Could I ever wear this outside an SCA event?
February 4, 2011 12:09 PM   Subscribe

Could a young man ever wear this cape outside an SCA event? I have a mild fascination with winter outerwear and I've wanted a cloak for a long time, but they cost more than I can afford for a toy. Between the hood, the length, and the woollen material, I think I could actually wear this as functional garment, but, as a matter of mores and fashion, would I ever get away with it?
posted by d. z. wang to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (107 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
If you have some trepidation about it, then maybe not. I think it's cool and if I saw someone owning it, I'd think they were probably cool.
posted by cmoj at 12:11 PM on February 4, 2011

If you don't feel like you can get away with it today, get it and put it away for a year or two. As you get older, you'll stop worrying about that kind of thing and do whatever the hell you like.
posted by fritley at 12:14 PM on February 4, 2011 [10 favorites]

That sort of quirky item would require you to 100% confident and comfortable to get away with. If you've got that going for you, by all means get it.
posted by Zophi at 12:15 PM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Absolutely not.
posted by banannafish at 12:15 PM on February 4, 2011 [26 favorites]

Only if you're Johnny Depp.
posted by Electrius at 12:16 PM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Work it. The sartorialist would take a picture of you.
posted by lesli212 at 12:16 PM on February 4, 2011

I used to wear a wool cape as functional outwear. I am a chick, most people if they said anything thought it was awesome. Whatever, if clothing makes you uncomfortable, you shouldn't wear it. However, you should get over this uncomfortablness if you want to wear and just roll with it, be your own beast.
posted by stormygrey at 12:16 PM on February 4, 2011

You would have to be extraordinarily self-possessed to pull it off, and I think, with anything more frequent than rare instances of outings with it, you would not be able to avoid being That Guy, You Know, The One with the Cape.
posted by adipocere at 12:16 PM on February 4, 2011 [16 favorites]

I'm no arbiter of style, but I'm going to have to vote "No". You'll attract plenty of attention, and unless you can handle it well, it will likely sit in your closet after a couple of self-conscious wearings.
posted by Homo economicus at 12:17 PM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by richrad at 12:17 PM on February 4, 2011

The pedantic SCA member in me says that you couldn't wear it to an SCA event, either, because the button front isn't appropriate for the period. Sorry.

I live in Maine, and I do see capes and cloaks as winter streetwear from time to time. Almost always on women though. I think you'd have to be really, really confident in yourself in order to wear it....

... but its really a beautiful garment. Were it me, I'd buy it simply for that reason.

"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." - William Morris
posted by anastasiav at 12:19 PM on February 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

The the key to pulling this off: good accessories. Paired with a good hat, a good satchel or bag of some kind (if you intend on wearing it as you go about your regular business), and appropriate shoes I think it could be very elegant. It might also be hard to bike in, depending on the length - but sometimes that's worth it.
posted by bubukaba at 12:20 PM on February 4, 2011

I bought myself this watch cloak for cold-weather pirate events. One day I was in my civvies, running errands, and it was ridiculously cold outside; my jacket wasn't helping at all. I remembered that I had the cloak in the trunk of my car, so I got it and put it on. I got weird looks, but I was definitely warm.

I guess my point is that some people can pull off wearing a cloak, but not everybody can. You'll definitely need a hat to go with it.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:21 PM on February 4, 2011

I worked with a guy who would sometimes wear a cape, and he wasn't known as "Cape Guy" or anything like that because his cape-wearing seemed like a natural fit to his general character.

If you do get it, you'll need a pretty good winter hat to match. Few people can pull off "person with cape and baseball hat"
posted by mikepop at 12:22 PM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

I bet you could find a nice long wool coat that's similar to that, but not a cape, and therefore would carry an infinitesimal amount of potential weirdness by comparison.
posted by AugieAugustus at 12:22 PM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nthing it's all in the attitude. It's an awesome cape, but will require total confidence to rock it. I was a little nervous when I started wearing cloches about 10 years ago (they hadn't come back yet), but got tons of compliments, which made it easier to wear.

Are you a goth/emo guy? This would fit right into that oevre, albeit waaaaay classier than you usually see.
posted by smirkette at 12:23 PM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I wanted to wander in and give a one-word "no" response, but I see that's been done so I'll elaborate.

From a mainstream, contemporary US society perspective, my gut instinct without even looking at it is "absolutely not" (but I did click through and look at it, and I stand by my gut).

Of course that doesn't need to stop you if your circle of friends is thick with SCA, theater, RPG'ing, or otherwise "nerdy" people - then your friends might like it and, hey, F everybody else. But do know that you would open yourself up to be gawked at, gossiped about, and perhaps openly mocked by the "squares." If you still want to, with that knowledge, then rock out.
posted by rkent at 12:25 PM on February 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

This is like any "Can I pull this off?" question. The short answer is, "Probably not, especially if you have to ask." If you do, prepare for people to think about you as "that guy in the cape". People will consider it an affectation.

If none of that bothers you, really, go for it.
posted by supercres at 12:26 PM on February 4, 2011 [4 favorites]

I have a friend who has pulled off all manner of ridiculous outfits, including a cape, and has done so to the extent that even some obdurate fashion-minded folks are willing to admit that they buy it.

The key, I think, is in you having an established history of being willing to put yourself out there that way, as well as the right sensibility to wear this thing with other clothes without it looking goofy. If it's a sudden departure for you from a more conventional mode of dress, then I think you'll have a harder time making it work unless you move to a new city and reinvent yourself or something.
posted by invitapriore at 12:27 PM on February 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

Do we already have a word for "self-answering AskMe question"?

If you find yourself asking the question "Can I wear this exceedingly daring article of clothing and still look fashionable?", the answer is most likely "No!". If you were sufficiently self-confident to carry it off, you'd already know the answer, and if you're fedora guy, you wouldn't ask in the first place.
posted by zamboni at 12:28 PM on February 4, 2011

Personally, I think it looks badass, and I would love it if more people wore styles like this. But in reality, people will no doubt assume things about you from the fact that you wear this cloak. If you are comfortable with the assumption, rock on. If not, I wouldn't.

