As we pulled away from the church house on our way toward our honeymoon, my new bride turned toward me with that “no nonsense” look in her eye. She said, “You are never, EVER, to buy any article of clothing that is visible to the world without my being involved in the purchase.” There it was, plain and simple. I knew where I stood.
One might think that in time that law might have been relaxed somewhat, but one would be absolutely in error. It remains in full force at my house, almost as inflexible as the law of gravity. Naturally, Mrs. G. cannot physically restrain me from buying clothing. However, like all wives, she has a way of charging so much for husbandly disobedience that I cannot afford to pay it.
The sad truth of the matter is that I am NOT a “clotheshorse.” My sister-in-law has known me even longer than has my wife, and she evidently passed along the inside dope concerning my sartorial proclivities. It seems that I was widely known for having a great deal of taste – all of it bad.
There is a principle that is supposed to guide designers in their work: “Form follows function.” Worry first about how the thing works, then later deal with how it looks. My problem was that I never got beyond the function part. Here was a shirt, and it fit me. Here was a pair of pants, and it fit. They passed the test, so I put them on. Whether or not they looked good together never concerned me much.
I probably came by my instincts naturally. My late father was a child of the Great Depression. Back then the main problem was having clothes at all. What they looked like necessarily had to be of secondary importance.
Lucy Davis’ house is right across the road from ours. She and I worked together at the toy company for several years. Once when we were visiting, she confided to me that it amazed her that my father was a college professor. He would frequently walk down the road in his everyday garb looking more like a tramp than a college teacher.
You see, Daddy’s definition of “worn out” regarding clothes was shaped by the Depression. If the clothes would physically stay on your body and cover your nakedness, they were not worn out, and it was immoral to discard anything that was not completely worn out.
You did not throw away clothes, because you did not know when you might get more. After all, back then people regularly made garments from the printed fabric of flour sacks, and you got one (ONLY one) pair of shoes each year. If you wore a hole in your shoe, you stuck cardboard in the bottom and just kept going.
Suffice it to say, I was not known as the Adolphe Menjou of Western Arkansas in my younger years. However, under the iron discipline of my in-house clothes maven, I hope that things may have improved over the last few decades.
When I retired, I had a closet full of “business casual” attire. Now that I am a man of leisure, I usually dress in either jeans and a T-shirt, or in a suit and tie. I just do not have a great deal of use for anything else.
I told my wife that I wanted one pair of dress pants in black and one in khaki – “neutral” colors. That way, whatever shirt I put with them is bound to look at least OK. (When you are a slob you have to keep things simple.)