Who do I remind myself of? My aunt and my grandmother.
I’d better explain.
One of my buddies showed up for Bible study ranting and raving about a band called Third Day. “Where have these guys been all my life?” he kept asking. “They single-handedly got me interested in contemporary Christian music!”
This, coming from a guy who’s met Frank Black (back when he was Black Francis, frontman for the Pixies) and still gets excited when he tells the story. OK, if Jon likes these guys, I’d better check them out.
So I went out last night to get a Third Day record. OK, a CD. But “record” just sounds cooler.
Meanwhile, I remembered that the department stores were all advertising Labor Day sales. Makes sense; if consumer electronics stores do it, other places probably do too. I just never paid attention before. So I looked around. I was only mildly impressed with JC Penney. I found a couple of shirts I really liked, but not in my size. I found a short-sleeved plain white dress shirt in my size for $13 that I almost bought, but if I’m going to buy shirts, I’m not just going to buy one. It’s a minor miracle that I’ve gone shopping for clothes twice this year, so I’m not going to waste the effort.
Against my better judgment, I figured, I went into Famous-Barr. It’s a more expensive place; exclusively a midwest chain if I understand correctly. I hit paydirt. I found a rack full of short-sleeved shirts marked down to $9.99. I guess someone forgot that August just ended Friday, and we’ll be seeing the high 80s for at least another week here in St. Louis. Short-sleeved weather doesn’t really go away until mid-October. These shirts will see some good use. I grabbed a tan and a grey Geoffrey Beene, and a white shirt of some other brand. They’ll see some use this fall, and come spring, they’ll all still look good. The same shirts cost $30 in May, and that was a sale price. I know, because I bought a pair of Beenes back then and they’re my favorite shirts because they’re failry dressy, but they’re almost as comfortable as t-shirts.
I need another brown belt, too, and I looked. I found a belt I liked, made in the United States. I know I shouldn’t buy things made in totalitarian countries (the States aren’t totalitarian, you say? Two words, buddy: Dmitry Sklyarov.) but that didn’t matter. The belt was too small for me. I have to say that’s the first time I’ve ever seen a belt too small for me. I found some other belts I liked, and all of them fit, but they were all made in China. I’d sooner let my pants droop than buy something made in China, so I put them back. I guess I should have asked the clerk if they had any belts not made in China, but people who do that kind of thing bug me. The clerk has no control over where the belts come from, and his bosses don’t care. So I left the store with three nice shirts. Total cost: 34 bucks.
I didn’t used to care about how I dressed–I’d wear whatever I had that was clean, and if it was black, bonus. Then one day, not quite a year ago, I went to read my daily User Friendly, and it was the strip that introduced Sid Dabster, the old-school Unix sysadmin known for wearing a tie. “Hey! He can’t be a geek! He’s wearing a tie!”
And then I remembered a conversation I had just before the last wedding I was in. I came out of the dressing room in my tux, one of the other guys in the party whistled. “You say you don’t get any respect at work? Show up dressed like that!“
I’m 26, and I’ve spent my whole professional career in places where a 40-year-old is still considered a kid. You’re not an adult there until your kids are all married. So I figured, what the heck. I took off the polo shirt I’d put on that morning, grabbed my white long-sleeved dress shirt and a burgundy tie (rule #1: you can’t go wrong with black pants, a white shirt, and a tie that’s some shade of red–it’s completely unoriginal but it always looks good, unless you wad it up or sleep in it or something) and went off to work. People kept asking me where my job interview was that day. I just smiled mysteriously.
I went up to work on a pretty girl’s computer. “What are you all dressed up for?” she asked. Now, what I should have said was, “Because I figured I might see you,” but I’m not that smooth.
I continued the experiment for about a month. I noticed the things I said carried more weight. So, these days I wear a tie more often than my boss, more often than my boss’ boss, and even more often than the Director of IT. But that’s OK. They’re all older than me. In fact, since two of them have sons my age, they’re full-fledged adults.
After a month, the experiment stopped being an experiment and started being my daily routine. Good thing too. I ran into the prettiest girl from my high school class back in February or March. “You look nice,” she said, and then asked what I was doing these days.
I came back and told my cube neighbor I was glad I had the tie and trenchcoat that day, then told him all about it. He asked if I got a date. “No,” I said. ‘She’s married and has two kids.”
“Well then why are you worried about impressing her?” he asked, shooting me a really dirty look.
“You never know,” I said. “I doubt all of her friends are married.”
One of these days, I may figure out what colors look good together, but I pretty much cheat. If a set of colors is used on a tie, and the tie strikes me as looking good and not tacky, I’ll mimic that scheme with my choice of pants and shirt. Beyond that, I know navy blue and black don’t mix, and brown and black don’t mix either. But you’ll rarely, if ever, see those combinations on a tie.
Unfortunately, my pager is black. I’ll have to tell them to issue me a brown pager to wear some of the time so I can finally stop committing a major fashion faux pas several times a week.
Something tells me that request will get me a dirty look and nothing else.