Sunday, July 12, 2009

COLUMN: Shirt Wars

The best part about forging a new romantic relationship has to be the communication. When your way of life merges with another's, a bond is formed by sharing and discourse. The relationship begins to flourish as each of you gains new insight and understanding of your lives.

For instance, I have gained the insight and understanding that I am apparantly incapable of dressing myself.

I know fully well that I am no fashionista. As a long-term testosterone-fueled bachelor, I've developed a few simple rules when it comes to fashion:

• Never buy clothes that require ironing. The amount of time that one spends sweating away over an ironing board can then be thusly used on far more relevant and worldly tasks, such as Super Mario Kart.

• Always find shirts with sleeves that can be pushed up, thereby giving the wearer the advantage of owning both winter and summerwear with one purchase. The amount of money that one spends on seasonal wardrobery can then be thusly used purchasing far more relevant and worldly items, such as Super Mario Kart 2.

• Clothing should be carefully selected in two colors only: (1) dark, and (2) slightly off-dark. Time is precious and fleeting, and Super Mario Kart waits for no one -- especially you weirdo girls who waste time sorting your laundry into color-coordinated piles. If one simply buys an entire wardrobe of dark and dreary colors, you can just shove 'em all in the washer en masse and turn the machine to "I-don't-really-care-what-temperature-you-wash-these."

These rules have so far proven to be a triumphant success. That is, until the girlfriend walked in the other day.

"Surprise, honey!" she exclaimed, shopping bag aloft. "I got you presents!"

Presents, it should be noted for those of you wishing to buy them for me, should consist of: food, money, toys, or a Rane Serato Scratch DJ System. Despite her best intentions, they should never be a bag of clothes. Clothes are not presents. Clothes are functional necessities at best.

Still, there I was, facing a bag of thoughtfully-purchased polo shirts. I steadied myself as I examined them with my best "ohhh, wow, you shouldn't have" face. And admittedly, it was a really sweet gesture. Two of them were actually quite nice, and shirts I could easily see myself wearing. One was basic black and another was basic blue, both with your standard polo stripes. I can work with these.

The other two? Hrrm. These shirts made liberal usage out of something I have never owned in all my live-long days. Argyle, explains Wikipedia, is a diamonds-&-diagonal-checkerboard pattern derived from the tartan of Clan Campbell of Argyll in eastern Scotland. It got its name because "argyll" is the retching noise that one makes when forced to wear it.

I kid. Kinda. I suppose they don't look bad. And to hear my girlfriend go, "Awwwwwww, you look SO CUTE" is never a bad thing. But to look at myself in the mirror was another story. They're not just argyle, they're bright and happy. One's white and the other has a big ol' yellow argo-diamond smack across the midsection.

I know in reality that I'm little more than a huge nerd, but in the Me that I like to fancy myself, I live above and beyond the constraints of society. I'm dark and mysterious and esoteric and ironic and funny and, quite possibly, the coolest person that's ever lived. In my new argyle polo shirts, I'm not dark or mysterious. I'm merely late for my squash match with Mitzi and Roland Buffington III. They are, without a doubt, the most anti-me shirts to see the inside of my closet since my much-maligned "ponchos-are-kinda-cool,-right?" phase.

Yet, for the sake of my cooing girlfriend who assures of my argyle-clad attractiveness, I'm giving them a shot and simply feeling uber-weird wherever I go. But it gets worse.

"I got them because you don't seem to have many summer-y shirts," she said with glee.

A-HA! How wrong she was. I explained to her that I simply hadn't taken my summer stash to the dry cleaners. Tucked away in a laundry basket in the far end of my closet lies a pile of shirts that only see the light of day from June through September. Shirts whose greatness breaks all rules. Shirts I adore.

Ever since the glory days of Chess King circa 1987, I have been an ardent fan of button-down silk and/or rayon shirts of the psychedelic and awesome persuasion. If it's in any way silky and looks like Pink Floyd threw up on it, I probably own it. And now they're back in style -- and with the help of a certain Mr. Tommy Bahama, the collection has been growing exponentially.

I took the stash out to proudly show off. To my surprise, it was met with a look of horror. With each shirt I'd pull out, the look intensified, until she finally blurted it out:

"They're old man shirts. Oh, honey, no. You own old man shirts. Omigod, I'm dating an old man."

I figured all it would take is a quick fashion show to prove her wrong.

Now, girls have a certain fashion wisdom that boys will never understand. Girls say things like, "Everyone knows you shouldn't wear white socks with a black watch after Arbor Day." Us guys, meanwhile, merely find like-colored objects that don't induce migraines and piecemeal an outfit together. So I put on some olive cargo pants, a sort-of off-olive undershirt, and an unbuttoned light olive silk shirt to complete the ensemble. I looked like Joe Cool -- or so I thought.

"No, honey," came the reply. "You look like a dingy carpet sample."

So that's where I'm stuck. I have a closet full of silk shirts that I love, and a girlfriend who's silently plotting how to destroy them all in an industrial accident. I think they look great -- she thinks I look like Grandpa Brown. So I'm calling on YOU, my diligent readers, to be the jury. Silk shirts of awesomeness or polo shirts that make me argyle up my lunch? The decision is yours. E-mail your thoughts to and I'll share them with the missus. A grateful closet awaits your reaction.


Anonymous said...

The shirts are darling...wait, no...that probably doesn't help. Um, you look uber-cool? Seriously...they are nice and so is Amy! (Either way I really enjoyed reading your blog!)

Anonymous said...

Really, I mean really? I didnt even know that Amy had bought you that shirt. Its great, who doesn't like argyle? But, had I known I wouldn't have commented to you about it fearing you would think I was reinforcing her agenda, duh! But I was actually impressed by your nonchalant skills of picking out "necessities." It didnt seem forced or out of place, you naturally looked yourself(only slightly upgraded.) If you know Amy, then you know her things...

1.) She loves smiles, hugs, and everyone.
2.) She loves smelling good, good smells, and things that smell good.
3.) She loves fashion and is ALWAYS CUTE!

Also, she loves you! Deal with it, its called compromise.

Im kinda partial to you myself kid


Anonymous said...

1. No to silk shirts! Silk shirts = really bad!

2. Listen to your girlfriend. Wear the bright argyle a couple of times to make her happy, but wear the darker polo shirts more frequently. Your gf sounds so sweet, so do what you can to keep her happy. And if she remedies your silk shirt collection, then all the better. :)

Anonymous said...

I would have to say that the only thing wrong with the Argyle shirts is the white 'background.' Nothing Argyle goes with white. Save the other shirts for fall/winter, when the colors are more appropriate.

Don't be afraid of color! This is the worst mistake most straight men make, lack of color in their outfits!

Jon said...

I'm with you on Chess King. That store had fine fashions way back then. It was like a clothing store for those that bought Cocteau Twins and Public Enemy cassettes in one purchase at Musicland. I personally have kept all my purchases from that era. Unfortunately, they take up residence in one of those 300 gallon tupperware-type boxes. Hang on to those old shreds.