I knew one girl who wore a cape, and the only reason we didn't refer to her as cape girl is because out of all the strange quirks she had, wearing a cape was one of the least odd things she did.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 12:29 PM on February 4, 2011 [4 favorites]

It would put a lot of pressure on the rest of your outfit to go well with such a statement piece of clothing. If you are drawing that much attention to your clothes, they need to be able to stand up to inspection (like many of the outfits the sartorialist photographs) and harmonize well with a cloak. At least, that is how I feel when I am trying to work something more unusual into my wardrobe. Do you already have clothes that would 'work' with the cloak? If you do, you should go for it, the cloak is great!
posted by sumiami at 12:30 PM on February 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

whose mores and fashion? yours? go for it if it will make you happy.
posted by anya32 at 12:33 PM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Nthing everyone else -- make sure the REST of your clothes and accessories match reasonably well with it, and that you have confidence about looking nice wearing it all. You'll look like a moron if you're wearing jeans, for instance.

I've walked around town in full medieval garb for the hell of it, and while I do get strange looks, I decided I just didn't care. Hell, part of the reason for wearing it was so I WOULD get strange looks as I went about my normal business. Walk into it knowing what you're getting into, and it can be quite entertaining.
posted by Heretical at 12:36 PM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hmmm. That big hood in the back really ups the "druid" factor...

What the hell: if you love that cape, and if you possess confidence, a broad pair of shoulders and a serious pair of dark brown boots, then go for it.
posted by Iridic at 12:38 PM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I (a male man) occasionally wear a completely plastic rain-cape (poncho) when riding my bicycle. It usually gets quite a response in the somewhat liberal area of Cambridge. Everything from 'rock on brother' to 'look at what this dude is wearing' followed by a teenage squeal.

Admittedly my cape is quite a bit more eye-catching and tacky. I think yours is more sombre and wonderful, but will undoubtedly get quite a bit of attention. Off-bicycle I'm a little less fond of spectacle, so probably would not wear it, but I would admire the person who does!
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 12:38 PM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Unless he's going to work, my brother-in-law doesn't leave the house without wearing his piratey three-cornered hat. He has done this since I've known him. I might've thought it strange if he started doing while we were already friends, but I guess strange can become normal after a while. I'd put a cape in the same category. You have to wear it confidently, proudly, and when people raise eyebrows you respond by simply not giving a crap.

That's a terrific cape and you shouldn't let the small-mindedness of others prevent you from being as awesome as you want to be.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 12:39 PM on February 4, 2011 [9 favorites]

In terms of the potential grief you might be getting, a lot of it depends on where you live, and specifically where you hang out. I remember being called an "Amish-looking motherfucker" when I was walking around my college campus, presumably for wearing a fedora and trenchcoat and having long hair (the garb was completely weather-appropriate since it was raining at the time). If you don't mind being called "Obi-Wan Kenobi" (yeah, I know, but I don't think that I've ever looked particularly Amish) or even possibly being stopped by cops (because the cloak is very concealing), then go for it--if it's a real watch cloak, it's probably very warm and durable.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:39 PM on February 4, 2011

The answer to "can I wear this weird garment?" depends more on the person wearing it than the actual garment. If you're well-groomed, confident, and have a good sense of personal style and what looks good on you, you might be able to pull off a cape. If not, you run a high risk of looking sloppy or gimmicky. You could be a styley hot dude who makes the cape work, or you could be a nerd in a Snuggie, or somewhere in between. The more eye-catching something is, the more important it is to wear with intention.

(Functionally speaking, that would probably get stuck in car doors and subway turnstiles all the time, but it is kinda cool.)
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:39 PM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ah, I should have mentioned that my hat and coat were black, but still, to me that says "The Shadow" more than "Harrison Ford in Witness".
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:41 PM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think this falls under the same category as fedoras in today's society. Some people can wear them and look good, some people will look stupid, but everyone who wears it will stand out and be commented on.
posted by auto-correct at 12:42 PM on February 4, 2011 [4 favorites]

Wear it if it makes you happy. My husband and I would certainly mock you for wearing your Ren Faire garb in the ordinary course of the day, but what do you care what I think?

(Living in Cambridge {MA, USA}, we see a lot of dudes in capes. In fact, we have a little game a la "punch buggy" in which a dude in a cape with a ponytail and a waxed moustache wearing a Utilikilt and boots wins.)

Fashion and personal style are about making statements. Realize that you're writing a check other people will expect you to cash, and it's all good.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:42 PM on February 4, 2011 [6 favorites]

That's a beautiful cape. But I agree that if you wear it, you'll be The Weird Guy In The Cape. (I knew a guy who wore a similar, but less gorgeous, cape. He was definitely The Weird Guy In The Cape. Lots of mean D&D jokes when he walked across the quad -- and this was on a campus where weirdness and self-expression in weird ways is fairly common.) I also agree that women could get away with it, while men really can't, and depending on your build and look it may come across as feminine.

If you're okay with those things, that's cool. But there will be a LOT of pre-judging.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:42 PM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have a grey cape I have worn in public without stares or pointing or funny questions about what Renfair I'm going to. However, I am a lady and most importantly, I shortened the length from full to half, with it ending just past my hips. It's less dated or costumey that way, but I think something about a short cape is girly, it might be weird on a guy.
posted by slow graffiti at 12:44 PM on February 4, 2011

It depends on where you live and what kind of people you run with, but even if those conditions are favorable I'd say don't attempt this unless you're tall/slim, extremely well-groomed, and have excellent social skills. Make absolutely sure that you're a dashing man in a vintage cape, and not a tragic slob in a polarfleece tarp.
posted by milk white peacock at 12:44 PM on February 4, 2011 [5 favorites]

If you started dressing like this to coordinate, no one would even notice. If the cape is the ODDEST thing you're wearing, then yes, it will stand out.
posted by supercres at 12:44 PM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wearing that in this day and age qualifies as an affectation. Whether you can pull it off is a separate question.
posted by rhizome at 12:47 PM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

d. z. wang: "Could a young man ever wear this cape outside an SCA event?"

