12/02/2015 05:33 EST | Updated 12/02/2016 05:12 EST

Men, Have You Been Plaid-Shamed?

Cool nerd or geek in 70's glasses gesturing with hands. Shot in the studio on a white background.
Spiderstock via Getty Images
Cool nerd or geek in 70's glasses gesturing with hands. Shot in the studio on a white background.

"Eventually the caffeine kicked in and it hit me: I'd been sweat-shamed."

- Amy Roe in The Guardian - September 30, 2015

Recently, I was standing in line at my local McDonald's when the person behind me asked, "Is that a plaid shirt you're wearing?"

I was flustered, my face turned a crimson red and I quickly exited the restaurant without ordering my desired Big Mac and fries.

It was only when I sat down inside my car in the parking lot that I realized what had happened: I'd been plaid-shamed.

I'm sure some of you have been the victim of this nasty behavior, although given that we plaid-wearers are a minority, most of you probably aren't aware of this all-too-common offence.

Thinking back, this wasn't the first time that I had been plaid-shamed. I recall one particularly hurtful episode in my former workplace when my boss glanced at my cravat and said, "Is that a plaid tie?"

I was so embarrassed that I didn't know what to say.

"It's my family tartan," I meekly replied. My boss smiled and said that was interesting, although I sensed that his expressed interest was not entirely genuine.

I never found out for sure since I was so distraught that I turned and fled before I was further interrogated.

I don't think everyone is as insensitive as my former boss or the person in the McDonald's line. Sadly, though, there are enough plaid-averse people out there to make my life uncomfortable. And that is not fair.

Why should I forego my favorite plaid shirt or tartan tie just to avoid the public shaming that is as sure to come as madras follows windowpane? Why do I have to alter my behaviour when it is the plaid-shamers who are at fault?

The anti-plaiders point out my unusual shirt pattern and feel no regret or remorse for the harm they have done. In all likelihood, they are ignorant of the psychological damage their thoughtless remarks have caused. While they blissfully go about their plaid-free day, I am left in mental disarray trying to recover from their latest plaid-shaming.

And the damage doesn't end there. In a perfect world, I would not have to suffer the anti-checks-and-stripes slights of the no-plaid crowd, and would feel free to wear whichever pattern I choose. But in today's world of narrow-minded haberdashery, I far too easily succumb to the pattern pressure and typically avoid my favourite plaid shirts and ties altogether.

Worse yet, I allow the thoughtless clothing commentators to severely restrict even the type of clothing item I will wear. Although I still screw up the courage to wear the occasional plaid shirt or even a tartan tie, I have been plaid-shamed into surrender when it comes to pants.

It only took one cruel shopper to curtail that clothing choice who, on eyeing me at the local department store wearing one of my favourite pair of plaid pants, insensitively asked, "Are you going golfing?"

The shame and embarrassment that I felt from that encounter has kept me from the plaid pants corner of my clothing closet to this day. I was so humiliated that I can no longer wear those patterned trousers even on the links.

The sad thing is that this phenomenon seems to be directly solely against males. I have yet to hear of a plaid-wearing woman being called out on her clothing preference. So, until such time as we plaid-loving men can present ourselves in public unassailed, we will not have achieved the measure of apparel acceptance and tolerance that should be our right.


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