If men would be expected to wear jackets during tango, wouldn’t it be called Bikram Tango? I recall Al Pacino in Scent Of A Woman, a beautiful three-piece marine-striped suit, tight-fitting waistcoat, button-down shirt, tastefully dotted tie, and pochette. I’d love to wear something like that and I’m sure ladies would probably like to snuggle up to it as well. For women, dressing up means losing a layer or two, and expose some skin. For men, unfortunately, it seems to mean the opposite. And, of course, I’m not Al Pacino.

Starting out in tango, our teacher used to be so immaculately dressed. I saw nobody like him on my first milonga night, though. The men looked like computer nerds, retired bookkeepers, or former hippies. Not exactly fashion statements. Myself, I was wearing my nr. 1 office suit, with sensible shoes. After five minutes, I cautiously removed my tie. After twenty, and sweating, I threw off the jacket that camouflaged my crumpled, ill-fitting white shirt stretching across my love handles. Dressing down seemed like the right thing to do, and soon after, I fit right in with the crowd.

Years followed, in which I wore T-shirts or ultra-light short-sleeved shirts. Black of course, and identical, so I could change during the evening without creating too much attention. I purchased lightweight pants that don’t crease from Murat’s mother’s online shop. I was blending in and feeling fine. But as I got older and felt more responsible for other peoples’ experience, in my role as milonga host, I’ve become more dress-code sensitive. In my professional life, I once hosted an event presented to me as a big outdoor barbeque. I didn’t read our invitation and showed up in cut-off jeans and flip-flops. The guests all arrived ‘smart casual’ and the resulting embarrassment for everybody will be with me forever. I learned not to under-dress as a host. So, when men enter the milonga wearing tasteful shirts with flowery designs and well-pressed pants, I feel the pressure. Should I upgrade my game?

I’ll need a lot of fixing. First, throw out the black stuff. Get some colored shirts, maybe with designs that signal to others that, yes, you can feel cheerful in a milonga. From there, I can maybe move on to bolder steps, like a fancy waistcoat. But how? My visits to retail shops never last longer than 15 minutes. I wasn’t built for slim-fit, the standard size nowadays. A long career of business meetings and screen time have taken their toll, as has my stress-coping strategy of embracing the cold heart of the fridge. And, my god, I look so pale in those retail shop mirrors.

Clearly, I need a plan. Loose 15 pounds, get a tan and hook up with some fashion-oriented tango dancers to guide me through the dangers of microplastic stretching, polyester fabrics, and the little issue of my green/red color blindness. Then, find a tailor somewhere in the East who still knows how to fit a three-piece suit. Some hair bleaching maybe? Let’s not exclude drastic measures. As a last step of the plan, I’ll have to learn how to dance without sweating, you know, just like Al Pacino, whispering wise life truths in my partner’s ear while hardly moving or touching.

Nah, forget it… not going to happen! Maybe when I’m older, when the knees throw in the towel.


Story posted by: Martin van Kesteren

About the author: Organiser, Writer from Amsterdam

Published: 4 Feb 2023 @ 21:39

Last modified: 20 Feb 2023 @ 09:38

Comments (1)

Adam Smolka commented:
The irony of your evocation of Scent of a Woman is that the tanguero is blind. Perhaps dress is relevant only to those on the sidelines, the realm of failed and rejected cabeceos. The dancers are otherwise engaged, in thrall to an experience that owes nothing to sight. A sensual embrace, musical surrender, and yes, even scent rule those incandescent moments!
Posted 15 Feb 2023 @ 17:51 | Last modified 15 Feb 2023 @ 17:51 | View and share
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