A few days ago, my wife found a dry cleaning ticket in her purse. She warned me that “you might have a sports jacket at the cleaner.” I said that I would “take inventory” but I really couldn’t tell what might be missing. I found two Navy Blue jackets, but I wasn’t sure if one of them was the one my new jacket was meant to replace – as in I never put it in the Salvation Army box – as in I can’t be trusted with an entire closet full of clothes, especially clothes that are basically all the same.
Guy’s clothes are easy. I tend to buy shirts, shoes, slacks and suits that go reasonably well together, and then I just take the next thing in line off the rack. I can count the times that I’ve really thought about what I was going to wear on one hand and maybe a few fingers from the other. My wife or a coworker might ask me “what are you wearing to (some event)?” and my answer is usually “pants and my (gray or blue) jacket” or if the event is less formal, “just the stuff I wear to work” – we’re “business casual” now so that means Docker’s and a dress shirt. It isn’t a very difficult decision. The pants are black, gray, blue or khaki and most of my shirts go with all color variations, so it’s basically one pair of pants and one shirt. I could probably get dressed in the dark.
During the 80’s, when I worked for two different large consulting companies, getting dressed was even easier. Both firms required men to wear suits. I had gray suits and I had and blue suits. I had white and blue dress shirts and my ties went with everything. Back then, when someone would ask “what are you going to wear to…?” the answer was always “a suit.” The odd wardrobe item for me was a khaki colored suit. I didn’t wear that suit that often, because I always seemed to spill something on it the first day it came back from the cleaner. The cleaner joked that “this suit is putting my kids through college.”
One time, as I sat down in a restaurant, I hooked the sleeve over a full bottle of beer, pouring the contents into my arm. I remember standing up and pointing to a nearby plant so that the beer had somewhere to go.
Shoes are even easier. For most of my working life, I have gotten by with no more than two pairs of shoes, a black pair and a brown pair. When our office changed to business casual, I bought a pair of Docker’s brand black and brown loafers. They look more like boat shoes than dress shoes, but they are comfortable and they go with everything. I was so happy with those shoes that when I had to replace them, I bought two pairs. My wife and my daughter, and the sales woman at Sears (yes, I bought shoes at Sears) yelled at me for buying two pairs of the same shoes. I didn’t see the problem, “these are the shoes I like, I need a new pair and I’ll need another new pair at some point.” When my daughter went with me to a 3-day meeting in Florida, she took 7 pairs of shoes!
Speaking of my daughter, nothing highlighted the difference between men’s and women’s clothing for me than a crisis-mode shopping trip in New York City when she was in her early teens. We were going to be in New York for almost a week. I had told Faith that I would take her to a Broadway play. When we got to the city; Faith realized that she hadn’t brought anything to wear to a play. She needed “a pair of khakis” – OK, I thought, how hard can that be. I stood in Macy’s forever, while she tried on pants. A size 4 was too big, but a size 2 was too small. Well, if there isn’t a size 3, there’s either a problem with the way they make women’s clothes, or with the way they make women. Pants finally in hand, she also had to buy shoes. She agreed to buy cheap shoes, from one of those outlet-like places. We walked to the part of the store where her size was, and I started handing her shoes. “Here, these are your size…how about these..these? How about these? These are shoes.” Eventually, the sales lady asked Faith: “do you want me to chain him up outside?”
Back to the sports coat, when I was leaving for work the next day, I offered to swing by the dry cleaner on my way home to see if my jacket was there. I was in a hurry and my wife couldn’t find the ticket. She apologized, but I wasn’t worried. I knew that it wouldn’t matter. A woman at the head of the line had the ticket for the stuff she was picking up and dutifully filed the ticket she received for the shirts she had dropped off. The two guys in front of me had no ticket. I had no ticket and I wasn’t really sure I had a jacket to pick up. All three of us were served with a smile. Everything about clothing is just easier when you’re a guy.