Friday, December 16, 2011

Suit Yourself

In the most recent issue of The New Yorker magazine there is a cartoon featuring a men's tailor holding a tape measure and saying to a male shopper (as if the tailor is airport security):  "I'll be passing my hands across your buttocks and bringing the tape measure along the inside of your leg. Is that okay?" 

I laughed at this one, but also found myself waxing nostalgic at the demise of a men's store in my hometown--a men's shop that has provided my suits for the past eight years.  When I stopped by yesterday to ask the owner about his business closeout he confirmed that casual Fridays and the changing work environment have dampened traditional male attire (suit, dress shirt, tie).  

I drove home a bit depressed, put on a new suit, and promptly hashed out a couple of essays about men's clothing . . . some of the best stuff I've written in a long time.  And I discovered that I was passionate in my thought--quite a bit more passionate that I've been with my wife lately . . . and the writing hummed quickly through a second and third draft.

I recall reading some years ago about writers like Tom Wolfe and James Mitchner who, as they approached their deadlines, would literally dress to the nines before they sat down to write.  Their philosophy:  writing was work, hard work, and they were dressing for success.  John Updike was also well-known for his fashion sense, and writing for him required a writer's attire.

As I age, I find myself (increasingly) writing in attire that requires a sense of fashion. A couple of weeks ago I wrote a book review (a volume on parenting troubled teenagers) sitting on the couch while posed in an Armani suit, which seemed to help, and a few days back I arrived home from church on a Sunday afternoon, foregoing lunch, and quickly took to the keyboard while I was still shaved, polished, and scented in an effort to push through the final stages of yet another book proposal, hoping that some editor would be able to tell that I was wearing a navy blue suit and pink tie when I wrote it.

Still, I'm not sure which suit I'd like to be buried in.  I may let my wife make that decision.  She's always using me like a mannequin anyway . . . wanting to take my clothes off under the premise that I'm wearing the wrong attire.  She undresses me, and then dresses me again, just like she used to do with her Barbies.  Accessorizing, she calls it.  She seems to have a necktie fetish and has recently been pushing me to purchase a new brown belt.  Why I'll never know!

But me . . . I'm just glad to have her attention.  It's the only time she's worried about undressing me.  And the only other person to touch me in those certain places has been my clothier.

Thanks for 25 years of service, Steve!  You've helped me be a better writer.  Or, at least I look my best while I'm failing at it.   

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