Oct 1
5, 2008
By Roger Emile Stouff

I enjoy shopping for clothes. But you probably wouldnít guess that if weíve ever met face-to-face at some point near the long, long overdue retirement of my wardrobe.

I tend to wear clothes until either a) they are so threadbare itís hard to tell if I have my shirts on my legs and my pants on my armsÖwaitÖ, b) I canít fit in them anymore or c) I get a sudden feeling Iím Harpo Marx.

Well, it was time, and a couple weeks ago my fiancée and I took off to go shopping. We took separate baskets at the door and headed different directions.

I hate shopping blue box stores for clothes more than I do shopping for clothes in itself. But I was there, nothing else was available, so off I went to menís wear.

When I was a kid, my mom would always take me to Scelfoís Menís Wear for my school clothes. It was a ritual, at the end of summer, weíd go get school clothes, and Mr. John would measure me and fit me and weíd go home with baskets of fresh-smelling clothing. I miss days like that, and as I walked circles around the menís clothing department I was really missing them even more.

See, the department is probably 100-feet square and contains absolutely no clothing.

No clothing, that is, if youíre a 43-year-old man who prefers jeans to dress pants, refuses to wear any T-shirt that depicts an image or a logo of any kind unless itís related to fly-fishing, and is somewhat old-fashioned.

You will not put me in a white T-shirt emblazoned with multi-colored slashes of vivid ink that, if you squint really hard, turn out to be a lemming. I wonít advertise for Nike, Starter, Polo, Chaps or anyone else if I can help it. I wonít wear white T-shirts in general, because Iím too much of a slob and invariably go to lunch and have to endure the rest of the day with a gravy stain on the center of my white T-shirt. Said stains also mysteriously end up resembling maps of former Communist countries.

I hate-shirts with wide collars. I hate T-shirts with narrow collars. In between is what I like, so I neither feel like Iím suffocating nor is it about to fall off my shoulders around my waist, snagging on my belly on the way down. I hate polo shirts with no collars at all, and I hate button-front shirts with collars that have no buttons, though I am forced to wear some due to scarcity.

Anyway, I pick out two pairs of slacks because the last few funerals I had to attend I was wearing a pair about two sizes too big for me, and two pairs of jeans, all 36-waist and 29-inseam. Yeah, short and stubby, I know. When I quit smoking cigarettes in May, 2005, I weighed about 170 pounds and was in 34-inch jeans. Last Christmas, I weighed 205 pounds and was in 40-inch jeans. Thankfully, getting a puppy helped me lose a lot and I got down to about 180 and 36-inch jeans.

So I go to the fitting room, which I hate. Why, in the world, do they put doors on fitting rooms that do not reach all the way to the floor? Are they trying to set bait that pervs canít resist so they can nab them when they go to peek under a fitting room door that goes no lower than your knees? Are we, the customers, simply unknowing bait for voyeurs? Itís silly. Security? What, theyíre watching you under the door to make sure youíre not stealing Fruit of the Looms? Makes no sense to me and itís uncomfortable.

Anyway, none of my pants fit and I was some bent out of shape about it. I marched out of the fitting room and demanded of the attendant to know why their new 36-inch jeans did not fit, when I was at that very moment wearing 36-inch jeans, so that made absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Upon retrospect, I was a little hard on her, and I think I saw that look on her face that indicated she really, really wanted to tell me what the truth of the matter was, but bit her tongue and remained quiet. Feeling not the least bit better, I went and got 38-inch jeans and vowed Iíd be out of them before the new-clothes-smell was gone.

I weighed myself at home. Yup. 188. At this point I launched in to a flurry of expletives which cannot be reprinted here. Time to get back to long walks with the dog I had given up when it was 95 in the shade and raining every day.

While I was shopping, I wanted to get some cargo pants, but that was a very, very bad idea. At 188 pounds, 38-inch waist and 29-inch inseam, in cargo pants I end up looking like a well-worn rucksack or a potato sack with two dozen pockets. Itís not a pretty sight, believe me. So I got a few new shirts too and was blessed that I could still fit in mediums.

I also needed some new, uhm, undergarments. I hate shopping for undergarments. Why, do you think, donít they put all one color in a pack of boxers instead of a solid blue one, a checkered black one and a polka-dotted yellow one? I donít want polka-dotted underwear, it just feels silly. I want solid colors, thank you, no patterns. Why does it matter? I donít have the faintest idea, it just does.

But I ended up with a bit of a basket of clothes and managed to at least update my wardrobe enough that I could still mix-up, say, a new shirt with old jeans and an old shirt with new jeans to give myself the appearance of a gradual weaning from frumpiness to crisp newness.

It occurs to me that I used the word "hate" in this column many times already. Perhaps "hate" is too strong a word. Loathe, might be better. Or "despise." Perhaps "sheer utter torture unlike any other known to the Inquisitors of Spain" would work.

Regardless, if I had I my druthers I, would order them all online, except that I never know what the devil fits me from one month to the next.