I was recently compelled to buy clothes at a local department store. This was a big deal for me as I rarely venture into such stores preferring to inherit my duds from dead uncles.
I have had a true fear of clothes buying ever since I was a youngster. My father, a really great guy who wore suits and a felt hat to work, preferred inexpensive locations. He regularly scanned the newspaper looking for the latest fashions at E.J. Korvettes and K-Mart. If there was a closeout, all the better.
He announced that the local haberdasher had a great sale on suits on Saturday and we were going. As an enthusiastic sixth grader and hoping to enter the upper echelons of big business some day, I did not object.
Saturday came, we climbed into the car and were soon at the store parking lot. There, in letters bigger than a truck, were “Sale Today – Big Markdowns”, “50% Off”, “Fantastic Deals.” This was eye candy for my dad.
He entered the store and quickly scanned the area until he saw the “drastic markdown” rack. “This is what we’re looking for.” He immediately picked a suit and had me try it on. “Perfect”, he said, “let’s go.” That was it. Maybe seven minutes tops. “Leave it on so your mother can see it.”
We got home and my mom let out a barely distinguishable gasp when she saw me. Did she think I looked smart in my new clothes? Perhaps she realized I was now ready to enter corporate America at a young and tender age? “Oh honey, you look so handsome. Joe, may I talk with you in the kitchen”? There was some muffled talk which I could not quite make out, but I did hear the words “but honey, it was on sale” quite a few times.
I realized later that this suit looked good on me if you were about 300 yards away and lost your glasses. At that distance, the soft gray lines complemented my narrow frame and made me look sophisticated beyond my years, downright dapper.
Up close, the pattern was a crosscheck of green and yellow stripes offset by gray and blue horizontal lines with white accents. This suit screamed “Sale!!”. “You can wear that for your class picture” remarked my dad. My sympathetic classmates made sure I was right up front, so I was a clear standout in the group photo.
Thus my lifelong phobia about clothes buying. I still have T-shirts from college, though the addition of 20 pounds, okay maybe 30, makes them a tad tight. They still fit, sorta, and the faded logos for long-forgotten brands add a classic touch. I get a lot of “Hey man, that’s so cool” which really means “you are sooo 90’s grandpa” according to my son who only sports clothes which are ripped, torn or shredded.
Though I had high expectations of working in an office building handling big deals, I work in a place where jeans and a polo shirt fits right in with the guy next to me wearing a polo shirt and jeans. Cold weather? Just switch to long sleeves. Bad news: I had already cut the sleeves off my shirts since the elbows had worn through, so I had to go shopping.
Now it was time to put all I’d learned into practice. I glanced at my watch and dashed into the store. Quick turn to the right to get jeans and a turn to the left for slacks. What’s this? A shirt in the bargain aisle I had to have. Cash at the checkout, skip the bag and the offer for $5.00 off my next $200.00 purchase, out of there in five minutes flat!
I pulled on the sale shirt at home and looked in the mirror. “Nice duds”, I thought to myself.
My wife appeared and immediately gave me a disgusted look. “I will never . . be seen . . with you . . in a public place . . if you ever . . wear that, THAT . . .!” When she wants to make a memorable point, she pauses between words so everything sinks in. I reminded her “it was on sale!!” Nevertheless, she rapidly descended the stairs.
I only wish I had bought the matching slacks.