Sure, it'd look great in that period drama you're doing costume design for.

Wait, what's that? You mean out and about in modern society? No, I'm afraid the only people with enough bravura to pull that off would just do it, never second-guess themselves, and certainly not ask a bunch of internet strangers. Sorry, friend, you're not that guy.
posted by mkultra at 12:49 PM on February 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

I say you should! If you can afford to have a frivolous winter coat, get this one as a secondary one. I wouldn't want a cloak as my primary coat, but it would be nice to have in the repertoire. You might look like a doofus (if you pair it with, say, a leather hat and combat boots) but you'll be a happy doofus with a nice wool cloak.

If I had a grey wool cloak, I'd create my outfits by pretending that I came from a sort of imaginary very formal 1920s Europe where cloaks were normal outerwear instead of chesterfields and morning coats. I'd wear, for example, a pair of nice grey flannels and a nice light-colored shirt possibly in a traditional pattern with a jacket and black oxfords or black boots. And a tie, if I were a tie person. Or maybe a suit. For casual, an oxford cloth button-down--perhaps with one button undone and the sleeves rolled up--and grey flannels or narrow-wale cords in a dark color. Simple, traditional sorts of sweaters, too. I would none the less probably wear a very simply knit hat, because the cloak has a hood and a structured hat would sort of aesthetically fight with it.

The only thing to remember (I base this on bike-poncho experience)--it is difficult to wear a bag with a cloak, and it looks a bit odd. You might want a bag that can be carried by hand for cloak days.

A cloak would also make a great going-out garment for a formal dinner.

I've never regretted the oddball, show-stopper clothes I've bought--I've always found a good occasion for them eventually.
posted by Frowner at 12:50 PM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

I mean you could, but people will absolutely find it weird.
posted by naoko at 12:51 PM on February 4, 2011

Response by poster: Could anyone elaborate what sort of preconceptions you would associate with this cape? and what sort of clothes "go with" a cape?

I meant this question more like, am I going to get into fights for being "some kinda faggot, amirite?" so it's totally mind-blowing and awesome there are people actually discussing this like a question of fashion. Please continue!
posted by d. z. wang at 12:54 PM on February 4, 2011

If you only wear it as outerwear, sure, you can get away with it, because I think people have more flexibility with their outerwear than their other clothes.

Now, if you asked me if you could match it with a vest and an ascot underneath the cloak, I would say no, absolutely not.

As with hats, it can be pulled off only if you remove it immediately upon coming inside and only put it on right before go back outside.
posted by deanc at 12:55 PM on February 4, 2011

d. z. wang: "Could anyone elaborate what sort of preconceptions you would associate with this cape?"

I'd immediately associate you with this guy.
posted by mkultra at 1:01 PM on February 4, 2011 [12 favorites]

How invested are you in looking "normal"? Personally, I think that cape is awesome and I would be thrilled to see someone wearing it. But I'm an unabashed weirdo.

Also, where do you live? I think the reception you would receive would vary widely depending on region, and even city. But, really, my opinion is you should do what makes you happy. Shallow, judgmental people might disapprove, but the most interesting people will probably be intrigued.
posted by overglow at 1:04 PM on February 4, 2011

Which preconceptions? This one: Freak. Show.

Mind you, I wear a broad-brimmed hat and love it. It took me a bit of nerve to try it, but now being The Dad In The Hat at soccer games & Scout events is secondary to being A Guy In The Shade and also The Guy Who's Given Himself Enough Poise To Make Other People Second-Guess Themselves.

I owned a pair of pants that I loved -- but it took perhaps three years before I wore them in public. And no one gave a damn. Same for my fedora: when I finally wore it outside, no one cared. So in that spriti, go for it, and know that it'll catch people's eyes...but only briefly.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:13 PM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Could anyone elaborate what sort of preconceptions you would associate with this cape?

The same ones I would associate with someone consulting a pocket-watch, doffing any hat, or wearing stockings above breeches - you know, the ones about someone doing an anachronistic thing out of a combination of wanting attention and being uncomfortable with current fashion.

I'm not saying that you do or are. It sounds like you just think capes or awesome. But regardless. Clothing is a vernacular language. Think how it would sound if you called someone 'm'lady'.
posted by voronoi at 1:14 PM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think the key to wearing any eccentric garment is to avoid looking self-impressed--so you should ask yourself if you might possibly come across as self-impressed or give the impression of self-impressedness through shyness and awkwardness. If you're wearing a cloak because it's neat and you like it, fine; if you're wearing a cloak because you think that it makes you appear mysterious and intense, you'll probably rub people the wrong way.

That said, I had a bunch of SCA-ish friends who liked to dress in a vulgar-Tolkien kind of way because they felt it made them look romantic, mysterious, intense, etc, and I thought it was rather sweet and charming.
posted by Frowner at 1:14 PM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

If I knew how to stylishly plan an outfit around a cape, I'd probably wear one. Sadly, we might not be able to help you there.

But I'd guess most people would see a cape and immediately think "renfaire geek." If that's a label you're comfortable with, you shouldn't have much of a problem.

The answer is probably to move to Cambridge.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:16 PM on February 4, 2011

"Could anyone elaborate what sort of preconceptions you would associate with this cape?

