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We keep our vibes, recommendations and general outlook on life pretty “unisex.” But during our last open call for Personal Spyplane reader questions we were intrigued to see multiple Qs come in about matters of “proper male comportment.” Today we’re answering those questions with profound and real talk hella manly ruminations that will fascinate and edify even the non-men of Spy Nation 😉 …
BUT FIRST — A heads up that in this Thursday’s sletter we’re linking with the homies at Boulder’s Canoe Club to give away some Blackbird SpyBucks Virtual SpyCards worth a hundo each to 5 lucky Spyfriends. Canoe Club carries clothes from lines like And Wander, Birkenstock, Cottle, Kapital, Lady White, Marni, New Balance, Orslow, Our Legacy, and Visvim — among many other slapper-makers — and SS23 pieces are hitting the racks as we speak… The drawing will be open to our Cla$$ified Tier readers, so come on behind the recon curtain if you haven’t yet.
TURNING TO QUESTION NO. 1, AND AY, IT’S A LITTLE SPICY —
“Should grown-a** men wear backpacks (outside of a sport context)?” — diego___3
You know what? We’re an enlightened, non-gender-essentialist sletter, but — with the added exemption of travel contexts, along with sports — it’s time for a spontaneous Spyplane Holy Decree:
No, grown-a** men shouldn’t!
On some “judge not lest ye be judged” s**t, let me tell you up top that I’ve done it, as recently as last fall, and when I do, I just can’t shake the feeling that I look like “Little Timmy” running late for 7th period biology. There’s something fundamentally infantilizing about the sight of a “daily driver” backpack on a grown bruv. This is why when you do a stock-image search for grown men in backpacks half of them seem to be riding scooters!! On women, a backpack can be cool and cute — even casually chic… But not the fellas.
The Grown-A**-Man Market is full of nice, adult-coded offerings that can look great in the abstract and which supposedly address and remedy the “Little Timmy” problem. I’m thinking about your small-batch artisan type waxed-canvas knapsacks, “elevated” takes on rolltop daypacks / bike-messenger joints, etc.
But the fundamental issue remains that if you are making your daily rounds in a backpack, there’s dangerously high potential for giving off “middle-school snotnose” and / or “junior-management go-getter picking up his convention lanyard” energy.
Real talk, if you feel compelled to go the “all-day everyday” backpack route, you might be better off just busting out a toasted old Jansport or Eastpak and steering directly into the skid rather than trying to obfuscate and dissemble via some putatively premium version. In ideal instances of leather-bottom-Jansport-rocking you’ll look like a chill ‘90s-era Colorado drug dealer or swaggy dirtbag NYC tagger / shoplifter:
A couple years ago, in an acquisitive fugue, I splurged on a slightly discounted Visvim backpack and I gotta say it’s one of the stupidest things I’ve ever bought. It looks nice, the way they color-match the various hardware and trim is pleasing, but the utility is limited and I hardly ever use it.
I do at least bring it with me sometimes when I travel, in which context a pack frees up your hands as you navigate a train or the airport, etc. But there are way more practical packs I could have gotten for that purpose besides an “artisanal” Japanese joint. And yes, as this reader suggests, the same carve-out carries over to sports-type usage, e.g. a hike, where backpacks are simply unbeatable ways to lug yr s**t with you.
UPDATE: Several beautiful & blessed commuting members of Spy Nation are up in arms in the comments, and want to know, “if not the backpack, then what??” We see you. We hear you. The answer is straightforward: A briefcase type bag and/or a bag that goes over one shoulder will give no “Little Timmy.” (What I have for such instances is a vintage Mountainsmith “Back Country Express” with a padded shoulder strap.)
If you’re hauling so much s**t on your commute over such long distances that you decide that anything but a backpack is onerous: by all means, go off, just accept some degree of “LTQ” (Little Timmy Quotient). Ditto if a shoulderbag hurts your back — give yourself a medical exemption, but know that no doctor’s note can eliminate the LTQ!! 😉
Practicality (and medical concerns) exist in a shifting state of sometimes-overlap and sometimes-tension with “swag,” “aplomb,” and “elegance,” and we all plot our own coordinates within that matrix. ☮️
UPDATE 2: We collected a range of blessed reader reactions and insights into the issue of backpacks and the LTQ here.
