We may not be slaves to Skynet yet, but a careful review of men’s style over the past decade and a half reveals that technology has been driving changes in the average guy’s wardrobe, with the biggest change possibly just around the corner. First, a quick refresher on the history of portable finance, post-1899. Sure, history can teach us a thing or two, but a surfeit of the stuff is simply annoying, even when there’s steampunk.
The 20th century: The day of the wallet
Once upon a time, it was all a man needed to carry. A wallet contained cash to buy things, some plastic cards for when the cash ran out, a driver’s license, and a few precious and essential pieces of paper: Steve Yzerman rookie card; cute girl’s phone number; maybe a pair of tickets for Our Lady Peace.
You would slip your wallet into the pocket of whatever pants you were wearing, and you were good to go.
1997-ish: Those ‘mobile’ phones from the movies are real?
By the late ’90s, technological advances had shrunk the mobile phone from the Zack Morris-style brick-with-antenna to something that could (just about) fit in a normal pants pocket — along with your Palm Pilot and Sony minidisc player, and, later, your GPS and digital camera. And yes, your good old wallet.
No coincidence, then, that cargo pants became a casual-wear staple the moment personal tech became portable. Around the turn of the millennium, pockets were spreading like the Ebola. Many casual jackets from the era even had icons on their assorted interior pockets, telling you specifically which pouch was meant for which gadget.
2004: Is that a blueberry clamshell iBook in your pocket, or do you have a thyroid condition?
It took freelance graphic designers and desperately aspiring screenwriters to save menswear from the scourge of the cargo pocket. These dudes couldn’t spend hours at the local coffee shop without a laptop — what were they, unemployed, anti-social loners? They needed something that was neither as stuffy as a briefcase nor as slobby as a backpack. Casual, but manly, like Indiana Jones, or Chewbacca. So everyone started slinging around a satchel, aka man-bag, murse or chapsack.
A guy could cram all kinds of crap into a satchel. Suddenly, he didn’t need to keep anything in his pockets — including his wallet. Which brings us to today.
2011: Does this suit come with a girdle?
The satchel was the practical item that made possible the current slim-fit trend in men’s clothing. Now that we no longer need functional pockets in our clothes, we are able to wear outfits tailored like an ice dancer’s unitard. And boy, are we enjoying that freedom. Even us roley-poley types.
2012+: What’s next? Cloud clothes?
If the mobile phone begat the cargo trend, and the laptop begat the satchel begat the slim-line, what will happen in the next few years, as superphones continue to replace laptops and everything else a guy might need to carry, including you-know-what?
Having a phone/media player/browser/camera/emailer all in a gadget the size of a deck of cards is nice, but for dudes to ditch the satchel for good, the superphones of tomorrow will need to fit in a regular pocket, not to mention add more essential features and accessories.
5 ESSENTIALS FOR TOMORROW’S SUPERPHONES
An expandable touch-screen that folds out to at least 10 inches. I want to be able to watch movies, read e-books and browse e-magazines without looking like a 94-year-old trying to read the instructions on his pill bottle.
A brass knuckles-style, one-handed Bluetooth keyboard. Say goodbye to QWERTY, and Blackberry thumbs. Tablets and smart phones are most comfortably held in one hand, but some of us need to write stuff without hunting and pecking. I’d be (mostly) happy to learn a new five-finger typing system if it meant I could compose a long, eloquent rant about being in an overcrowded subway car while I was actually in the overcrowded subway car. Immediacy is everything.
Electro-magnetic radiation detector. If the damn thing can tell me how strong my neighbour’s Wi-Fi signal is, it should be able to help me figure out if my microwave is giving me cancer.
Taser. Then I can finally leave this bulky old mace-and-chain at home when I go out to get milk.
Pay card chip. Like the ones they’ve put in credit and ATM cards — just, whatever it takes to enable me to pay for things with my phone. They’ve been promising this system for years; we’re still waiting. There are already apps to replace coupons and store loyalty cards. If we can sort out phone-to-phone payment, we could actually say goodbye to the wallet forever.
Give us these features, and men’s fashion will be able to permanently transcend any and every freight-handling concern. Hulk shorts, kilts, spandex zentai body suits, a barrel with two straps — these will all become practical everyday options. Slip your phone in your sock and, like never before, you’re good to go.
Image courtesy of mbiebusch.