Possible interests of cape-wearers (based on ones I have known) may include: Renfairs, neopaganism, Shakespeare, theater (probably spelled theatre for extra pretentiousness), studying abroad in Ireland/Scotland, anything Celtic (music, tattoos, etc.), fencing, Monty Python, D&D, fantasy/scifi books/movies/tv, other nerd things.
posted by naoko at 1:19 PM on February 4, 2011

Could anyone elaborate what sort of preconceptions you would associate with this cape?

Well, I'll say it. I, for one, would probably assume you're gay. I hastily add that I'm a gay guy myself, also a bit of an anglophile and lover of history and romance who has often felt it sad that the cloak has been exiled from men's fashion - so by no means do I mean that as an insult or slur. It's just that these days the only men I've seen in cloaks outside of a costume situation (Ren faire, historical re-enactment, opera) are men like Austin Scarlett.
posted by dnash at 1:19 PM on February 4, 2011

Even if you can get away with wearing it, will you want to? A cape like that turns out to be fine for walking, but a real pain if you're driving anywhere (or being driven). Mine is so inconvenient in the car that I never wear it. The bulk of it is hard to arrange comfortably when you've getting into a car. If you sit on the wrong part of it, which is difficult to avoid, you find your shoulder being pulled down, or one arm constrained.

(I'm female, so no question of its being too much of an affectation. My mother made it, a gorgeous black wool thing, when I was pregnant and without a winter coat that would fit around my belly. I remember a nice young man at the grocery store stopped me and asked where I got it, and wondered if my mom would make one for him, too, if he paid her, but she really doesn't like to sew, so that was a no.)
posted by Ery at 1:21 PM on February 4, 2011

Best answer: Well, my friend who wore a cape around everywhere did it all over North Carolina and in rural Missouri, not the most progressive parts of the world, and people sometimes shouted "nerd" or made stupid D&D jokes, but I truly can't imagine someone wanting to PUNCH him over it. I think people will just think you're weird and a few will make fun of you out loud; I don't think fights over sartorial choices really happen that much. (I have some LARPing acquaintances who think the BEST THING EVER is to stop at diners in small towns in full regalia and "freak the normals" ... most people react to them as amusingly weird, not in any hostile way.)

Preconceptions might include that you are very into D&D and many related stereotypes -- that you have low social skills, that you live in a fantasy world and don't function well in reality, that you don't do well romantically, that you may not shower frequently. (I know these are all really unfair stereotypes, related to EITHER capes OR D&D -- I married a D&Der and the game is hosted at my house all the time, they're all lovely functional human beings.) At least, those are the sorts of stereotypes my friend ran into when he wore his cape around. On the other hand, while he showered frequently and functioned fine in reality, he did have relatively low social skills and was not so good at the romance. So take from that what you will.

Something so visibly out of the norm basically either telegraphs, "I am super-confident and probably pretty interesting" or "Reality terrifies me and I have no self-confidence, so I must wear this weirdness like an armor so most people are dissuaded from engaging with me and the rest engage only with my superficial weirdness ... having to show my personality to someone is too terrifying." I think the attitude you carry yourself with matters, and I think other people's feelings/etc. matter too ... some people will just react negatively to ANYTHING out of the ordinary.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:22 PM on February 4, 2011 [11 favorites]

I had an ex-boyfriend who wore a beautiful cape/cloak and I thought it was awesome & adorable. I still covet one myself (and/or a partner who wears one). It would never, however, have crossed his mind (or mine should I ever get one) to ask if it was an okay thing to wear.

Also, wearing or behaving in a manner outside of the norm is not an affectation. An affectation requires intent. People might consider it an affectation, but either you care about what those sorts of people think about you or you don't. You kind of have to decide that for yourself.
posted by eunoia at 1:26 PM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Possible interests of cape-wearers (based on ones I have known) may include: Renfairs, neopaganism, Shakespeare, theater (probably spelled theatre for extra pretentiousness), studying abroad in Ireland/Scotland, anything Celtic (music, tattoos, etc.), fencing, Monty Python, D&D, fantasy/scifi books/movies/tv, other nerd things.

To this I would add polyamory. (My friend often uses "cloak people" as a shorthand for exactly what is described above.)
posted by cider at 1:31 PM on February 4, 2011 [4 favorites]

My husband worked with a (straight) guy who wore a long black hooded cloak that had a purple lining.. He wasn't particulary eccentric, but he pretty much didn't care what people thought about that kind of thing. He also did perfectly normal things that other people in his circle wouldn't do -- like buy a house at the age of 24. He just chose what he did according to what worked for him. I thought the cloak was silly, until, at a company picnic, I was cold and he insisted that I wear it. I ended up buying one for myself, but a woman in a cloak doesn't invite negative reactions.

Another male cloak-wearer of my acquaintance, who referred to himself as "a flaming queen -- but so very masculine," wore many outfits that made the cloak look commonplace. He lived in NYC, where you see unconventional get-ups wherever you look.

I say, try one on. Ask if you can walk around in it -- if you leave your ID or your credit card, they may let you leave the store with it for a short while. You won't know how it feels till you wear it.
posted by wryly at 1:35 PM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

My opinion is that you will stand out a bit and the look you will probably achieve, unless you are hot-looking or extremely charismatic, is that of a weirdo.

However, if you like it, you should wear it, and embrace your weirdo status. Who cares?

I saw a guy in our local, upright, non-weirdo-approving grocery store a week ago wearing a cape and other vaguely Russian-solider-appearing accoutrement. He stood out, but he seemed happy. So go for it and be happy.
posted by theredpen at 1:37 PM on February 4, 2011

Sorry, forgot the cape was on Ebay. Buy it, then sell it if you don't end up liking it. The price is good.
posted by wryly at 1:38 PM on February 4, 2011

Don't think I could, but good luck
posted by midnightbarber at 1:42 PM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

In fact, we have a little game a la "punch buggy" in which a dude in a cape with a ponytail and a waxed moustache wearing a Utilikilt and boots wins

oh christ i think i know exactly who you're talking about.

