Dressing to depress

According to the calendar, Mainers have been enduring winter for the past nine or ten weeks. But by late February it seems as though we’ve been sitting through the darkest, coldest season of the year for an eternity. The last time I remember the weather being anywhere near decent, people in these parts were primarily concerned with, in no particular order, Y2K, President Clinton’s impeachment, and when (or if) the perpetually snake-bitten Boston Red Sox would ever win the World Series.

I knew for a fact the doldrums were upon us last Saturday. I had just finished toweling off after my biweekly shower, and was in the process of picking out my outfit for the rest of the day (and likely for the rest of the weekend). After donning a t-shirt with no obvious holes and putting on a pair of nearly rip-free underwear, I pulled a clean pair of pants out of the bottom drawer of my bureau. I do this every so often, usually when my other two pairs aren’t just standing up by themselves, but are threatening to walk away on their own unless they get their semi-annual trip to the washing machine. Stepping into them, I tugged the new-ish (probably less than ten years old) slacks northward. Then, after some wriggling that involved a significant degree of difficulty, I zipped them up and snapped them shut. That accomplished, I put on my shoes and socks (though not in that order), and proceeded to the final piece of assembling my sartorial ensemble. But then it hit me: that next step was completely unnecessary! My pants, which three months ago would have required a belt, some suspenders, or a moderate length of rope to keep from descending, are, at least for the time being, in no danger of going anywhere.

I’ve never pretended to understand why people dress like they do; in fact, to me the term “fashion sense” has always been an oxymoron. When it comes to comprehending why people wear what they wear, I’m an equal opportunity ignoramus. I don’t understand backward baseball hats on youthful males any more than I grasp why so many young women pay outrageous sums for aerated blue jeans that come pre- ripped for the consumer’s convenience. It’s not just an age thing, either. I’ve been clueless about people’s garment-related choices since the time I became old enough to begin selecting my own clothing.

Years ago a friend I consider wise and worldly advised me that three flannel shirts and two pairs of pants were enough for any real man. I’ve got the requisite amount of pants, but I’m still one flannel shirt shy of his recommendation. I’ve compensated, though, by retaining the white, machine washable sweater I’ve had since high school. It’s still got the W.T. Grant label on it, though that’s literally hanging by a thread these days. But it’s always been a vital part of my wardrobe, since putting it on it completely conceals whatever is underneath it (usually a ratty old t-shirt with a frayed collar). Oh, and for those PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Apparel) zealots: please don’t confuse the term “a frayed collar” with “afraid collar.” No article of clothing I own has (or will ever have) any need to fear harm from me.

But the winter malaise will be behind us in a few weeks. And with any luck, a month or so after that I’ll have exercised sufficiently to get my waistline back to its pre-winter measurement, so that a belt will serve as both a fashion accessory and a necessity.

Andy Young
February 21, 2022

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