Blackbird Spyplane is 100% reader-supported, so we keep some of our best s**t behind the paywall. Join the Cla$$ified Recon tier if you haven’t — Jonah & Erin
MEANWHILE — we got a practical question pertaining to men’s middles:
“How do men find their natural waist line? My pants are always sagging or feel floaty” — marco_mcgraff
Several of my favorite pants right now have pretty high rises, which means I’ve been hiking the s**ts up to my “natural waist” so that A) the crotch doesn’t hit at my d*mn kneecaps and B) the hems don’t pool preposterously. (I mean that in a non-pejorative sense — “preposterous pool” can be tight, but it’s not where I’m at personally right now!!) This is a function of the bigger pants moment we’re in. Not all big pants are high-rise (Our Legacy’s doing a bunch of louche/glammy ‘70s low-rise joints) but my personal favorites are.
The other day — stanced up at the cribbo in some wool slippers and the roomy Kinori double-pleats I mentioned last week — I tucked in a d*mn sweatshirt and pulled the trousers 🆙 UP! 🆙, nudging my whole s**t into “Grandpa Spyplane territory”:
Your natural waist is more or less just above your belly button. That may be way higher pantswise than you’re accustomed to, to the degree that cinching pants there might feel strange & restrictive at first. (Especially when you sit down.) Elastic waistbands and drawcord-closure pants help in that department, because you can dial in a precise degree of cinch.
I also wouldn’t be surprised if more dudes don’t start wearing suspenders, not on some trad / dandy s**t so much as unseen, practical infrastructure, because they help pants stay in place without putting pressure on yr stomach.
Otherwise it’s about finding a belt hole that holds the pants where you want them but is forgiving enough to not give u a ~ tummy ache :-( ~
The second part of this question — sag vs. float — seems to be less about the waistline than “the high-stakes Bermuda triangle of drip” we call the F.A.P. (Footwear Ankle Pant) Interface.
Cropped? Cuffed? Unfurled with an extravagance of big, beautiful break?
The rules around what constitutes an acceptable F.A.P. configuration are as loose and subjective right now as they’ve ever been, meaning you can make the call day to day, jawn to jawn, depending on what feels best to you. Right now I’m rocking the same pants pictured above, but below my belly button, and since they’re hanging lower, rather than letting them flow free, I cuffed them.
We are in a rare moment of F.A.P. Freedom, so enjoy it!!
AND FINALLY — a headscratcher:
“Should a man ever dance?” — _max__hughes_
Do I understand the implication here correctly? That dancing is unmanly?
The Big Homie Spyfriend Chris Black has been known to drop decrees against dudes dancing on How Long Gone, but CB is wrong and/or just being funny, and the next time I see him I’m gonna make a persuasive argument using no words, just EXPRESSIVE MOTION.
The Spyplane position on dancing is that everyone, men included, should dance all the d*mn time. If you are not very good at dancing, which maybe you’re not, and therefore don’t want to dance in front of strangers or people whose judgment you’re sensitive about, then you should still do it alone or, even better, among friends.
Or animals you bump into on the sidewalk, set to Spyplane-exclusive Mac DeMarco songs:
Put on a track you love and get loose. Listen to your body, see what it wants to tell you — go Shakira mode and have an honest conversation with your hips, king!!
The primary payoff is a flood of endorphins & beautiful dumb joy, which is reason enough. I just got up and danced while writing this sletter and now I feel even more like I’m the f**king man than I did before.
But there’s also a “practical” benefit to getting more and more comfortable with dancing, which is that if you do it enough — finding something you can identify as “your style” and then gradually, pleasurably, investigating it and improving it — it will start to inflect the way you carry yourself when you’re not dancing. Before long, even your quotidian motions (the way you walk, the way you reach for something across a dinner table, the way you occupy a chair) will become charged at the muscular level with an indescribable yet palpable electric current of swag.
This will make you look cooler & hotter and will make clothes look better on you both I.R.L. and in any fit pics you post. No downside!
The Cla$$ified SpyTalk chat room is here, full of very cool people with very cool recommendations.
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The Master Jawn Index, featuring earth’s best Spyplane-approved things, is here.
King, would you please bless me with the sauce on the chore coat & belt in the Grandpa Spyplane fit?
Ooof, noooo yung spyplane, you're going down the generic menswear youtuber path!!!
Whether or not a backpack is a vibe depends entirely on the most important thing of all... context!
If you show us some dudes in business attire and slap on a backpack that is bound to look silly because it doesn't fit in with that uniform.
Now try slapping on a crossbody bag on a skater and... that looks silly because it doesn't fit with THAT uniform.
Also look at all the streetstyle kings in Japan that all wear backpacks all the time...
I loved you for your reco on the racing atelier backpack, copped that, rocking it regularly and getting compliments for that bad boy regularly... as a grown a**-man!
(Off topic: if you are looking to sell the visvim backpack hit me up brother, because I destroyed mine with prolonged use and need a new one.)