Oh My God Shut Up About the Male Rompers
“OMG have you heard there’s a MALE ROMPER? HAR HAR HAR! HOW INSANE! Who would EVER wear that?!”
I’ve heard about 90 variations of this on my social media feeds and in my iMessages over the past few days. You see, there’s a Kickstarter right now raising money for RompHim, which is — you guessed it — a romper for men.
The Kickstarter went viral and has already trounced its goal of $10,000 about 25 times over. It’s gotten credulous press coverage everywhere from GQ to CNN and now, despite my best efforts to ignore it, Galore.
People are losing their shit over the idea that someone, somewhere, would earnestly wear a male romper. And I really didn’t want to add to the cacophony of shock and awe over the concept, because I don’t think it’s a real concept. RompHim was clearly a novelty item and viral stunt from the jump.
But consumers and reporters are treating it like a product that people are actually interested in. The idea is that some bros would wear this without irony. And because guys in feminine-inspired clothing is considered a ridiculous concept, the thought is that these earnest bros deserve to be mocked. And people love to mock bros. Hence, RompHim has gone viral.
But here’s the thing. No bro is actually wearing a male romper, except as a joke.
It’s kind of like ugly Christmas sweaters. People who wear them are ostensibly doing it ironically — but there’s effectively no such thing as a person who wears ugly Christmas sweaters unironically anymore, so the joke has no punchline.
It’s obvious the creators of RompHim want to convince you there’s a legitimate customer for the male romper. The Kickstarter is designed to make you think this is a totally earnest project. It even asks, “Why wasn’t there anything out there that allowed guys to be more stylish and fun without also sacrificing comfort, fit, and versatility?”
Come on, these guys are full of shit! Even on women, rompers are neither stylish nor fun at this point. But still, everyone’s taking the bait and getting a kick out of the concept that men would genuinely want to wear rompers.
Even CNN fell for it. “The one-piece clothing item preferred by babies and women at outdoor concerts has officially hit the male fashion mainstream,” the site proclaimed. But the male romper has not hit the male fashion mainstream. No one is ever going to wear a RompHim seriously.
RompHim is basically the same as “meggings” were a few years ago. Conan O’Brien made the concept of “man jeggings” go viral by wearing them on his show. Again, the “joke” was that someone (e.g., a guys’ guy like Conan) would wear something so stupid (e.g., feminine). I’m not even gonna go into the blatant sexism of finding a man in women’s clothing inherently laughable. That’s a completely different topic. But RompHim and meggings both make fun of someone who just doesn’t actually exist: a straight, bro-ey guy who wears a romper or leggings without realizing people will think he looks dumb.
RompHim was never supposed to be serious. But that fact has completely gone over the heads of almost everyone who’s covered it. Even GQ asserts that RompHim’s “wild popularity is evidence that the American man’s thirst for comfortable clothing and convenience may never be quenched.” Sure, GQ’s probably being tongue-in-cheek about this, but the people making RompHim spread like wildfire on social media are not.
Because this isn’t about thirst for comfortable clothing and convenience. It’s about the American bro’s thirst for novelty items that you could buy at Spencer’s Gifts. The four founders created RompHim as a college project, for god’s sake, and they admitted as much to GQ! This was never supposed to be a real product that people wanted — it was always supposed to be a viral stunt.
This isn’t to say that people aren’t going to buy and wear RompHim. But they’re all going to do it as a joke, like those stupid Christmas tuxes you can buy at JC Penney. The thing about products like RompHim and ugly Christmas apparel is that there’s no there there.
This is not the first time my social feeds have been invaded by a product going mega-viral based on a false premise, and it won’t be the last. All of the fanfare over these male rompers reminds me of the work of my old editor, Ryan Holiday.
Ryan was Tucker Max’s publicist during the “I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell” days. He basically helped rocket Tucker to the best-seller list by creating fake controversy surrounding Tucker’s book, and whipping people — and the media — into a frenzy based on how awful Tucker was.
It might sound like I’m bashing Ryan by saying that stuff, but I’m not. His goal was to make people hate Tucker so much he got famous, resulting in a landslide of free press for his book (and his subsequent movie). There truly is no such thing as bad publicity.
Ryan totally admits his tactics in his book, “Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator,” and divulges all his secrets. Ryan is a pro at manipulating the media — especially online media — into talking about whatever he wants them to talk about.
Gawker loathed him for this, which — no shade to Gawker, may it rest in peace — says a lot about how good he was at it.
When I was still working under Ryan at the Observer, he tracked down the guy behind “Ship Your Enemies Glitter.” Do you remember “Ship Your Enemies Glitter”? Similar to RompHim, it was a Kickstarter project with no actual product behind it — just a jokey premise with viral potential.
And SYEG did, in fact, go viral. People were just tickled by the idea that someone, somewhere, would ship their enemy a tube of glitter so that it exploded all over said enemy when they opened it. The only problem: no one had ever actually done it. The project raised $85,000 based solely on viral hype, and the owner sold the company before he ever shipped a single glitter tube. The product literally didn’t exist! It was just a Kickstarter page.
It’s pretty clear that RompHim is coasting on the same hype as SYEG. People are freaking out over the fact that a guy would wear a romper in earnest, but, as I mentioned before almost no one would.
I reached out to Ryan this morning, and he was on the same page as me.
“I think it’s hard for people to understand that the absurdity, and stupidity of the idea is precisely why it’s getting so much attention,” he said over email. “Interesting Kickstarters have been covered to death, boring or lame Kickstarters aren’t worthy of coverage — so the media essentially creates a market for ridiculously bad ideas.”
He also pointed out that the fact that you’re all losing your shit over RompHim is reminiscent of the exhaustive coverage of Trump’s every utterance during the 2016 election cycle, which some say helped him win.
While you’re laughing at them, Ryan says, “they’re laughing all the way to the bank.”
He also shared my disbelief over news outlets covering RompHim as if it’s a real thing, but offered a v literary explanation.
“I guess that goes to Upton Sinclair’s line that it’s hard to get someone to see something when their salary depends on them not understanding it,” he said. “If you see it as trolling, you don’t get to write about it, you don’t get to condescendingly mock it on social media either.”
Writers cover it as if it’s real, everyone keeps talking about it more and more, and people want to buy the male romper to make fun of the imaginary guys who like rompers.
So why is it making me so mad, besides the fact that I just downed a venti cold brew and that always gets me a little more irritable than usual? I guess it’s just annoyance at people’s inability to see through ploys like RompHim. It’s so obviously been a publicity stunt from the jump. It bugs me that it’s so easy for that to fly over people’s heads. No one would seriously wear a male romper, but the general public clung to the concept and posted all about it on social media to make fun of a person who doesn’t exist.
Like, really guys, all it takes to convince you that there’s an earnest male-romper-wanting public was a Kickstarter full of photos of models being paid to wear rompers? Ugh, so depressing.
Anyway, I can’t wait for this summer to be full of the bro-iest guys I know wearing male rompers “as a joke.” But please, someone, for the love of god, tell me: who’s the joke actually on?