Sunday, April 24, 2011

The clothes make the man crazy

Surveying the pile of old clothing that I needed to bag up and haul off to Good Will, I couldn’t help but feel angry once again at the fashion industry for tricking guys into wearing carpenter jeans while I was in college.

“That looks ridiculous,” I said the first time I saw a friend wearing jeans with a hammer loop partway down the thigh, about two months before I bought my first pair. Eventually, every guy had a hammer loop on his jeans, even though very few of us were building barns. These days, you’ll still see a rogue hammer loop from time to time, the useless vestige of a bygone era, like the wings of a flightless bird, or cursive.

I’ve come to imagine that fashion is, quite literally, a group a people sitting around in a room trying to figure out which clothing items everybody just threw away, so that they can make those items cool again.

“Bellbottoms! Corduroy! Huge sunglasses!” they yelled out at a recent meeting.

“Tight jeans on dudes!” someone called out, and a hush fell over the room.

“Yes, tight jeans on dudes,” someone repeated, slowly, as everyone nodded.

Their diabolical scheme appears to be working. On a recent visit to New York City, I noticed a disturbing proliferation of tight jeans on dudes, which means they’ll be coming for the rest of us soon enough. Apparently we, as a gender, can be convinced to do just about anything. Either that, or we’ve decided to try harder to get someone to objectify us.

Fashion has been on my mind lately, in part because it’s time to clean out the closet, but mainly because we’re coming up on the season when dudes must dress themselves. Your average slob gets enough help during the holidays that he can probably coast through the cold months wearing shirts that somebody else bought for him. But in the warm weather, a man must fend for himself.

“Dude, Abercrombie?” my buddy Jered said recently, pointing at the cargo shorts I’d been wearing since college, implying that my bald spot disqualified me from wearing them any longer.

Jered failed to understand that my ultimate goal with any garment is to get its per-wear cost below one dollar. At an initial cost of forty bucks, after ten years, those shorts probably cost me about a penny per wear, making them excellent performers. My wife Kara has a closet full of shoes that have the same per-wear cost as their original cost. And I suspect that calculating the per-wear cost for some of those shoes would require dividing by zero, a feat I haven’t attempted for fear of creating a rip in the space-time continuum.

As much as it pains me, it’s time for those shorts to go in the Good Will pile, too, knowing that they can never be replaced. A simple stroll past your nearest Abercrombie storefront in the mall will explain why my last pair of their shorts is behind me.

“Pleh! Ew, dude, I can taste the cologne,” Kara said as we pushed the stroller past our mall’s Abercrombie, where they must blow Axe body spray out the door the same way Cinnabon wafts the aromas off its bubbling cauldrons of lard and yeast.

I looked through the doorway to see a photographic mural of an athletic, topless teenage dude, his gigantic nipples following me like the eyes in a painting on a PBS murder mystery.

“It’s too loud in there. How does anyone think?” Kara shouted over the pounding music.

That, of course, is the point. The doorway to Abercrombie is designed to be an assault on the senses of old people. It’s like those ultrasonic shrieking devices that keep gophers out of gardens. Teenagers don’t even notice, but it makes adult heads explode.

You can dress Mike Todd up and take him anywhere at


  1. It's about time you shared your 'per-wear cost' theory. Well, I guess it isn't so much a theory as a lifestyle choice. Actually i do the same, although I'm not as quick to admit it. And we both know that the per-wear cost lifestyle even applies to underwear.

    I think you should let your blog followers to give you words or phrases and then challenge you to work them all into a future post. That would be fun. My choice would be "honey badger".

  2. I have had the same thoughts about how the latest fashions are determined, and I think those same people laugh their heads off when they see dudes in tight jeans and other ridiculous fashions that they foist on the masses.

    Jered's suggestion is great, and if you decide to do that, my choice would be "reverse manifest destiny."

  3. Chunks, I like that idea. Somebody once challenged me to use "moribund" in a column, and I took my best crack it at, after looking it up on I'll practice around the house to see if I can come up with a good line for honey badger. Something like, "I don't feel like emptying the dishwasher, honey. Badger someone else." No, maybe something less likely to get me killed.

    CV -- I think this game would be a lot more fun for me if dumb people were coming up with the challenges. I barely understand what a regular manifest destiny is. But I'll see what I can do, as soon as I get done ordering my new jeggings.