Bad Boys

What is the hold they have over us? We know they aren’t good for us and yet we want them. We know that as fun and exciting as they might be, in the long run they’ll let us down. We know better, but they still seduce us.

Men, that’s another story. I’m talking about those Mr. Wrong wardrobe items that promise so much and ultimately don’t deliver on their grandiose declarations of moonlight and “you and me, the world’s our oyster, baby.” They mock us from the darkest recesses of our closets like the sullen guy in the back of English lit class with the dark wavy hair and dreamboat eyes and the faint (or not-so-faint) aroma of pot and cigarettes. “You and me against the world” soon becomes “It’s all your fault” and we blame ourselves, our bodies for their failures. We all have them, I think, those inexplicable, self-destructive sartorial attractions.

I like to believe I’ve evolved emotionally, but they can still sometimes tug at my heartstrings.

Boxy Bouclé Jackets

These still catch my eye, and tempt me to try them, “just this once.” The song on the radio croons of glamour and an insouciante sophistication. But I know now to walk away, that some other woman’s shape will have to tame this beast, that I’ll only end up in an apron, standing in an empty driveway scanning the horizon and wringing my dishpan hands.


Specifically the kind of dressy, classic, stiletto heel that looks so great but that I find I can no longer walk in, and that no longer fit with my style or lifestyle.  I have a couple pair that I hang onto “just in case” but unless my life takes a sudden turn down the red carpet, they will rarely see the light of day.


This Bad Boy has been the most difficult to kick to the curb. I love the mystery, the aura of cool, the slight frisson of subversiveness that I associate with black. Plus, it’s easy. A wardrobe of black lives in the moment, at the ready, without demanding a lot of complicated and long-term choices. Hop on the bike and go, where ever the road takes you. (But I caught a glimpse of myself yesterday in the mirror, looking tired and heavy and knew this particular Bad Boy was taking a toll.)

The Drab and Lifeless Cardigan

This Bad Boy may seem very deep and solid and soulful at first, but you eventually realize he’s probably clinically depressed and maybe more than a little bit self-involved, and is just dragging you down with him. Time to get away from this knit equivalent of a heavy sigh.

Do you have any Bad Boys still lurking in your closet? What keeps you holding on to them?

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  1. Oh, yes, cardigans. And they can make you depressed, or at least frumpy! I don’t have any in my closet anymore, but pencil skirts! I used to be able to wear them when I was a tall, skinny young thing, but now they just accentuate what age and pregnancy has done.

  2. Loved this post and laughed out loud!!! Inspired by you I have decided to wear my Malene Birger Chanel style jacket tomorrow.

    Bad Boys- frocks that no longer fit me. Directional based trends that would never suit me, like clashing floral arrangements.

    Heels hurt me but I refuse to give them up!

  3. Ah, that picture of James Dean made me draw in a sharp breath – what a gorgeous face!
    Back to clothing — I agree with your picks, although I still work my black skirts. And you got me on those heels – I still crave them, but I know better; I might as well donate the $$ right up front, b/c those heels are going to the thrift : >

  4. So true, so true.

    My style goal for this year is get real. Match the clothes to my life. I had to face the fact, that though a “well-preserved” 63, stiletto heels are not in my future.

    It was painful, culling my collection. I’ve replaced the bad boys with stylish, comfortable, SAFE shoes.

    Still, there’s one pair I can’t give up. The Isabel Toledo Toredor Pumps–stiletto platforms, black-satin with a Peek-a-Boo toe and a big, loud, red bow. It could be worse, though, these are Payless and cost $45 full price. I could have blown $600 on a pair of equally ridiculous Jimmy Choos.

  5. I’m breaking up with J.Crew. Loved the aesthetic forever, but the quality has really gone downhill in the past couple of years: holes appearing in knits worn only a few times, edges not sewn into the hem, flimsy fabrics. I’ve also noticed that the more I buy there, the more boring and utilitarian my style is. Too many basics, not enough frills. Every morning I feel like I’m boring myself half to death. I’ll be in San Francisco in a few weeks and plan to visit the Anne Fontaine store in Union Square, hoping to find a gorgeous top or two to replace all of the frightful dullards I’m vanquishing this weekend. I’m perfectly comfortable with wearing skinny black jeans and a black boucle pencil skirt as my base pieces nearly every day, and I have a beautiful wardrobe of shoes that I love. But for some reason, I always go for the boring, basic v-neck top. That’s why I just loved all of the beautiful little details in the top (and other items as well, but especially the top) you picked up at Zadig.

