"Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society." - Mark Twain.*
I did something today that I haven't done in ten years. No, I didn't sober up. I went clothes shopping. The last time I went clothes shopping was for a funeral. I'd like to tell you I remember the funeral and the person well, but that would be a lie. I do remember the really cool sunglasses and the sport coat I bought. The coat was a nice checked number, and the glasses looked like the ones Clint Eastwood wore in Dirty Harry. God rest his or her soul, whoever they were.
I don't shop for my own clothes for two reasons. Flannery has excellent taste, and it provides her easy gifts to shop for when a holiday arrives. She knows my sizes, colors, tastes, and needs. She always picks just the right thing and it always has a certain Flannery flair about it. I enjoy wearing what she picks.
The clothes I generally wear fall along the lines of utility. Carharts, Army surplus, T-shirts, jeans; earth tones with lots of pockets that will take a fair amount of wear and tear. I want to purchase an article of clothing that I can get six to ten years worth of wear out of, if for no other reason than I don't want to have to go out and shop for it again anytime soon. I hate shopping, unless it is for something unique to my interests e.g. new house, new car, new canoe, new hat, new beer, new gun, etc. Mostly I just want to know should the occasion arrive that I need certain duds, I have them.
Hence this morning's foray into the world of clothes shopping.
Now far be it for me to give Men's Fashion Tips as my only qualification in the field is that I have read two issues of GQ. Rural, central Ohio is not a hotbed of style gurus, so my formal training is somewhat lacking, but I do know from life experience that some situations call for certain clothes. Let's face it Gentlemen, at some time in your life you will have to attend a wedding, a funeral, a baptism, and a court date. You have to have a few simple things you can throw together so you don't look like some derelict who wandered in off the street to scrounge the ashtrays for butts. Sometimes you just have to look the part.
First off is a white shirt with a collar. At least one, and a tie. Opinions on ties vary according to taste, occasion, and the whim of fashion, but a good rule of thumb is ties with cartoons on them are only cool in situations where you don't need a tie, and take the five minutes it takes to learn how to tie one. There are only three knots and if you can tie your shoes, you can tie your tie. The only exception is the bow tie and I have spent ten years trying to figure out how to make it come out right and not look like a hangman's noose and have never mastered it. Screw it, they make clip on bow ties and no one faults you for not knowing how to tie one.
Two, you need one sport coat or one suit. Nothing fancy, nothing flashy, but it has to fit well. Most dry cleaners offer alterations for about ten bucks and you can pick up a used suit at the thrift store for about the same price. Shoot for grays, dark blues, blacks. Pinstripes never go out of fashion. Just try not to look like a banker in today's economy. In a sport coat, go with a simple tweed. Always remember that you are looking for a suit or sport coat that will be good to wear three seasons out of the year and that doesn't include winter. In winter you would wear a coat over it anyway. A wool suit or coat might look nice, but try wearing it to an out-of-doors funeral in August and you will wish very hard that you could climb into the air-conditioned limo that the widow rode in.
Three, own a turtleneck sweater. If you have to show up somewhere and look respectable (even if you aren't) a turtle-neck sweater beats wearing a tie any day. It is "dressy" enough without all the stuffiness of a tie. It couples good with your sport coat and makes you look like a Bohemian academic and that isn't a bad thing, especially for a date night.
These are time-honored classics that you just need to have. Sure, drag out your Members Only jacket for 80's night, but don't wear it to Grandma's funeral or your sister's third wedding.
That brings me full circle to the story of this morning. I had dropped the kids off at school and had some time to kill. Flannery had told me that she had cashed in some frequent flyer miles, and while they weren't enough to purchase a ticket to anywhere, but they were enough to get us $100 worth of twenty-five dollar gift certificates to our favorite local restaurant. "You've got the night off, right?" she asked. "Sure," I said, and wondered what to wear out on a date with my wife. It isn't often that we spend an evening away from home and if I want to stay in her good graces, I have to look like someone you would want to take out.
I go through my mental checklist. We will not be attending a "cheap" restaurant even if we are doing it on the "cheap". I need a turtle-neck sweater and my checked sport coat. The coat I have, as I got it for So-and-So's funeral. The sweater, I don't have.
My first thought is Macy's but they don't open until noon. Where do I get one at 9:33 AM? Target I decided. They would have cheap men's clothing, so I headed there.
On the way I contemplated how I had clothes to donate to the Salvation Army and I wished that I had had the foresight to bring them with me as it was on the way. Then I had a revelation.
Why not go shopping at the Salvation Army? What I'm looking for is really common and it is going to be cheap. Long story short; I got a dozen sweaters and shirts for $20.
Mind you, I look like I robbed Perry Como's wardrobe as it's all turtlenecks and cardigan sweaters, but a po' boy don't have to look shabby.
I'll tell you about date night later,
* -Best birthday card I ever got had this Mark Twain quote on it. Inside the card he was naked except for a fig leaf. I have it hanging in the Lodge.