My wife just bought me a new pair of pants at Target.
This is a sentence I used to only think was found on suicide notes; encompassing everything thing that once terrified me about married adult life. Also ,Target used to really suck. But now I see it for what it is; a nice gesture by a loving wife. Plus they’re good pants (brown cords, if you’re wondering).
Still, I’m not thrilled that I have largely been removed from my clothing decision making process, even if it is just an arrangement of convenience; TW being the one that more frequently finds herself at places that sell clothes — assuming they also sell diapers and string cheese.
Regardless, this is not how I saw my style evolution playing out.
In high school I had this pinstriped, six-button vest with peace symbols spray painted all over it. It was my prized fashion accessory for years. Ripped jeans, an ironic t-shirt and the peace vest. I didn’t even need to check the mirror; how could I not look good? I had wavy, shoulder length brown hair and wore mismatched Converse Hi-Tops. I had style.
In hindsight, it is possible that when some people said I had “style” they meant it as a polite euphemism. But still, I knew exactly what I liked and how I wanted to look. I could walk into a thrift store and spot my shirt on a rack in 5 minutes.
Now I often spot my shirt on 3 other guys at the mall and one toddler. The fall from thrift store chic to Old Navy mannequin is, as you’d imagine, a gradual process. I think it started sometime around my 29th birthday during an ill-conceived hair bleaching phase.
I thought bleaching my hair would be cool and edgy. But a as I sat under the giant beauty salon hair dryer flipping through old copies of People magazine, my scalp burning from chemicals, I couldn’t help but wonder, “is this what desperately clinging to youth feels like?”
There is a line most men cross after which certain fashion statements look like they are in air quotes. I did not want to go down that road. The hair bleaching was a wake up call – I was about to take the same fork in the road as bald-guy-with-a-ponytail probably took years ago.
And so began my search for an adult style. Something still unique, still me, but distinctly not desperate looking. I even toyed with the idea of wearing suits. I don’t have a suit kind of job, so becoming “suit guy” on weekend nights had a certain charm.
But I don’t travel in the kind of social circles where such a formal style is easy to pull off. Being the only guy wearing a suit at Eat ‘n Park for a 6 o’clock dinner on Saturday night doesn’t make me feel hip, it makes me feel like I’m at a high school musical’s closing night cast party..
I now understand why some men just give up. Why they just grab the khaki shorts, tuck in their old college t-shirt, buckle up the braided leather belt and call it a day. Maybe toss on some socks under the sandals if it’s chilly out. I’m sure there is something very liberating about throwing off the chains of fashion and style. But I’m not ready to take that fork in the road either. At least not quite yet. Talk to me in 5 years.
Until that day I sit, at a fashion crossroads with my Target pants and thrift store heart.