    Very amusing post. I liked your “bad boy” angle.


    1. You are so right about J. Crew. My 100% cotton T’s get pin holes almost immediately. Going back to Gap for my T’s. They have upped their game in the last few years. Too much “grunge” before. Any suggestions on other places to get quality T’s? I live in black, grey and white ones.

    2. I love Petit Bateau tees. I also live in white, black and heather gray tees – and these are real workhorses. They hold their shape very well too.

    3. Kristien, I’ve heard that Gap’s gotten better and plan to check out their tees when I have a chance this weekend. It frustrates me so much to find those pinholes in my Crew shirts, especially when their marketing materials have taken on such a self-congratulatory note lately. (E.g., they’ve stopped calling their catalog a “catalog” and now call it a “style guide.”) The company really believes every bit of its own PR.

      Kathy, glad to know that about Petit Bateau. I didn’t realize they made sizes for women.


    4. I don’t know if any of you caught the profile CNBC did on Mickey Drexler last night, but he directly addressed the pinholes in their tees as an “issue they are working on”, along with the pilling cashmere. While, the special was a bit of a love affair with J. Crew, it was interesting to note that complaints have not fallen upon deaf ears.

      Re. the tee shirts, I have found some luck with Everlane. It’s part of a new, viral marketing scheme whereby a site sells only a few, select items to members. You can join on their facebook page, I believe. They do some plucky backpacks and totes, as well as men’s and women’s basics. Their tees are super-soft but thinner, so they may not be office appropriate, but they hold up very well in the wash. And all the tees top out at $15. I have a problem with American Apparel’s management, so this was a decent alternative…

  6. Sorry- had too many typos. Anyway, my bad boys were turtleneck sweaters. I loved them, especially cashmere. But that was when I was pencil thin, with a long, smooth neck. As Nora Ephron said, “I feel bad about my neck.” And the turtlenecks make me look like I am hiding it (which I am). They also make me look, shall I say, like I am overly well-endowed (which I also am). So out they went. Now I’m searching for a cashmere something to comfort myself with. Any suggestions?

    1. Kristien, what about a cashmere stole that you can curl up in? Or a wonderful cashmere pashmina — not an ordinary $100 one from Nordstrom, but rather something a little more extravagant and special and cuddly? You’d use it for the rest of your life, and in so many ways.


    2. That is a wonderful idea. A pashmina would be lovely for travel. And here in the cold northeast, I would be able to enjoy it for so many months out of the year. Thank you.

  7. I have a beautiful double breasted wool jacket in a heavenly shade of blue lurking in my closet. Double breasted anything is a disaster on me. AND, any skirt above my knee is the WRONG proportion for me. I’ve gotten rid of most of them.

  8. My bad boys are the so-called neutral colours, like that cardi in the last picture. They look great on the rack and on other people – but they wash out my skin and I magically become part of a wall. I need to stop fondling them in shops and thinking “Maybe THIS time…” It’s never going to work.

  9. Oh, I’m laughing! What a great hook – “Bad Boys!”

    (I actually do write about our bad boy attraction, not to mention the corresponding affinity for the “bad girl.”) But I love that you sought out your “closet” bad boys with infinite appeal – even if they don’t suit!

    I have too many closet bad boys to enumerate… But recently, found a truly Good Man. (Surely, that counts for something! Especially as a “femme d’un certain age” in a youth obsessed world.)


  10. Love your angle with this post! I am closet purging next week…I have a feeling it is filled with bad boys. I am attracted to lace garments, but like the Chanel-type jacket, they make me feel really old. I also have to be careful of too many boxy, oversized garments..jackets, cardigans etc. I love the feel of these items, but they really make me look huge. Last summer, I felt like it was time to tone down my prints and jewelry…I did it a little, but this summer I think I need to go further. I still am seeking that Parisian Chic style.

  11. Like Mette – I need to dress for my real life. Will not give up the black pants and skirts – but am adding lots more color on top. In the back of my closet lurk 3 (maybe 4) beautiful structured jackets – which I will probably never wear again! I can’t let them go (but at least I don’t wear them).

  12. This time of year I seem to be unreasonably attracted to eyelet lace. I suppose there are some styles/colors which won’t look silly on someone my age, but for the most part, its time is past for me. Although I don’t think eyelet lace can be categorized as a “bad boy”, it’s too sweet!!!