Okay, now to the actual question.

If I saw a dude in a cape I'd think he was a larper and/or a huge nerd who would start talking about freaking the mundanes and fnords and other assorted tedium. To people who don't have firsthand experience with this sort of person you'd probably just look like a dork.

Bear in mind I am casting no actual aspersions on you as a person - I don't think you're that sort of fellow - but it's the impression it conveys.

Long story short I think that on balance the reaction would be more negative or dismissive than positive - not to say no one would be positive about it, just that most average folks, encountered on the street, would not.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:43 PM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

The first thing that comes to my mind when I see a man in a cape is "Now this is an individual who most assuredly smells bad."
posted by Admiral Haddock at 1:43 PM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

what sort of clothes "go with" a cape?

A beret & gloves. Seriously.
posted by betweenthebars at 1:43 PM on February 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

Mostly I agree with Eyebrows McGee in that you will inevitably be That Guy In The Cape pretty much everywhere. It will be slightly/somewhat more acceptable if (a) you run with hippies, geeks, nerds, SCA folk, etc., and/or (b) you live in a hippie location, but even there, really, especially if you're a dude... no, you'll be considered freaky. Unfortunately, the being a dude part does make it harder to "pull off" to the point of "you're not really gonna."

The real question is: are you OKAY with that? Can you be okay with that? Is it going to bother you when people stare? Can you deal with being Cape Guy? Do you love the cape enough to be willing to be Cape Guy?

(I'm reminded of a friend of mine who was briefly Cape Guy, and then, I guess, got talked out of it. Lately he's Green Hair Guy instead.)

I am a hippie chick who lives in a semi-hippie location, so I probably "get away with" more than most people. I own what amounts to Joseph's Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which I wear on a regular basis, including today. Even with the semi-hippie location, you don't see too many people who dress like I do, which is to say, I dress up more than most folks and am frequently wearing bright colors/tie-dye. The ATD is both.

Honestly, I just ignore most folks staring. Screw 'em, do I care what they think? And the people who know me are used to my outfits enough to say, "nice outfit!" You might have more of an advantage in that yours is a gray, subtle cape, and kind of looks like you're a Civil War re-enactor.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:47 PM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think it's possible, but it depends on a lot of other things -- how you normally dress, your height, weight, haircut, etc. If you normally wear jeans and a t-shirt, no. If you're a little more formal in what you wear, it's a maybe.

But I don't there's anything wrong with having clothes that are fun. If you can afford it and love it, buy it. Enjoy it. I think people are sometimes too safe with clothes and it's fun to take chances. The worst thing that can happen is you buy the cloak, wear it, feel uncomfortable and decide not to wear it again (and then possibly resell it, if that's the case). It's not a big deal, really.

But then, I had a cloak in high school and college and while I only wore it a few times (it did depend on my outfit and what I had to carry), it was a lot of fun. But then, I absolutely don't mind making a spectacle of myself sometimes in terms of clothes. It makes life more interesting.
posted by darksong at 1:53 PM on February 4, 2011

Wear whatever you want, but just one data point -- if I saw someone wearing this, I would assume it was a female.
posted by Rash at 1:55 PM on February 4, 2011

Please allow me to recommend a kind of happy middle ground for you.
I saw that cape and immediately wanted it, however I know I couldn't pull it off unless I was standing on the deck of a Russian sub.
I dress up more than necessary because I like looking like a badass. Let me emphasize: What I'm about to recommend doesn't work unless you're wearing a suit and tie and dress shoes.
Allow me to introduce you to the Full Length Cashmere Overcoat. It has all the amenities of your cape, but with the added benefit of sleeves and pockets. It will compliment your suit and add gravitas to your total presentation. Don't skimp out and go with regular wool - the cashmere is what gives it the eye-melting blackness that really dominates a sidewalk. I love winter because of this coat.

Next up, french cuffs.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 1:58 PM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

I went to Carleton, which is a small liberal arts school with a well-earned reputation for having a quirky student population.

The Druids were an actual active group on campus. Among other things, they would parade across the Bald Spot (erm, the main quad) in purple and turquoise cloaks on the Spring Solstice--banging on drums--on their way to fake secret rituals in the woods near campus. Even at Carleton, where the general consensus was: "Everyone at Carleton is weird, just in their own way," where you could carry a canoe on your head through campus without anyone blinking, where people were proud of having been on a Quiz Bowl team in high school, where Monty Python references never had to be explained, and where no one cared if you hadn't showered for days, the Druids were generally seen as sort of ridiculous.

If I saw you wearing a cape around town, I would associate you with the Druids, and therefore assume that you were also somewhat ridiculous. On the other hand, that's not the end of the world, so if you really want to do it, go for it.
posted by colfax at 2:00 PM on February 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

The only guy I know who regularly wears a cape in public owns a goth bar. There, it's perfectly congruous. Elsewhere... well, I'd suspect he owned a goth bar.
posted by restless_nomad at 2:09 PM on February 4, 2011

I would not assume you were gay. I probably would make the assumption that you knew how to fight.

Look, and I say this as someone who, not long ago, was in a graveyard on a Solstice midnight carrying a boombox blaring Joy Division, hiccuping tipsily on too much awful mandrake liquor and keeping myself warm with a much more flamboyant cloak and waiting for a similarly-cloaked (though more sober) friend to return with a Tarot deck, you have to approach this eyes open and say, "Yeah, if anyone sees me like this ... they will not have positive associations."

It's a complete crapshoot as to what those associations may be, but they will rarely be about making new friends.
posted by adipocere at 2:09 PM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yes! I will marry you! Squeeee!

...oh sorry. That wasn't your question. Let me see.

What milk white peacock and supercres said. If I were you, I would keep the rest of your clothing in the "dress" range, but low-key, and NOT anachronistic. Say, grey wool trousers and black dress shoes and black leather gloves.

