Fridays Weekend Column
Yes, I Am Learning
by James Glaser
Let's be honest, you live in northern Minnesota and the only clothes you need are jeans, tee shirts, warm socks, flannel shirts, and a heavy coat. Tennis shoes for summer and pacs for winter. Also you are going to need some sort of head gear and work gloves. Style is not an element in a Northwood's wardrobe.
To be fair everyone needs something kind of nice for weddings and funerals. Being in the VFW Honor Guard meant I only needed something nice for weddings, and up north weddings are a summer time thing. It is all the snuggling and keeping warm in the winter that causes all the weddings in the summer.
Moving down South told me a lot about my wardrobe. I brought lots of clothes, but being ready for an Artic blast in Tallahassee doesn't do you a lot of good. I brought down about forty pairs of jeans. Why they are called "pairs' I'll never know. I also brought about fifty tee shirts, and before I left for down here I had every dress shirt I owned washed, starched and pressed. That was a lot of shirts, and I bet some of them were fifteen years old, but heck you don't wear nice shirts that often up there.
You know what, fifteen year old shirts don't fit like you remember them. One saving thing was that I had a very nice suit that I had bought for my son's wedding last year and I had the whole thing, Suit, new dress shirt, belt, tie, socks, and shoes. I am ready for any funeral or wedding down here.
I have had to augment what clothes I bought down here with new purchases. Here in Florida, clothing stores are as thick as bars up north, and the prices all seem to be top shelf. Did you know that integration came to the country back in the 60s, but down here there are still Black and White clothing stores? Some African American people must buy their clothes someplace other than the stores at the malls and shopping centers. They have totally different colors and cuts too. I'm not saying they look bad, in fact many of their styles look real sharp, but not on a guy like me from the woods. Heck I can't even walk like those people do.
So, I have been shopping at stores like Dillards, which is like Daytons was back home, and then I found discount stores like Steinmart and Ross. Jeans are fine for working down here, but going out to eat or for weekend outings you need dress slacks, and to get fairly nice ones you are talking fifty bucks plus, a pop. Nice casual dress shirts can run thirty five to sixty, and even nice socks are over five.
You want to talk about sticker shock? Think about throwing away all of your clothes and buying new. An equity loan would come in handy. I haven't thrown away all of my old clothes, but I have been culling. Beside that, who would ever throw away a perfectly clean shirt? It is far better to wear it that one last time, even if it is just to work, then you can feel good about taking it off and tossing it. Really, old shirts make great polishing rags as they are so soft.
The bad thing about nice clothes is that you have to iron them, and you have to be careful when you wash them too. Too much drying and they no longer fit. One day I washed a dry clean only shirt and found out what that label meant. Blew fifty bucks on that lesson.
I now have more shoes than I have ever had at one time in my life. (Seven pair) Up north it was always easy to get dressed, you wore what ever was clean and comfortable. Down here I actually have to stand there and try and match shirts with trousers. People in the South style. They do it with their homes, their cars, and with the clothes they wear. Any working man from north of Highway #2 in Minnesota would look like a street person down here.
I'm not kidding you and there is nothing wrong with it. You go to a nice restaurant up in Northern Minnesota, and the guy at the next table might have on flannel lined jeans with the cuffs rolled up so you can see the red plaid flannel. He also has on insulated steel toed work boots, a heavy wool pull over shirt and a Carhart canvas coat. He might not look too stylish, but on the way home, if his truck slides on the ice into the ditch, he won't freeze to death.
Down here it is 'light and loose" because of the heat and if you are going to spend the day away from home, you better have a couple of shirts hanging in the back seat, cause you are going to need a few changes in the humidity. Of course in the 'winter' down here, when the mercury dips down into the 40s, (that's 40 above zero) style falls away to survival and all sorts of leather lined or fur coats come out of storage for that one or two days that tell you that purchase was a smart move.
Here I am, after years of buying my own clothes ( not counting married years when no man gets to buy what he wants) I have become something of a clothes horse. I now have shirts up the ying yang and almost a dozen non-jean pairs of pants, heck I now have four good looking ties. I had some nice ties up north, but ties with reindeer and snowmen are no longer in down here. Some of my northern ties we a bit too narrow too.
I still have a few jeans and tee shirts from back home, and I do feel so comfortable in them, but comfort is not the thing down here. Up north you spill some spaghetti sauce on you leg and you wipe it off with your napkin, you go home and throw it in the wash. Down here that sauce sticks out like a sore thumb on your light colored pressed pants and you want to get some cold water on that stain before it sets in.
I have to admit that it does feel pretty good when you know everything you are wearing looks good and these new clothes do feel good too, but in a different way. My new clothes are soft a smooth almost like 800 count sheets. They can't take the abuse of building sculptures or furniture, but then they aren't made for that, they are made to style and feel good in. They last a lot longer if you don't work in them. So there is still a place for my jeans and work shirts, I just have to plan a bit more and set aside clothes changing time if I want to go out.
I was shopping at Dillards with a woman I met down here, and she was trying on dresses. I was sitting in a chair outside of the changing room. This other women steps out in a long slinky gown to show her friends, and she starts a conversation with a women buying something at the check-out counter. I could tell they knew each other, and about then the women in the slinky dress spotted the friends she wanted to show this new dress to for their approval.
They were all standing right near me and the slinky dress lady, in referring to the lady at the counter said, "Damn she looks good." Then that lady at the counter was done and she walked over for some close chit chat, and what that counter was hiding is that she was pretty darn huge from the bust line on down. Well after this conversation was over the ladies with the slinky dress lady started making some crude remarks about that other ladies weight, and how maybe she wasn't all that damn good looking after all.
Well these ladies turned around and looked aghast when they realized that I had been sitting right there all the time and one of them said, "You must think we are just awful." I looked real dumb and said. "Sorry, I must have been reading, I didn't catch that, what you are talking about?" She looked at me and said, "You are one smart man." Like any man after so many years.... I'm learning.
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