  13. Great post. Am struggling with very serious cardigan addiction. Is there any way to look good in a cardigan at age 50? I live in a cool and rainy climate and they just feel so comforting.

    1. How about putting a belt with your cardigans? Sometimes just adding a little shape makes all the difference.

    2. Anon @ 12:00: Open the two top buttons and wear a great necklace, or a scarf. Also I find a cardi on its own (not layered over a shirt) looks a lot sleeker. Cami under if you like or want the warmth.

  14. Really fun and I love your writing, pseu. My bad boys were boxy, rectangular clothes, the cut of so much Eileen Fisher (but not all). Le Duc said I looked like a nun in them and (even though he was raised Catholic) that was not a compliment.

    But black is not a Bad Boy for me, and maybe you should give him another chance, as a skirt or sleek pant. (Yes. I’m an enabler!) Camel is my Bad Boy, supposedly so versatile, but the yellow in it makes me look like I have hepatitis.

    Kristien62, may I suggest a cashmere v-neck, with the v low enough to not look like you merely forgot the shirt, but not so low that you need a cami? I buy them from Eric Bompard and Brora.

    1. Thank you, Duchesse, for the suggestion. I was a bit afraid of the v neck, but will definitely try one the next time I shop. Perhaps with a lovely scarf to soften the neckline?

    2. Have given up on white button-down blouses. Ditto beige trench coats. Though both are considered must-haves & classics – they do not work for me. I am only 5’4″ and a D cup – these two classics make me look shorter & heavier than I am.

      I still wear black as bottoms; but, found that Navy and particularly Grey are great as bottoms. Grey seems to go with lots of colors.

      Lands End has some nice modal tees in great colors. I wear their scoop tee alone or under denimn jackets or cardigans.

    3. Anonymous, I wear those Land’s End scoop necks too, they are muc more feminine than crew necks. Come to think of it all “menswear” styles (button-down collars, man-styled blazers (especially DB), tapered-leg jeans and round-neck sweaters) are all Bad Boys for me now.

  15. You are brilliant. I just love you. I wish you were my neighbor. 🙂

    For me, it’s earth tones. I’m a pale, blue-eyed ash blonde. Earth tones do nothing for me. Blues/greens/black/purple/gray and some reds are my colors, and I need to stick with them. Also, heels. They were fine until about a year ago, now they are a no go. Sigh. Also, cheap shoes. My feet now only allow the really good ones, like Dansko. Anything else and I’m in pain.

    But I’m learning! Trying to look on the bright side. 🙂

  16. Such a great and clever post. Will never let go of black, he’s the bad boy here to stay. However, I do have a number of shapeless, but exceptionally cozy cardigans. On probation?

  17. To Kristien62: Another possibility, if you can find it, is a shawl-collared cashmere. That way you get that little hug of warmth at the back of your neck, and the elongating V of the open front. Good luck!


  18. Echoing others, this post is just too funny! My dangling earring collection is stuffed in a drawer. I loved some of those pieces, but my lobe flesh now sags (so sad… does gravity have to affect everything??), so I sorted, gave away the best to my lovely daughters in law, and now stick with posts.

    Believe it or not, jeans are my bad boys. I bought an expensive designer pair this fall and rarely wear them. It’s either too hot, or they’re too confining, or…. something, but I keep thinking I’ll be hip and go back to them: ha!

  19. Gotta say I love black for how it disguises (middle age) blobs of fat when I sit down (on display for students). And I think boring cardis are great if you add a scarf.

  20. Deju Pseu—would you devote an entry on the topic of why black clothing is a bad boy choice for you? While I don’t think black is THE most flattering color for me, it’s not bad and is certainly a go to choice much of the time. I would like to discuss this topic.

  21. Great topic. My ” bad boys ” are certain shops over here. I see things there that look ok, but when I´m home, I decide to return them.
    So, what I must do is to ” hold my horses ” ; ), which is very difficult for me and pause and t h i n k before I act.
    I must only buy clothes matching my real life. However, I want to invest in a decent coat, shoes/ warm boots and a good bag.
    In the jewelry department – less is more, therefore only the real stuff. To be used, not to be kept in a safe.

  22. What a wonderful post. I have to say, though, that I did marry a “bad boy” who turned out to be soooo good that I have kept him for 35 years. The “bad boys” in my closet, however, have been banished forever.

