In the dark ages, for the most part, the rack was a torture device where upon a hapless sole was literally pulled apart, screaming until the sweet kindness of death prevailed. This torture is no longer in vogue and the racks of those horrible times have been replaced with new racks that torture us in an entirely different way. I am talking about the racks that populate the stores that purvey clothing. Racks filled with shirts and slacks designed to fit the models that appear in Cosmopolitan, Playboy or Men’s Journal. These racks of clothes are usually found in the front of a retailers floor space, and for me, represent an entirely new kind of “flyover” country. Let me explain.
A law enforcement officer, for the most part, is insulated from the fashion world. He or she relies on a uniform to protect themselves from the impossible task of coordinating outfits to wear to work. These officers generally own jeans, a few pairs of shoes and boots and enough civilian clothing to slip out to a movie now and then or maybe church on Sundays. I can practically guarantee they own more clothes devoted to their pastime, such as fishing, hunting or motorcycle riding than anything else. When I retired and accepted a position as the deputy director of the Gaming Commission, I was thrust into the world of Hart, Schaffer and Marx suits and the business attire world. It was a fun, expensive trip through a sort of clothing fantasy land. At one time, I owned 30 ties, just enough to coordinate with the variety of colorful dress shirts in vogue during that era. Today I can martial up enough dress attire to not embarrass Sharon at a funeral. Back to the rack.
Who wears this stuff? Pants with a stride so short that either plumbers crack or an octave or two rise in voice pitch is inevitable. Dress shirts that require pre-approval from your bank to purchase, often cut in a fit that guarantees that horrible gap in front when you sit down, accompanied with the ever present reality that if a button should give up, it could blind the person sitting across from you. While I like a little color in my clothing, I refuse to wear shirts that would make Cyndi Lauper green with envy. I have the legs of a line backer, not a good fit for any but the “generous” or “full cut” slacks and pants. It is no wonder that after wrestling with a pair of these pants in a dressing room, you leave them for the clerks to rehang and trot out to the rack for the next normal person’s error in judgement. Normal guys either spend a lot of time in the “Big and Tall” section or go where we are both welcome and comfortable. By that I mean my current tailors of choice, Duluth Trading, Cabela’s or Bass Pro shop.
Duluth Trading get’s it. They are purveyors of everything that a normal guy could possible want to wear. They sell a pant named “middle management chino”, so named because managing our middle is a struggle. They make a shirt aptly named a “free swinging chambray” cut with an armpit gusset to keep you from tearing out when you bend over or reach for something. They offer “spillfighter” shirts that will shed coffee or today’s lunch leavings with gusto. They produce a plethora of men’s underwear that eliminates a host of underwear related problems, such as “bullpen”, “buck naked”, “breezeshooter” and “free range”. It doesn’t take much imagination to figure which annoying underwear issue these different shorts address. Duluth sells a long tailed t-shirt which they say will cover your “asteroid”, surely a hit with men who must bend over to work! You have likely seen Duluth’s adds, featuring fire hose tough pants, on the TV.
Is it any wonder that retired guys find comfort in cargo pants, jeans and durable clothing that will fit with out working up a sweat in the dressing room or washing in ice water to keep them from losing that 1′ margin of room we need to get them on? Much of the inventory in my kind of stores is laying on shelves, with an occasional welcoming rack here and there, mostly shirts. This clothing is durable, comfortable and far more presentable than the current trends in upscale clothing sold in many places. We enjoy shirts with logos, such as Harley-Davidson, G. Loomis, and Under-Armor worn over a pair of “ballroom” jeans, aptly named, again, by Duluth Trading. It takes awhile, but you soon get used to forgoing the colorful tie, uncomfortable but stylish dress shoes and coordinated office ensembles.
So it is that we are ready for anything, fashion wise. We can climb into a bass boat or on a motorcycle, hitch up an RV, cut the grass, fly an airplane, walk the dog, or make a run to Hi-Vee on a moments notice without struggling with what to wear. These days, the same pair of cargos under a decent shirt is entirely appropriate for church. The aforementioned purveyors of our style of clothing make this possible.
We can smile when we “fly over” the racks of quirky, fashionable clothes that still capture the imagination of younger, more obligated folks than us. By now, most folks understand what they are getting with us. Clothing isn’t going to make much difference. If I you see me at Bass Pro or Cabela’s give me a shout…..the coffee is on me…and if the coffee really is on me, it won’t matter, as I will likely be wearing a spillfighter shirt!