In the realm of insecurities, the eternal question — “How do I look?” — stands high on the list.
As I dove blindly into adolescence, my mom reflexively gave me two answers: “Oh, your fine.” Then the follow-up: “People wear anything these days.”
I learned not to ask.
Many clichés offer more helpful advice, unless taken together. Here are a few:
- Dress for success.
- Don’t garb yourself better than the boss.
- Clothes make the man. Remember that women came from Adam’s rib, so ancient scrolls tell us. Here then is the corresponding answer to every boy’s early question, “Where did I come from?”
- Choose attire for the next job, not your current one.
- Use a wide-brimmed hat. My first dermatologist made the suggestion, the better to avoid sun damage. If you meet me outside, you’ll notice either a fedora or a baseball cap.
- No one cares, so put on anything you want. The voice of wisdom?
- I don’t give a crap what people think. This is closer to the attitude of the Medicare-eligible crowd. Well, not always true for me, but often.
- “You don’t dress-up because the occasion is special, you dress-up to make the event special.” The words of Lee Sechrest, a grad school professor of mine. Good perspective.
Sixteen-year-old young men, if I can remember back, want to drape themselves with something to disguise uncontrollable projectile erections. What is a projectile erection, you ask? Any phallic enlargement moving from zero to 60 mph in the time it takes to say “boo!” I’m relieved kids on Halloween don’t know this.
Not only beautiful women produce the unwanted upsurge. A thought, a memory, or a sentence in your book will do the job. Your penis does what it wants when it wants, a thing untamed. Spring-loaded, rather like the abrupt opening of an automatic, switch blade knife. The type of display causing a woman of antique years to demand, “I know what’s under there. Put that away young man!”
Where? How? In a backpack or a paper bag or my pocket? The latter enclosure recalls a legendary movie scene. May West, the cheeky sex symbol of her time, asked the actor opposite her “Is that a pistol in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?”
Clothes can be thought of as having a few different purposes. Mae West authored the first one:
- “Its better to be looked over than overlooked.”
- Comfort of fit.
- Appropriateness for the weather.
- To show respect.
- Display your body to advantage.
- Cover up a less than ideal shape or aspect of your physical self. Kind of like the tailor’s equivalent of a comb-over.
I don’t buy attire too often, other than another pair of blue jeans and more underwear. Standards of adornment for classical concert-going, for example, now permit almost anything. Holy cow, my mother was right! Just 40-years ahead of everyone else.
A stalwart few continue to don a suit and tie when attending the opera, too, but they are dying out. Literally.
When I courted my wife the jacket and tie issue arose in an upscale restaurant. We went to dinner at the Blackhawk in downtown Chicago. The snooty middle-aged maître d’ told me I needed a sport coat, “at least.” He gave me one to put on.
I did, but was bummed out for a few minutes. My future wife said nothing about the embarrassment. A lovely person even then.
The Blackhawk is long gone. The maître d’ by now is departed, as well.
Moral: if you can’t beat ’em, try to outlast ’em. And don’t slip into a hoodie made of red meat if you want to work in a zoo!
Before I sign off for today, here is a tender piece just published by Chicago Tribune columnist Rex Huppke on the loss of his father: Holidays, Loss, and a Tattoo My Dad Would Hate/
The top photo is called Mystery Man and His Wife, All Dressed Up, from September 10, 2010. It is sourced from Wikimedia Commons and displayed there by whatsthatpicture.