I would also suggest wearing it to a reasonably-dressy evening occasion, like the theatre or a restaurant, where it won't stand out as much. That will get you warmed up.

You will have to be prepared for hostile reactions, which could be consequential if you're a guy, I imagine. You will be thought of as eccentric.

Some people will see it as an affectation, but I really don't think it is. Some people think that the fact you are asking the question means the answer is "no", but I really don't think it is. You want to wear the cape because you love it, therefore, you should absolutely figure out a way of wearing it.

Go forth and kick ass, my friend.
posted by tel3path at 2:16 PM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

It's really kind of awesome. But yeah, you'd have to wear it like it was natural.

For reference, my winter wear is a Swiss Army greatcoat, which has a good deal more dash than most, and gets me mostly positive comments and second looks only really from scene people. Surplus wool outerwear tends to wear like granite, too: very permanent clothes.
posted by LucretiusJones at 2:24 PM on February 4, 2011

Could anyone elaborate what sort of preconceptions you would associate with this cape?

If you looked like the guys in the Sartolialist links, with a completely impeccable sense of fashion, I'd think, "Damn!! You go, hot guy in a cape!" But, since that's a level of fashion that I almost never see in real life, I'd immediately jump to the stereotype of Trench Coat Guy. You know Trench Coat Guy. He has long hair in a ponytail. He wears a giant broad brimmed hat. He has glasses with color transitions lenses that never turn all the way clear, even when he's been inside for hours. He reads manga obsessively, can quote Buffy at great length, and listens to sea shanties. He's learning Japanese and is a member of the anime club on campus, even though he's a thirty three year old grad student and the other members are 18 and 19 year olds. He wears his trench coat in the summer.

I would expect pretty much the same of Cape Guy. Sorry. It's a lovely cape.
posted by MsMolly at 2:32 PM on February 4, 2011 [12 favorites]

Do whatever makes you happy.

As to whether it's possible to look fashionable in it, I'd say it depends how you dress otherwise. It's something I'd expect to see on a runway, so if you dress extremely trendy and stylishly or a bit flamboyantly otherwise and that's just one more (slightly more dramatic) piece, that's one thing; if you're wearing it with light-colored jeans and white sneakers, not so much. And the line between making it trendy and appearing to be wearing a costume is also pretty thin.
posted by you're a kitty! at 2:38 PM on February 4, 2011

I think it would look great with your Urban Sombrero.
posted by 4ster at 2:40 PM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

You know... there's this True Grit-looking hat going for megabucks at All Saints...

You will be killed, but you will die happy. Think it over, please? For me?
posted by tel3path at 2:46 PM on February 4, 2011

To this I would add polyamory. (My friend often uses "cloak people" as a shorthand for exactly what is described above.)

Good call. We said "cape people" at my college (which, if it had also had grad students, I would have had to assume was the same college as MsMolly's - her description was uncannily similar to a couple individuals i remember who, despite not wearing capes, were absolutely members of the "cape people" crowd).
posted by naoko at 2:51 PM on February 4, 2011

Unhelpful answer: Come to Portland. Nobody will give a damn.

Maybe slightly more helpful answer: I think it could look really nice, especially if you are, as mentioned above, a big-shouldered-tending guy. The buttons and color tone down the medieval factor, and it could allow the same range of outfits underneath as any overcoat -- I could see this doing fine with jeans and Docs, even -- so long as what people can see looks nice and well-fitting and a good color/wash. No puffy sneakers.

But people will indeed assume most of the negative responses above (including, in the direst circumstance, "this guy," and I did know exactly where that link would go). This can be defrayed significantly by looking clean and put-together; by comporting yourself and speaking without pretension or affectation; by being a confident adult and acting like one.

And even then, you're still going to be "cloak guy" to some, even in Portland, but we'll all be dead in a hundred years, which is I think is an excellent reason to wear anything.
posted by thesmallmachine at 2:53 PM on February 4, 2011

All of that said, it really is a rather attractive cape, if viewed in a vacuum. Also, I'm not saying I believe there is anything inherently wrong with being a cape person.
posted by naoko at 2:55 PM on February 4, 2011

Best answer: I have no sense of what the world considers fashionable, so take my thoughts with a grain of salt :) I would wear that cape. I have a somewhat similar cloak that I wear when Florida weather makes it reasonable (almost never). I would encourage my husband to wear that cape. He would not, which is a shame. If I saw you wearing that cape, I would admire the cape and think happy thoughts.
posted by galadriel at 2:57 PM on February 4, 2011

I would admire the cape and think happy thoughts.
posted by galadriel at 5:57 PM on February 4 [+] [!]

I say this with absolutely nothing but love (LotR being one of my cape-ier interests) but...eponysterical.
posted by naoko at 3:09 PM on February 4, 2011 [5 favorites]

If I were to see someone wearing such a cape approaching from the other side of the street, I would step aside and grant them passage for no one knows what's hidden underneath. Dueling pistols? A saber perhaps?

One thing is most definitely certain, underneath that cape lays hidden their enormous balls.
posted by cazoo at 3:14 PM on February 4, 2011 [6 favorites]

I wear what I want to wear, which happens to be what pretty much no one else wants to wear. This does make me "that girl", I suppose, but being so doesn't seem to have all that much impact on my life, and I get way more compliments than complaints. You will, too, because the truth is that people who don't have the guts to wear what they want to wear also don't have the guts to say anything.

In short: if you really want the cape, wear the cape, and wear it like you just. wear. capes.
posted by vorfeed at 3:24 PM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Obviously it depends on what you mean by "get away with it."

Will people chase you down the street, rip it from your body, and set it afire? No. Will they notice you, and be likely to think uncharitable thoughts? Most likely. If this bothers you, then don't wear it. If it doesn't bother you, then get down with your bad, cloak-wearing self. I support you either way!

