Sunday, March 11, 2012

I'm Puttin' on My Top Hat...

I miss getting dressed up. After forty years of wearing a suit to work pretty much every day, you think I'd be tired of that routine. The thing is I was tired of it when I retired, but now that some time has passed, I want to shine my shoes, pick out a nice tie, and get the suit out again. Except for the occasional wedding or dinner dance, I don't get that chance any more. Our culture has decided that jackets and ties are passe for men. When I watch shows like "Mad Men", I'm reminded that in the work place, the uniform of the day was pin striped suits, (seersucker in the summer), white shirts, snappy rep ties, and wing-tip shoes. Now guys go to the office dressed like messenger boys.

When you look at old newsreel footage of how people dressed in the Forties and Fifties, there is a noticeable difference compared to modern dress. Even scenes of old baseball games show men in the bleachers wearing suits, ties and fedora hats as they rooted on their team. I think in those days, how you dressed was equated with success. Every man who could wore a suit as a status symbol; it was a sign that he didn't work as a laborer but was smart enough to work in an office. My first job was as a bank clerk, and even though we worked out of sight of the public, we were expected to dress professionally for work. As I walked home after getting off the subway, I could see the change in attitude on the part of the old men on the block who used to chase and curse me if I came into their yard to get a stray ball. They now looked at me with grudging respect.

Even more that a suit, I love putting on a tux. In the latter part of my career I was required to attend many black tie business functions. Some guys hated putting on a tux, but I looked forward to it. There's was nothing like walking into the main ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, your lovely wife dressed to the nines and you in a traditional, well-cut tuxedo...if that doesn't make you feel special, you're hopeless. After a while I bought my first tux, courtesy of my employer. I convinced them that the cost was equal to three rentals, and then I would own it with no further expense. I have since bought two more tuxes of different styles, one double-breasted and one with rounded lapels. I'm still on the B list for invitations to company-sponsored black-tie affairs and I jump at every one I get.

I don't care what kind of mutt you are, when you put on a suit, or better yet a tux, you just feel different. Was there ever anybody cooler than Sean Connery as James Bond, standing in that dimly lit bar wearing a tux and sipping that Martini (shaken, not stirred). He got admiring glances from every woman in that room, while the men could only look on, green with envy. Do you think any guy could command that kind of attention in a heavy metal t-shirt and flip flops? Casual dress is fine if you have the flair and sense of style to pull it off. Just walk into any wine bar in Italy and you'll understand what I mean. Why shouldn't men care as much about clothes as women do. 

Too many men think that because they are getting older there is no need to care about how they look. They give up and wear shapeless sweatsuits thinking that old guys are past worrying about appearances. For them I have two words: Cary Grant. No matter your age, you'll always look better by dressing with some thought to what you wear. Even casual clothes should be chosen carefully with an eye to quality; better to have fewer well-made clothes than a closet full of K-mart stuff. And please, dress you age. Those velour track suits went out with Paulie Walnuts. If you have no sense of fashion, ask your wife, girlfriend or even the store clerk for help. You'll be surprised at the difference it makes.

Clothes do make the man, so come on bubbie, channel your inner Cary Grant.


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The Whiner said...

Oh I agree! I love the clothes they wore in I Love Lucy...the ladies always wore dresses and gloves and hats. The guys wore a suit to go to the movies. I have come to despise the American uniform of a t-shirt/sweatshirt(depending on season) emblazed with some horrible cartoon character or dumb saying, jeans, and white sneakers. Add a fanny pack and it's just hopeless.

Jim Pantaleno said...

And I fear it will get worse as the children of the slob generation step up.

The Whiner said...

You meanlike those who wear their flipping pajamas out to shop or worse, go to class? Disgusting.