View from the terrace of the family's Brooklyn Heights apartment

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

John's ratty old shirt

“I don’t understand men’s attitude toward clothes,” my colleague Marcia complained over coffee in the faculty lounge. “They have no imagination at all.”
“I’m no authority on male fashion, as you can see.” I’d always dressed down and was wearing jeans and a faded polo shirt as usual to teach my Wednesday seminar. “What’s the problem?”
“John. He had this ratty old shirt that was falling apart--literally. It was worn through at the elbows and collar and bleached beyond recognition. When I threw it out, he complained--and sulked. He’s still sulking!”
“He’s got two closets full of jackets, slacks. and half a dozen almost identical shirts he hardly ever wears. It turns out that I threw away his favorite shirt!”
“What does he usually wear?”
“An old lab coat in the office. An ancient pair of khaki pants. And that ratty shirt. You’d never know he’s a cardiologist!”
“And he buys his own clothes?”
“Well yes, in the neighborhood and sometimes online. But only once in a blue moon.”
“And what kind of clothes does he buy?”
“Mostly casual. From L.L. Bean, Ocean State Job Lot. Whatever strikes his fancy. Last year he actually bought two golf shirts, one online from Macy’s for fifty dollars, the other at the Job Lot for six! And he only wears the six dollar shirt!”
“I think I can explain this business about John’s old shirt.  After I buy clothes and wear them a couple of times, four out of five go to the upstairs closet, almost never to be worn.”
“But why?” 
“Lots of reasons. I decide I don’t like the cut or the fit. It’s not comfortable. It doesn’t feel right. It’s not--flattering, as you might say. Much of this may be in my head, but that’s the way I feel.”
“What kind of clothes are you comfortable in?”
“Good question. Pants with a bit of a peg, trim jeans and shorts, polo shirts with a breast pocket, sneakers, zippered jackets. sweatshirts without hoods. Could be a kind of nostalgia. I like the kind of clothes young people wore when I was a teenager.”
“Even if they’re unfashionable now?”
“If they feel right, I don’t care a fig about fashion. The problem is that what I like can be hard to come by. Now it’s all fat pants, droopy shorts, prison fits, tee-shirts with splashy displays. It’s the same with pop music, I guess. I gave up keeping track after the Rolling Stones.” Marcia had registered wide-eyed comprehension when I mentioned styles that were popular decades ago.
“Aha!” she said. “That explains it! That ratty shirt. I think it’s just like the one he was always wearing when we met in college. It might even have been the same shirt! Middle-aged men want to dress in what was the fashion when they were young!”
“And middle-aged women don’t?”
“They would not, could not even think of dressing the way they did in high school! They’d feel absurd!” Marcia was wearing a well-cut business suit, and I think I got her point. It’s middle-aged and older men, apparently, who are nostalgic about what they wear. And nostalgic about other things as well. I recalled a hit from the 60s or 70s. The chorus, which I sung off-key to Marcia, begins, “Those were the days, my friend, we thought they’s never end, we’d sing and dance forever and a day!”
“Nostalgia about your misspent youth I understand,” Marcia admitted, “but not John’s ridiculous attachment to his ratty old shirt!”


  1. I feel you. Though, we have nothing to do with what others wear but it is very important to wear appropriate clothes especially at work. I have seen this Nashville screen printing that have customize casual shirt for men that they can make their own style but it formal dress. Personality reflects on the appearance and it affects us as individual at work.

  2. It is always nice to look tidy. It is more appealing to see casual wear and pleasant.

  3. I into tie dying these days and I find it very nice especially for old clothes. Being resourceful by converting old clothes to new style is a great thing to do.


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