But if you're hesitant - as you must be, or you wouldn't have asked - I suggest you pick whatever it is you like about the garment, and then find a socially acceptable garment that has that quality.

For example if you like the drape and flappiness, you might like a lightweight trench coat. (Note that if you are young and male you may want to choose a tan coat, to avoid any Columbine associations.) If you like the woolliness and the heft, check out some classic peacoats. Military surplus stores often have some great wool coats along these lines.
posted by ErikaB at 4:03 PM on February 4, 2011

No no no. No socially acceptable garments. Don't long for a Cape!!!!! and then get a "garment (socially acceptable)". Get the cape and wear the shit out of it.

A life lived in fear is a life half-lived.
posted by tel3path at 4:17 PM on February 4, 2011 [9 favorites]

Can you fly? Are you a Nazi supervillain? Do you have a real lightsaber? Do you have anime hair as tall as the rest of your body and an enormous sword?

Then no.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 6:28 PM on February 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

I see that the auction is done, and I sincerely hope you got it. Life is too short not to wear moderately unsuitable absolutely badass clothes. Wearing it will be an acid test for people who will be very interesting to talk to. Anyone who says, "Is that a navy watch cape?" is probably just the kind of person you want to have coffee with.
posted by LucretiusJones at 7:12 PM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

If I saw somebody wearing that in a coffeeshop I'd think "basement-dwelling chronic masturbator" and suspect total self-involvement. Drama. Legend in his own mind. Doesn't remember other people's names.

If I saw it at the theatre (the large one, downtown): "Oh!! Yes. I think? Wow," and I would look at the rest of you, and if that was all "normal," and nattily normal, gently formal and neatly cut and up-to-date, total thumbs up.

I'm not saying those are the correct responses, but those are the knee-jerks.

I see the cape has been purchased; are congratulations in order?
posted by kmennie at 7:21 PM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wear it. Enjoy it.

I'm in Seattle where guys in Utilikilts are capes are not all that weird (then again, I run with a nerdy crowd), so you may want to take my opinion with a grain of salt. Still, I think capes should be back in fashion for everyone, and anyone who does their part in helping that along is fine by me.
posted by litlnemo at 7:28 PM on February 4, 2011

I really hope you enjoy the cape (if it was you who bought it). I also disagree with the person upthread who suggested capes were most flattering on tall and slim people--I think that capes generally look best on burly/chunky/stocky/fat people, because many slim people get lost in the fabric. Having broad shoulders also helps.

But as everyone has said, the most important thing to wear your cape with is a sense of confidence and fun.

Will people chase you down the street, rip it from your body, and set it afire?

Let me introduce you to the historioanthropological wonder of the 19th and 20th century that was the Straw Hat Riot.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:53 PM on February 4, 2011

To give you an idea of what it looks like when a cape is working on a dude.
posted by kevinsp8 at 7:56 PM on February 4, 2011

Response by poster: Nope, I'm afraid not.

I was really thinking about it, too. Eyebrows McGee told me the worst I'd get was heckled. Then I took Greg Nog's quiz, came up with exactly these answers, right down to "Who the hell is Charlotte?", and stuck to them even after I looked Charlotte up on Wikipedia.

But then my room-mate pointed out that of the overcoat, pea coat, and windbreaker I've had over the last four years, I've sent the overcoat home and worn the pea coat only a few times for the more formal appearance. Chicago's not a good city for people who like really heavy winter clothes.
posted by d. z. wang at 8:11 PM on February 4, 2011

Utilikilts? Apathetic townsmen countrywide? "LARPing acquaintances?" People, that's the SCA umbrella the OP is already aware of! As it is, my answer to your followup comment/question is, "trying too hard." You can do Pierre Trudeau with a topcoat and have a more adaptable garment.
posted by rhizome at 8:16 PM on February 4, 2011

I was at a recruiting event recently where I went to school and a student walked in barefoot, carrying a staff and sporting a wide-brimmed hat. My colleague and I took one look at each other and I said, "Man, computer science never changes, does it?" The math department where I went to school had a lot of similar characters, including a guy who wore a black unitard every day, and a guy who painted his nails different colors all the time and brought his knitting to class.

In short: it depends on what your goals are in life. If your plan is to be a really top-flight programmer, people will not look twice. You will not be anywhere near the long tail of clothing eccentricities, and in general your peers will cherish your individualism.

However, please give everyone a surprise and smell okay. Not to generalize, but I've found wardrobe eccentricities and pleasant aroma are negatively correlated. This is inconsiderate.
posted by little light-giver at 8:30 PM on February 4, 2011

I'd think you were on staff at Hogwarts.
Wait, not Hogwarts. That other magic school, the one with all the Soviet wizards.
posted by spinturtle at 9:13 PM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Are you generally kinda sloppy and disheveled? If so, that cape will look ... well, anachronistic. If you are neat and tidy, and you generally tuck in your shirt or at least keep it neat, and you have mostly not too-wrinkled clothes, and you wear shoes rather than sneakers, then you might be able to pull this off.

If you wear dirty t-shirts, jeans with tears, and dirty white sneakers, then you will look like a weirdo in this cape.
posted by bluedaisy at 9:16 PM on February 4, 2011

I'm sorry you didn't go for it, it was a hell of a cape! I'd also like to add that for every person who would think you were a pretentious nerd (in a bad way) there would be many more who thought that you were totally awesome. When I see a dude in a cape, kilt, etc., I generally think to myself "Now there's a fine get-up! I bet I would totally be friends with that dude if we ever got to talking".
posted by troublewithwolves at 9:18 PM on February 4, 2011

Chicago's not a good city for people who like really heavy winter clothes.

Is this a different Chicago from the one I've been hearing about all these years?
posted by naoko at 9:33 PM on February 4, 2011 [5 favorites]

"That other magic school" is Durmstrang, thanks much. (Sorry, that's my job around here.)

