Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sartorial Adventures

Every few years my cousin from NYC, a writer, producer and former fashion model comes out to help me shop for clothing. On this day, her face lights up with glee when I mention that we have a Nordstrom Rack 15 minutes from my house. She wants me to look good to attract my future wife – I just wanted a linen suit for the 3 weddings I have to go to this summer. She’s been working on me for 2 decades to shed years of self-effacement, starting in the late 70s with my waist length hair hippie persona that evolved into the REI guy look….loose clothing suited for outdoor living. Here in Boulder , Colorado no one has to dress up – you can wear shorts and a T-shirt to all but the most high end restaurants and no one cares. Women care more. It’s common in this town to see a guy with a backwards baseball cap, shorts and an ill fitting t-shirt show up with his well dressed date to any given restaurant. At nearly 50, I’m still part savage. I work as a carpenter in clothing stained with caulk, wood sap and dirt so ingrained it can’t be laundered. But at night, particularly on the weekends, a crisp stylish shirt and good pair of jeans goes a long way in this town. The “playah” clothing my cuz helped me purchase 3 years ago, mostly at Urban Outfitters and Billabong, served to alienate my Ex as she believed I was trying to be single; well, she was right: part of me did. Now I get to do it full time and it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. More on that later – back to Nordstrom’s Rack with our golf pro salesman who I’m going to call Chuck even though that’s not his real name. He looks like a Chuck – ruddy faced, red haired, middle aged with a small paunch beneath his tucked in shirt. He’s the nicest guy: a former car salesman turned golf pro turned clothing guy. Maybe in New York in the 1920s his job would be more esteemed – he be a Haberdasher- but in 2010 he’s just a guy hawking deeply discounted stuff at an outlet store. My cousin is a whiz at this. I swear she should quit all of her media ventures and hire out as a PFA – my acronym for personal fashion assistant. Her fingers move so quickly through stacks of jeans and racks of shirts I can’t keep up with her. I wasn’t able to change my jeans and shirts as fast as she brought stuff to the dressing room. I had so much shit in there they gave me the wheelchair accessible changing room. It was like renting a double wide trailer for two hours. I could have installed plumbing and a make-up mirror and felt like a rock star for a day. The problem with me shopping by myself is that I’ve bought size XL for many years. My cuz reprimanded me for trying to hide my burly torso in clothes roomy enough to have a roommate in. She’s also addressed my protruding nipple issues by insisting I wear undershirts. I told her how “east coast” that was and that most guys except for my buddy Jeff (a New Yorker) go raw skin underneath. Today I discovered nipple covers at a local pharmacy – well, for women who generally have double the nippleage as me. They should make them for men. I now know my chest size (42 L), shirt size and have my first pair of tailored pants in my life. I’m gonna look sharp for these weddings. I even have a matching straw hat and belt not to mention cuff links, handkerchiefs and new, tighter fitting undies to hide my junk from the wedding guests. I dropped $56 on a tie that I’ll probably wear once in the next 5 years. I’m o.k. with that. I’ve only worn a tie once in the past 30 years for my college graduation last year. I've had to Google diagrams on how to tie a tie. I’m the guy who didn’t learn to tie my shoelaces until I was 9 years old. My cuz told me if I’m really going to attract the right woman I need to dress my best. But then, what happens when she gets into my dusty pick- up truck and comes to see my Spartan home with my 1970s stereo components and futon couch? A buddy told me that futons scream “non-committal.” I’m new at this game. The problem with a partial makeover is that it makes the rest of your stuff look shabby. If my continually improving image doesn’t have its complement at home, am I just a poser? Well, yes, I’m terribly image conscious despite the fact I walk around with a semi-kempt shock of hair, cuts from mountain bike crashes all over my legs and remnants of salad usually stuck in my impossible to floss teeth. I’m working on it. I grew up like Greystoke or that boy who was raised by wolves. I love my folks, but I had to learn the basics of self-care as an adult. One friend admonishes me for spitting while I talk and blowing too large a volume of wind from my mouth. I swear it would be easier just to be a slob. My inner JewBu wants a woman just to love me for my soul. Why should these clothes, bits of cotton, polyester, wool and lycra that have been draped on my body make one iota of difference in who I am? Well, they don’t. But how we dress and how it makes us feel is as important as anything else in life. It simply feels good to look good.


  1. Gee, you've got me thinking ... my daughter and other friends are always trying to do a makeover on me. I let them sometimes because it's fun to play dress-up and get all that attention, and even touching ("have you ever considered wearing your hair like *this* -- with their fingers caressing my scalp) ... but I usually revert to type pretty soon, and I *never* spend a lot of money on clothes, just can't make myself do it. But you're right about this part: "how we dress and how it makes us feel is as important as anything else in life. It simply feels good to look good." But it depends on how you define "look good" eh? Anyway, I enjoy your writing, it makes me laugh, something I value highly in a friend! Cheers -- Bonnie

  2. I love it!!! Hey, next time your cuz comes to town, how about you invite me along; I could definitely use a fashion makeover! It's often fun to have someone else pick things out, bc they are not limited to your mindset of, I'd NEVER wear that.
    While I agree that sometimes it's a mood lift to dress up, it's also important to always be yourself, therein attracting someone who loves the real you (clothes or no clothes)! That way, if we're all reduced to cavemen again after oil spills, forest fires, and recessions have their way with us, you're best friend will still be by your side because of you and not your rags.
    Keep it up, Cave Boy!