At Capricon I tried something new to me, trying to dress up in some sort of recognizably fancied-up manner. As you may know, it's not like I have some keenly tuned sense of fashion, or even the vaguest sense of color coordination (even though the actual color-sensitive receptors in my eyes work just fine). So, you know, adventure! The new wardrobe components consisted of a pair of black just-below-the-knee boots from Minnetonka Moccasins and a kilt from Alt.Kilt.
One thing that surprised me was the reaction to the boots. I expected the kilt to attract attention (duh), but I also wore the boots with just plain black jeans and a shirt from Patagonia and I actually got a number of comments out of the blue from people - both friends and also total strangers - about how they liked the boots. Honestly, I'd have expected it to take more, you know, effort to get dressed up enough to actually get comments on it.
I'm basically speculating here, but I suspect that playing dress-up works a bit like an athletic competition in which you are competing against your age group or your weight class. You don't get compared to the best-dressed human being on the premises, you get compared to whatever group people group you into. If you look like a man (I have a beard, it cements the look), you'll get compared to the median man. I'll pause while you imagine the straight cis dudes you've seen recently. Right! It's not really going to be that hard to look more dressed up than that. And indeed, apparently not!
While it was really quite fun to be complimented on the good-looking boots, the kilt did attract even more attention. Fellow men: If you have been wondering if wearing a kilt will tend to attract extra attention from women, the answer is yes. Yes it does. Which, obviously, tends to be fun, especially if you have a thing for women. I have a number of friends who are sort-of known for appreciating a man in a kilt, and their reactions were very entertaining.
(Here is where I launch into an extended string of thoughts:)
You also get some possibly excessive attention. Possibly a tiny taste, you know, a few tenths of a percent, of the sort of thing women get subjected to all the damn time.
There is a very very well-known line of thinking, joking, teasing, story-telling, song-writing, etc. about the age-old question of what is worn underneath the kilt. (Nothing is worn, it's all in perfect working order! Har!) I'm not sure I'd really thought about whether women would actually ask me about my underwear.
In the culture around here there is an expectation that all men are always up for anything sexual anytime, anywhere, with anyone of a gender they fancy. This is a harmful notion in all sorts of ways, but I think that one of them is in the area of just thinking about how some things might actually feel. How would I like it if random women I don't even know asked me if I'm wearing underwear? Well, I don't know, but I do know that I'm supposed to say that it sounds like fun. Right?
Well, in fact, I did get asked about my underwear. Repeatedly. Yes, it's all just in fun, it's in fact a well-known stereotypical joke, and, yeah, it's not a big deal. It's one thing with actual friends, but honestly, when someone I don't know asks if I'm wearing underwear, it really does feel kind of weird, with the added weirdness that while I don't necessarily have to actually answer the question I do have to think up something to say. (I settled on a standard answer of "I don't ask you about your underwear, do I?") And the other thought I had just after "this is weird" was to wonder what things I've said to women over the years that were intended to just be playful jokes of the standard sort that actually came off as weird or creepy. I'd imagined that I'd been trying not to be weird or creepy, but now I think I should try harder, just to be sure. Because honestly I'm pretty sure I wasn't trying hard enough.
By the time a woman who had reasonable standing to ask me about my underwear got to ask - given a history we have that's left her with some specific knowledge of what might be seen under there - well, she was about the fourth woman in thirty minutes to ask and really, by then, the joke just didn't feel as amusing as it had sounded like it might be.
None of which is to say that I didn't have a fun time. I think most men get told they look good from time to time, but normally only by certain people under certain circumstances. Never, for example, by whoever happens to in the elevator when they step in. So, given that I did go well out of my way to attract attention to myself, it was indeed fun to have succeeded. Of course, the way that works for men is if I got tired of it I could always put pants and normal shoes on and resume being an invisible default dude, with no worry that people might tell me I look too plain, should do something about my hair, and should smile dammit. Aside from fun, I do suspect that being on the receiving end of that sort of thing for a while is likely to leave one more skilled at giving out compliments in a pleasing manner at appropriate times and places, as opposed to awkwardly or creepily. There's no other education that's quite the same as experiencing something yourself, even just a very tiny bit of experience.