By Elliott Joseph
Copyright 2009 Elliott Joseph
My friend Phil has loosened fashion's grip on me. And not a moment too soon as I consider the frightening prospect of having to replace any part of my wardrobe.
He walked in the other day, looking like a million.
He was wearing a smart, single breasted, gray glen plaid suit, white cotton dress shirt with spread collar, deep red silk tie with tiny black dots and a pair of shining, wingtip black oxfords.
"New outfit?" I asked.
"Not on your life!" he said, smiling. "I got these clothes right out of my closet. The suit is Jacques Roy, Paris. Bought it in Barney's New York in 1976. The shirt is eleven years old. The tie, fourteen. And the shoes, twenty. That's years, man, years."
"Is there a message there?"
"I just put on this combination to make my point. I'm not suggesting that you should match the age of your clothing to your birth date. It's the principle of the thing. Take your old clothes out of retirement. That's the way to beat fashion."
An interesting idea, I mused. But can it work?
My mind raced to the half dozen old suits I had waiting unworn on shaped hangers. The piles of shirts I couldn't wear out if I lived three lifetimes. The rows of ancient shoes with hardly a mark on them. And the ties. How in the world had I accumulated so many ties?
The combined age of my clothing would suit Methuselah.
"I've got plenty of old clothes," I said, "but..."
"But what?" he interrupted, opening my closet door. "Look at that suit. Perfect condition."
"That's my Marty Sullivan," I said proudly.
"Tired of it?"
"Actually, I love that suit. I bought it for a song in eighty-one, but have been afraid to wear it. A shame," I admitted. "It's as light as a feather, and can be worn all year 'round."
"Elegant!" he said. "Love the vest."
"Yes, but the jacket has a two and five eighths inch lapel."
"Three and a quarter. Three and seven eighths. Four and a half. Why should we care about the width of a lapel?"
"Some of my trousers are tapered below the knee," I said. "Some are flared."
"And some, I'll bet, are straight," he said, laughing mischievously.
It was an exhilarating moment as I thought I might be able to wear these great clothes that I've cherished over the years. But it all weighed heavily on my mind. Could I stop believing that the day of my old clothing had passed?
Phil must have understood my dilemma.
"I say to those who feel they have to dress down, go ahead if you feel you must dress to conform. Forget who you really are.
"Guys like you and me should dress for ourselves. You wear your Marty Sullivan. And I'll wear my Jacques Roy. We'll stay trim so we can fit into them, and we'll knock each other dead in the process.
"The alternative," he went on, as he made for the door, "is to go out today and pay eight hundred and seventy-five dollars for an off-the-rack, two-piece wool and synthetic blend suit, sixty-four dollars for a shirt that doesn't even have your exact sleeve length, forty-five dollars for a tie and over a hundred for a pair of shoes!
"Or worse, drop your self respect and get a pair of blue jeans and a t-shirt. Ugh!"
Flushed with excitement, after Phil left, I wondered what it will be like when I come out of the closet with my Marty Sullivan suit, my Ascot Chang custom shirt, the foulard I got years ago in Los Angeles and my brown English loafers, class of seventy-nine.
Will my age be showing?
So be it!
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