  23. Oh, yes – BLACK – for years, a staple in my wardrobe. Makes me look like death warmed over, but god, yes, it is *so* EASY. And easy to find, unlike (the much more flattering) brown shades.

  24. I’m extremely pale, with dark hair. When I was younger, black was striking. Now black near my face makes me look haggard. I just keep that bad boy at arms length! Bottoms yes, tops no.

    Love this post. So funny and yet it makes such sense maybe it will help me clean out my closet. My main bad boys are clothes I used to like and don’t anymore. They make me feel guilty.

  25. Both black and white are out. (except black pants) Yes, they’re easy and classic. But on me, they’re deadly.

  26. This is a fun subject. I actually thought I was going to write about my “bad boy” husband and the pack of cigs he used to roll up in his tee shirt sleeve even if it was the late 60s not 50s. But, my surprise at your change of subject was quickly put to rest when the bad style choices showed up.

    I can no longer wear low waisted pants or stilettos either. Tight fitting tops don’t work. If my tees or blouses shrink, out they go. Probably my ongoing faux pas is to buy something that might fit but is the wrong color. Beige, yellow, spring or kelly green, navy blue wash me out. I have finally stopped hoping that will change.

  27. White shirts! you know, that classic wardrobe staple? I count 13 white shirts that over the years I have been lured into buying each year that I never wear. Instead of feeling smart and crisp they make me feel frumpy and washed out and wrinkled!

  28. I am far more focused on the ticket my for real “bad boy” picked up today…which sets back all impulse buys for months! Grrrr. It’s a clever way to make us think about our wardrobes. I’m learning to avoid WEARING grey since that contributes to invisibility, but I love that color.

  29. Believe it or not, silk scarves — especially Hermes-style silk scarves — are my bad boys. Despite the fact that I have finally mastered some knot-tying techniques, they always make me look and feel ridiculous. As if I’m trying to be someone else (perhaps my great aunt…). These bad boys are being roped around the handles of my handbags, never again to be Leading Actors.

    1. Gee, my scarves save me from my other “bad boys”– all the black tees/sweaters/tops. I always get compliments on my scarves, and I am FREQUENTLY asked to demo scarf-tying techniques! Maybe this is because I am an artist and a French speaker, so I tend to frequent places where I find like-minded people and they are more tuned in to artistic flare. Don’t give up. If this reminds you of your great-aunt, maybe she was the epitome of style. Wear with flare!

  30. Love this post. You know the saying “Men are like busses — miss one, and another comes along in 15 minutes”. Harsh, but so true about “Bad Boys” and my affinity for them. It’s not that I hang on to them — I liberate myself of them, only to replace them and further Bad Boy Buyer’s Remorse ensues. I am about to pull the trigger on three more “Bad Boys”. I was wondering if perhaps we could post the “Bad Boys” by which we are currently tempted to get feedback from your readers. A “yay” or a “nay” and then substantiation from an objective point of view. This could save ourselves from…ourselves. For example, one reader’s “Bad Boy” in the context of *their* lifestyle may not be so bad a boy for another (i.e. I work from home so my wardrobe consists of comfy casual wear for both working and running out to do errands, occasional lunchesout w/ friends, etc.).

  31. My bad boys are all Sherlock/Benedict Cumberbatch–or possibly Irene Adler. That is to say, they are elegant, dark, a mite sociopathic, and don’t even remotely reflect the life I actually live as a self-employed egghead working from home and married to an academic. Sigh.


  32. Pseu, you’re so funny! This is my new name by the way (formerly Susan Tiner). We just recently re-watched that movie. It’s so good. As for bad boys in my closet, I still have too much black but I don’t really care. I enjoy adding pops of color in my accessories. That’s easy and livens things up.

  33. You are an amazing writer, and so very clever. I am not giving up on black at this point. I still love that it provides a background for color and I have a lot of it. I continue to wear heels to parties or special events; I just sit down if they feel uncomfortable. I’m in the midst of serious downsizing, so I have no idea where this will take me.

  34. Great post- cuz soooo true! My bad boys are heels that aren’t wedges. I need to let them go- I can’t walk in them and I feel ridiculous tottering in heels. I do not totter in wedges. My other bad-boy are blazers! I LOVE how classy they look, how classic their appeal, but they just aren’t me. They are a bad boy I want to love, but never wear.