They seek him here!
They seek him there!
His clothes are loud,
but never square!
It will make or break him
so he's got to buy the best
'cause he's a dedicated
follower of fashion!
-The Kinks, "Dedicated Follower of Fashion"
It's time to go clothes shopping again! Not because I've shrunk out of more (don't I wish), but because the ones I bought after my last massive downsizing have started to wear out (or, in the case of today's trousers, have shrunk in the wash and leave a dorkily large amount of my calf exposed to the light).
When I was a lad, I wasn't allowed to have nice clothes. Seriously. Not because my parents disapproved of nice clothes, but because they are both incredibly cheap. While you don't have to break the bank to have decent clothes, you do have to spend some money -- and anything more than "the least amount possible" was considered "way more than is acceptable" in their view. This drove me crazy; for while I was something of an introvert and a social misfit, I did WANT to look good. I like to think I have a certain amount of savoir-faire, and what I don't have, I'd like to achieve. I have described myself as "vain." I don't know if I really am or not ... but after a childhood of perennial ugly-ducklingism, it would be nice to feel that I've grown into a marginally graceful swan. (Some of the finer points of hygiene were also not part of my repertoire until college; my parents were not and are not what you'd call enthusiastic on matters of cleanliness. What grace I've got, I'm sad to say, is largely self-taught, with some coaching by laurie_robey.)
When I was in school, I made the mistake of telling my mother I wanted to be "elegant." Mistake, because she had no idea what I meant, and I had no idea that she had no idea. She, being permanently stuck in some weird alternate universe where it's stuck simultaneously in both 1949 and 1975, dressed me in bad polyester pants (bought from thrift stores) and mustard yellow shirts, and I didn't have enough of a clue to realize how bad they were. Nowadays I have a bit of a clue -- and am very particular about dressing myself. ;)
Hence, my business card's sobriquet of "dapper gent." My general policy is "dress slightly nicer than expected." I am the only guy in the I.T. department here who reliably wears a dress shirt and tie to work, for instance. Like Jeeves' advice that "there is always time for a necktie," I like to think that being a little spruced up adds a certain whatsit, and makes even a dull day at least a little bit of an occasion.
The problem is, I can't seem to reliably get clothes that look good, and keep looking good. The outfit I'm wearing today was fine when I bought it, but now the sleeves and cuffs are all too short by inches, giving me that dweeby high-water look. Maybe I just expect clothes to last too long (I can be pretty darn cheap myself).
Thing is, I like having nice clothes, but I hate shopping for them. I require 2XLT, which nobody carries in large amounts (not even big-and-tall stores). 2XL by itself, and all the limbs are too short; 3XL, the limbs are fine but everything fits like a tent. Therefore, shopping for clothes is a constant exercise in, "That looks nice! They don't have my size. That looks nice, too! They don't have my size. This is in my size but looks like crap." If I was something closer to average size, it would be easy ... just head over to Hecht's / Lord & Taylor / Banana Republic / L.L. Bean and go nuts. Even with my semi-esoteric tastes, it wouldn't be that hard to find stylish and fairly affordable stuff that I liked if I could shop in the land of S-M-L-XL.
Alas, 2XLT is the size I will always have. Even if, after two more years of Kung Fu, I finally do lose that last 80 lbs. and lose the love handles, I'll still be wearing 2XLT, just with a tighter belt. But still, knowing that I need to go shopping is an opportunity, yet another chance to go out and nurture my vanity. I just hope that "Casual Male" will be up to the challenge.