I never give much thought to the clothes I buy or, more often than not, the clothes my wife picks out for me. I’m pretty conservative in dress and don’t go much for what’s fashionable or colorful.
The only reason I’m thinking about clothing now is because I was intrigued by an article on the Guardian website about a new book broadcaster Shahidra Bari entitled “Dressed.”
Bari writes that the reason we buy new clothes is because they appear to bestow on us a charm and intellect we can’t muster ourselves. Yet once we get that new coat or pair of pants, we realize nothing much has changed.
I should have learned long ago not to let women buy clothes for me. My grandmother bought my school clothes for my freshman year of high school. It was green pants, purple pants, flowered pants and orange pants with matching shirts that she told me was “all the go.” It was “all the go” enough to get me sent home from school a few times for dress-code violations and class disruption.
In my high school senior yearbook, I was also the only guy without a suit and tie.
Today, my wife believes I don’t have enough color in my wardrobe and I have too many grays, browns and blacks. Maybe I got “colored out” in high school.
Henry David Thoreau said “mistrust all enterprises that require new clothes.” I don’t know if that’s true or not, because when I started here at the newspaper I had to buy new “dress” clothes. As a factory worker I only had jeans and work clothes in my wardrobe, and I guess that defined me.
My dad wore work clothes and boots most of the time. I never saw him in a pair of shorts, a tank top or even a polo shirt. The only time he wore a suit was at funerals or as a part-time professional singer at his gigs.
Bari said the appeal of a suit is that it doesn’t look as if it’s trying too hard. She sees it as both a defense and a triumphant reworking of early childhood trauma.
“It is capable of dignified deception, precisely because it seems, on the surface ... (to keep) unruly feelings at bay.
I don’t wear clothes today to keep unruly feelings at bay, but in my high school days I did wear an army jacket with flowered pants to protest the Vietnam War. Today I prefer not to wear my feelings through my attire, although sometimes I wear a Chiefs, Royals or Blackhawks baseball cap whether they’re winning or losing. I also have more T-shirts than I need. It seems if you do anything they wanna give you a T-shirt. Volunteer somewhere they give you a T-shirt. If you go anywhere you have to buy a T-shirt that says you went there.
On weekends I dress like a bum as I’m usually running around in yard work clothes. People treat me differently then because they don’t recognize me. They are ruder than when I’m dressed more respectably.
Bari also discusses dresses. She claims they have no place in a modern woman’s wardrobe. She wrote “why would anyone voluntarily shimmy themselves into a garment designed to cling to one’s body while simultaneously restricting its movement?”
I’m no sartorial expert, but what does it all matter? Clothing is really to keep us all from running around nude and uncivilized.