“Did you ever feel as if the whole world was a tuxedo and you were a pair of brown shoes.”
— George Gobel
A man my age should be pretty embarrassed to admit that of my six-plus decades, it's only been a few relatively short years that I have actually dressed myself. I don't mean that literally, as I have dressed myself for a few years now, but in the figurative sense of actually shopping and buying clothes. I have never been a shopper. I will never be a shopper. I always have been and always will be a purchaser. If I have something in my hand that satisfies my tastes and needs, I would not put it back and drive across the highway to save $5. I mean come on — once I factor in my gas and my time.
I know there are probably two or three straight, married men who actually pick out their own clothing. But I would personally bet you they are not under the age of 50. That was not my male generations norm. We just wore the clothes our wives purchased. I know I tried to shop for myself on more than one occasion, but my tastes were usually met with an eye roll and an occasional out loud by my ex, “No, Lindon. You can't wear that in public!”
And sometimes it wasn't even warranted. Who wears a Hugh Hefner smoking jacket and silky pajama bottoms in public? I think that criticism was just plain superfluous and out of habit.
Alas, due to fate and some probably bad personal choices many years ago, I found myself a gentleman without a spouse and with a wardrobe so out of style that even my paisley Bermuda shorts were the target of some very public rude staring and finger pointing. Some people just seem to think they have the right to express their opinion on things that are really none of their business.
I will readily admit that I still wear underwear that have long passed their manufacturer's suggested retail life span. But, in my defense, they still do the job. As a man, I also will state here that whoever thought white was the proper color for men's underwear must have also thought paisley Bermuda shorts would someday be in vogue.
I was kind of a clothes hound in my early 20s when such things seemed to matter to me. I spent a lot of money on clothes. I had it all in my '70s wardrobe closet. I mean the flared pants, the leisure suit, and those leather jackets with the fringe hanging all over them. I had a CPO jacket. Yep, I was as Soul Train as a white guy could get when I was a younger, well-dressed man. I won't even go into details on that Nehru clothing fashion tragedy from 1968. I was not ashamed to risk my sharp-dressed man reputation to be on the front end of a new fashion trend. Let's just say that the Nehru shirt look went the way of velour track suits; each of which might possibly still be neatly packed away in a drawer somewhere. You know how fashions always come back in.
I had an occasion this past week to attend one of those high-brow $100 per person charity functions, which necessitated buying some new clothes. I needed a new suit and accessories. I went to Kohl's. My leisure suit just didn't seem to fit any longer.
The suit that was pictured on the wall happened to be on sale at half-off. And anyone who shops with Kohl's knows about price reduction. The half off is only the beginning of the final price. You have your Kohl's bucks, which apply like cash, then you get one of those scratch-offs that can be anywhere from an additional 5% discount off the price up to I guess they would have to pay me money to buy the suit. I think my Kohl's lottery discount ticket gave me an additional 15% off the already 50% off price with a chance to then apply my Kohl's cash. I had to take the cashier's word for the final price as I didn't have my Texas Instruments calculator from high school on my person to figure out the Calculus involved in final pricing of an item at Kohl's. I always love when I check out at Kohl's and drop a couple hundred dollars or more and the smiling, cheerful Stepford Wife at the register assures me I saved $400.12 by shopping at Kohl's today. And she says it with a straight face and a look of total sincerity. One of the few retail places that still brainwashes, er, trains their floor people.
I looked at the picture of the man wearing the very suit I wanted to buy. Man, I sure wanted to look like him at the gala. I whipped that thing into the fitting room immediately. Fitting room is another false claim they use at Kohl's. The first time I try on anything it never fits anything like it does the guy in the picture. I am guessing he doesn't buy off the rack.
Of course, it could be that he is 21 years old, spends 12 hours a day in the gym, probably hasn't eaten a candy bar his whole life, and is a 6-foot, 2-inch slender build and thinks dry wheat germ is an actual dessert. For those who only know me through this space, my body build and type is the antithesis of the guy on the Kohl's suit poster. Every meal I eat weights more than that guy.
And then there are the carnival funhouse extremely well-lit “fitting” room mirrors. If the camera adds 10 pounds to you, those reflective monstrosities add 30 pounds and shorten my height by 6 inches. I looked like a poorly dressed, overweight gnome. I wanted to call my friend attorney “Uncle” Larry Wilder to pursue a false advertising lawsuit.
I did decide upon a nice dark suit, a pretty nice dress shirt with a semi-loud pattern, and a Jerry Garcia custom tie. I was so proud. A Jerry Garcia tie looks a lot like what Jerry Garcia saw when he tripped on LSD before going on stage — but somehow classy and elegant in silk dress tie mode.
So earlier this year, a new female companion has entered my life. I know, I couldn't possibly be more surprised. Of course, I was able to fool the last one for over three decades. I was so proud to show off my new suit and tie to my girlfriend, who took one look at it and replied something to the effect of, “No Lindon. You can't wear that in public.”
I went back and bought a rather plain but expensive black tie. Much like fashion trends that always come back around, I had a moment of deja vu. As long as there is a woman in my life, I will probably not be dressing myself. I am pretty sure that is a good thing.
— Lindon Dodd is a freelance writer who can be reached at email@example.com.