“Frequently innovative, never trendy, and always perfectly clad for the occasion, these fearless individuals roam the globe as walking examples of what it means to be a man well-clothed.”
These were recent raves from a men’s magazine about notables such as George Clooney, Matt Lauer and Luke Wilson.
“Who else,” the magazine asked approvingly, “would wear a Prada suit with a pair of Vans?”
Well, I would, if I thought people wouldn’t laugh at me, which probably explains why I won’t be running a fashion magazine or wearing tennis shoes to weddings anytime soon.
Once upon a time, though, I was more daring. I wasn’t afraid of fashion or of “making a statement.” I just wore what I liked and left my worries in the closet.
As proof, one of my sons recently found a picture of me from high school.
“Hey, Dad,” he yelled, loud enough for anyone within a couple hundred yards to hear. “You look just like Napoleon Dynamite in this photo!”
Then he laughed. And I suppose it’s not necessary to point out that he was not laughing with me.
It was true: I wasn’t sporting moon boots or curly hair and didn’t have a buddy named Pedro with me, but I was dressed in my then-Sunday best: a perfectly hideous, multi-Technicolor, multi-plaid sport coat that had, in retrospect, only one redeeming characteristic – it would be statistically impossible to find a pair of pants of any color that wouldn’t match it.
But as with all sport coats, I had a complicated relationship with this one.
I loved the outfit, and for years I wore it a lot. Then one day at college, I pulled the coat out of my closet and prepared to put it on.
“You’re not going to wear that in public, are you?” laughed my roommate, a nerdy dresser himself who wouldn’t wear a pair of pants unless it had at least 12 pockets.
But that comment made me look at the coat differently. The confidence was gone, replaced with a feeling of humiliation averted, and that problem lingers to this day. Now, I wear little but the basics, straying only when I wear something my wife has picked out.
Invariably, people comment favorably on her contributions, but stepping outside that comfort zone makes me nervous and twitchy all day, both hopeful that people will notice and afraid that they might.
I know I can do better, though, and I’ve pledged to my wife that I’ll keep trying. So if you see me wandering around the neighborhood a la Luke Wilson in a business suit and a pair of tennis shoes, please don’t laugh.
I’m just trying to expand my horizons.