Because life is a series of edits

No Longer A Slave to Fashion

In Pop Culture, Thought on August 26, 2012 at 3:16 pm

Star Spangled CraigMy 1976 modeling start in trendy patriotic wear, combined with my mid-80's experimentation in Miami casual wear, led to a fashion-despite-finances struggle through the latter part of the 90's and 00's. However, beginning in my mid-thirties and now into my forties, I can safely say without guilt or shame that I am no longer a slave to fashion.

Apparently, this does not surprise anyone but me. You see, I always thought of myself as a decent dresser ("decent" defined as things matching), but I'm coming to realize that I've turned into that guy who says he just doesn't care about keeping up with the latest styles not because I really don't, but because I'm simply too clueless to understand what they are anymore.

Jeans are a good example of my not picking up the ringing clue phone. Apparently, my light blue acid wash jeans – though perfectly functional and comfortable – are beyond suspect now; in a word, they are "out." I first wondered about this say, oh, ten years ago, when mine were the lightest color in any room, but now I know that jeans can't just be jeans anymore, particularly since the introduction a few years ago of the so-called "skinny jeans," which I have neither desire nor ability to wear.

A few weeks ago, my mother sent me a bunch of my dad's old short-sleeved shirts that he wasn't wearing. Mom has done this a few times in the past decade, and while conventional wisdom says I should be appalled to even think about wearing my father's clothes, I confess I appreciated the shirts and never once balked at wearing them. In fact, this latest bunch are nice enough (at least in my mind) that I'm happily getting rid of some from previous batches because I just don't need so many.

And then it hits me: I have not just turned into my father; I have gladly accepted his hand-me-downs. Somewhere Don Johnson is rolling over in his white sport coat.

Last week, one of my staff came to me with an envelope that had my name on it. She explained that she had recently come into some money from a business venture and had prayed how God would have her tithe and give part of it. Thinking she was giving toward our school, I thanked her for her gift and asked if she would like it applied to our scholarship fund or capital campaign. Perhaps somewhat embarrassed, she simply said I would know when I opened the card, which I did.

Inside was a $200 gift card in my name to The Men's Wearhouse. Was this a gift or a hint? Somewhere Philip Michael Thomas's hair just straightened.

This afternoon, I was at the Penn Square Mall, which happens to have a Men's Wearhouse store. Thinking back, I realized that the last time I bought clothes was four to five years ago – about my standard – in St. Louis, the experience of which actually included a pretty cool story (along with some good used clothes). Heading into the store here in OKC, I found (or he found me) Dan the Sales Guy, a sharp-dressed man in his early 50s who was very kind and very happy to make suggestions in answer to my asking the best way to spend $200 at his store.

I learned a couple of things from Dan: pleated pants are out; the smaller the pattern on a tie, the more formal it is considered; and The Men's Wearhouse and I have different opinions of what "fun" ties are (the store's idea of a plaid print as "mixing it up" didn't seem to compare with the Looney Tunes tie I own). Dan also seemed to hint that wearing plain white shirts (even with ties) was not all that hip anymore, but I can't bring myself to believe that, particularly when I own several white shirts and wear ties with them all the time.

Fortunately for me, the store was in its last week of a two-for-one sale, but even taking that into account, I was amazed at how fast $200 went. Dan helped me pick out two pairs of pants (flat in the front instead of pleated…ahem), two button-down shirts, and two ties, all of which mixed and matched together. I picked out two more ties that I liked and thought would be a good addition to my wardrobe, but while Dan was impressed with my choices, my taste was beyond what I could afford ($60 for a tie – even for two if you applied the sale) just seemed ridiculous to my school teacher sensibilities.

I asked Dan if he could tell I was no slave to fashion. He responded with a laugh and a grin, saying he had pegged me as such when I walked in and just hoped that the "trendy" clothes I was buying from him today would make it five years until my next spending spree. I assured him they would, took his card, and told him to put me down for a follow-up review in 2017.

Until then, I'll hang onto my dad's old shirts, sort through ties I've been wearing since the late 80's, and cull a few (but only a few) pairs of pants I bought back in the mid-90s. Surely pleats, floral print ties, and acid wash jeans will return at some point in my lifetime.

And when they do, I'll be ready for them.

  1. Barry Schwartz, the author of “The Paradox of Choice,” has a great story of walking into a Gap and asking for a pair of jeans, only to be accosted with a plethora of choices: baggy, slim, boot cut, straight cut, distressed, etc. To which he replied: “I want the kind that used to be the ONLY kind.”
    He’s my kind of guy :) Glad you were able to make some good choices.

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