immediately.

On one hand, it feels gimmicky in a 1970’s sort of way. Guys wearing them will likely look back at pictures ten years from now and wonder what the actual hell they were thinking. The romper’s worst offense is that it’s too matchy-matchy. Contrast is integral to dressing smartly, and a romper is literally a zero-contrast outfit. It requires no thought or skill to put together, and as such it misses the mark for permanently stylish men. We would rather see shorts (as short as you like ’em) and a tailored top with some slick shoes.

On the other hand, this isn’t a bad-looking garment if you’ve got the body type to pull it off. It has a tailored appearance. The shorts show a solid amount of leg and the sleeves show a nice amount of arm. If you’ve got the goods, you’ll look, well, sexy in it. It’s also worth repeating that Sean Connery’s James Bond wore one, and he’s widely regarded as one of the sexiest men alive. And given the world in which we live, you’ll definitely get points for having the nerve to wear one in public non-ironically.

Our final vote: Wear one if you want to. We predict that you may look good in one, but you won’t look permanently stylish in one.

We should not, however, dismiss the male romper right off the bat.

About the Author:

Michael is a husband, father, clothes horse, musician, and Asian food enthusiast. When he’s not blogging or changing diapers, he’s playing bass guitar and singing in his Beatles tribute band.

4 Comments

  1. Heather May 28, 2017 at 4:24 pm - Reply

    Where did you find your baby’s outfit?

    • Michael Oxman May 30, 2017 at 8:59 am - Reply

      Hi Heather,

      We appreciate the outreach! It was a gift from some dear friends, so I’m not sure where they got it. The brand is Cat & Jack.

      Thanks for reading!

  2. Paul Anthony May 29, 2017 at 9:40 am - Reply

    Great insight Michael.

    To further your comment on masculinity, who the hell cares! Whatever makes you happy is what’s important. Here at BU we are trying to put forward the “rules” / guidelines for certain topics, but it’s up to the reader to take those and make them his or her’s own.

    I’ll go on wearing whatever I think makes me smell good for the time of year and occasion, regardless of the gender it’s supposed to be for. As for the romper, not sure my boyish frame would look too good in it!

    – Paul

    • Michael Oxman May 30, 2017 at 9:01 am - Reply

      Thanks! I agree, rules are important to know and often important to follow, but there’s lots of room for interpretation.

      I too will be passing on the romper. I’m getting old-fashioned in my old age.

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