If you lived, especially if you worked, where I do, a cloak like that kind of says "I'm homeless," unfortunately. It's a badass cloak, though, and should you source another one at a point when you live somewhere where you could pull it off-- Portland, Boston, Seattle, something like that-- you should run with it.

(Disclaimer: I wore a Sorcerer's Apprentice hat to work for a few weeks once because I could. Sartorial choices of this nature require an absolute, unwavering commitment to acting like there is nothing unusual about what you're wearing. People tell you it's a nice hat/ cloak/ codpiece/ whatev, you look them in the eye and say a sincere "Thank you, I thought so too." It's on them if they don't like it.)
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 9:57 PM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Kinda late to the party, but I figured I'd weigh in...

I wore a wool cloak (midnight blue, full-length, with hood) around Seattle for years through undergrad. Two, really; the first one wore out after about the fifth winter, but the second one was really well made and I still have it now.

People above are right that, if you do ever go for it, you'd better actually believe in it. If you're nervous about something you're wearing--strange or not--people pick up on that and it just makes the whole thing awkward.

I don't wear it on a daily basis anymore. It doesn't really work with my Toronto lifestyle (have you ever tried to wear a cloak on a subway? and have you seen how harsh road salt is on everything you wear? I imagine these might be reasonable questions for daily wear in Chicago, too) I still love it for special events, though. It's also become something I wear around my apartment as a full-body blanket when it's chilly.

tl;dr: if it's something you want, and you can rock it, go for it next time. If you are too worried about what everyone else will think, it'll show, and it'll just be awkward.
posted by criacow at 9:58 PM on February 4, 2011

I'd also like to add that for every person who would think you were a pretentious nerd (in a bad way) there would be many more who thought that you were totally awesome.

I wish that this were true, but I think that the ratios would be reversed. The questions aren't, "should I wear this cape?" or "am I allowed to wear this cape?" They're, "would I ever get away with it?" and "Could a young man ever wear this cape outside an SCA event?" The OP seems to be asking the question with regards to outside opinion, not with regards to self esteem.

Personally, I think for a "young man" in American society, it says "costume,' more than it says "clothing." But there are plenty of people who wear costumes.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 11:21 PM on February 4, 2011

You do realize now that you've let it go, you're going to find yourself obsessively trawling eBay for a similar cape. I have had similar fashion crises, let a wild piece go because I thought I was unable to rock it to the fullest extent, and totally kicked myself over it later.

Please be advised I fall squarely in the "don't give no fuck" category. I have found there is little reward in giving a fuck (even less so as I get older) and much in cultivating an eclectic personal style. It's possible to use elements that seem outlandish and even costumey and make them look sharp, as long as the fabrics are decent and everything fits well.

I know a few cape-wearers. One of the most notorious of them has also been seen about town in leather pants. We give him a fair amount of grief about this, but he laughs it off takes it in stride, because he is confident that he looks FULLY AWESOME in capes and leather pants.

And he does.

*DISCLAIMER - said friends fronts a prog band. And plays in an English freak-folk style band. And he's a pretty good-looking guy. So, uh YMMV a lot.

Damn that cape is sweet. I hope Greg Nog bought it.

posted by louche mustachio at 2:16 AM on February 5, 2011

I'm sorry you didn't get the cloak as well. My answer would have been the same as many others: go for it, wear it and act as if it's normal. Once you get used to wearing a cloak (or similar garment), it will be normal, anyway. You may still get comments but you'll quickly become a little surprised that people even bother.

Context: I live in Cambridge, UK, and socialise almost exclusively with a bunch of role-playing, sci-fi-reading, board-gaming, goth-dancing, computer-programming geeks. We are also functional, professionally-employed, clean, sociable and mostly happy people :). I don't dress particularly outlandishly myself, but I do regularly dye my hair bright pinks and purples and that's where my advice comes from.

If I saw you in your cloak, I would think, "Hmm, cool cloak! More people should wear those." I would quite likely say this to my companions.

I would probably also think you looked interesting, confident and approachable. I wouldn't be surprised if you were interested in reading historical novels or drinking real ale ... actually, you know what? I would think: There goes a man who probably has interests, who doesn't just come home, watch TV and go to bed every evening. This is a Good Thing.
posted by daisyk at 9:24 AM on February 5, 2011

So it's settled: the answer is to start going to more SCA-type events.
posted by rhizome at 9:42 AM on February 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Speaking as someone who goes to a lot of SCA events, forget the issue of current fashion and peoples rampant xenophobia. The real issue is that you're going to miss the use of your hands every time you want to carry something.

If you want the long billowy effect and something historic, I recommend setting the Wayback machine for a Australian sheep farm, circa 1890 and getting yourself a drovers coat. That's what I was wearing a few years ago and loved it.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 2:05 PM on February 5, 2011

Man that cape is badass. If you like to dress nicely, you NEED TO GET IT. But I think it would not look good with jeans, tennis shoes, and a t-shirt, you know? Things like this are best committed to fully or not at all.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 4:42 PM on February 5, 2011

I've seen Faint of Butt's watch cloak, or ones very similar to it, worn by extremely rich middle-aged men in Newport as a "casual" look. Looks really damn sharp, usually paired with a stetson or other broad-brimmed wool hat and hand-tailored, perfectly pressed chinos. I think you need to own a sailboat that requires a full-time hired crew or live in a house that the Historical Society has been begging your family to buy for three generations now to wear it without any self-consciousness, tho.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:01 PM on February 5, 2011

Listen to louche mustachio there. I can personally attest that a vintage Burberry will pay for itself. I think that cape is better than the one you didn't win, better by more than three hundred dollars. It's less like a costume and more like a classic-with-a-fly-as-freaking-hell twist. You could easily wear that cape every day as long as you stuck to dress pants and shoes.
posted by tel3path at 3:50 AM on February 6, 2011

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