I've been giving a lot of thought to this topic lately, as I've had quite a lot of time to think about random things lately and I've come to the conclusion that there are some important differences between American men and European ones, at least when they are on vacation.
First, European men are not afraid of bright colors. I've seen lots of bright pink shirts, bright green, bright blue and yellow shirts and shorts. Now this may be simply while they are on vacation (remember we are holed up in a resort town), but the effect is that they seem much less serious and more carefree than American men. American men tend to dress as if the end is near. Even gay men--who are often better dressed than straight men--fall into this trap. It's not any different when they are on vacation; American men often look like they are heading to the office for casual Friday. I don't see anything really wrong with this look, but bright colors make me happy.
American men wear boring shoes. They are nice-looking shoes, but see above. Even when they wear sandals, they are very masculine-looking sandals--only black, brown, and gray should bother applying. And those sandals are leather or canvas, so it's either casual Friday or hiking in the wilderness. Here, I've noticed that men are willing to wear a greater variety of shoes. In Spain, there is a type of shoe that men of all ages wear. It is flat and most often white. It's got a closed toe and an elastic strap in the back. In the US, we would consider it a feminine shoe and I can't imagine that any of the men I know would wear it, but I overheard a man at breakfast one day telling a woman (who was either British or American, I'm not sure) how comfortable they are and that everyone in Spain wears them. Me, I'm all for comfort! It helps that these shoes look good too, though.
European men like cargo shorts. American men over 30 do not. I love cargo shorts. I think they are fun and casual and give you lots of places to put things. And if you wear a belt, they won't make you look like the plumber fixing the sink. It's too bad cargo shorts were not around when I was a kid. They could have been my dad's go-to shorts in the summer. My dad was always prepared for anything in his pockets. If you needed it, he had it, and if he didn't, he could send me upstairs to try and find it. Then he would have to go himself anyway because I was too short to see the top of his dresser where whatever-it-was inevitably was. If he had worn cargo shorts, he could have carried a dog or a small child in there as well.
American men do not like Speedos. I do not like Speedos. I think that only Olympic swimmers should wear Speedos. European men love Speedos. I have touched on this topic before, but I think it bears repeating here because perhaps it is germane to another issue. Perhaps, as Americans, we are socialized to be ashamed of our bodies regardless of what they look like. That might be why every so often there is an article on the internet about what age women should stop wearing bikinis and men's swimsuits get longer every year. At this rate someone will soon be advocating that we return to wearing 1920s-style swimsuits! I grant you that the obesity epidemic in the US makes the thought of many people in bikinis or Speedos unappealing, but is there a good reason why a woman who might not have a perfect body but is not obese should feel that she should not show her stomach at the swimming pool? I've decided, now that I've bitten the bullet and bought a bikini, that everyone looks better with as much of their bodies tan as possible. That does not mean that I am prepared to sunbathe topless, however! Just because I've been lucky enough not to burn in the sun doesn't mean that I'm ready to push my luck!
Frank commented that it's not a question of modesty, that people here are not ashamed to show more skin--maybe Americans' unwillingness to do the same is a manifestation of the influence of the Puritans still making itself felt. The Puritans, though, got a bit of a bad rap on this; they were much more willing to be happy than we like to believe. And they did enjoy sex and celebrations quite a lot (my sentence fragments are getting out of control here!).
Murses. The whole point of the picture above. Frank thinks that my brother Jack made up this word; I don't think so. Even if he did, it's a great word. A "murse" is a male purse. American men, at least for the most part, have not yet jumped on this bandwagon. European men have. Murses are worn across the body and they come most often in black and gray and brown. They are small, most often made out of canvas or leather and they sometimes have more than one pocket in them. In them (I assume, because I only know one man who carries one and it did not occur to me to ask at the time. Should you who have made this back-saving decision read this, please weigh in!) are things like wallets, keys, and important papers. The advantage to this sort of bag is that your shorts stay up. Frank is always complaining that his wallet pulls certain pairs of shorts down and my answer is that he needs a murse. He is always vaguely offended by this and I don't understand why. Is it the concept of a "male purse" that offends everyone? Maybe it's the term. What should we call it instead? What, exactly, does everyone think a briefcase is? And why should women have to carry all the random things that people need at any given time?