Friday, July 30, 2010


One year, when I was about 15, I bought a pair of stylish, pointed loafers to go with my continental cut slacks. The tight continental style had just replaced baggy slacks with little buckles in the back and shoes with flip-up tongues the size of small boats.

Fashion was more important to my younger self than physical comfort. My extra wide, though small, feet were never designed for anything with a pointed toes. So when I wore those pointed loafers to the fair, I was in agony within a few minutes and it got no better as time passed. I limped for days.

I won’t say that was the last time I wore anything that made me feel uncomfortable, at least physically. Anyone remember the knee-length calypso pants with belts that tied? My father got a good laugh every time I put on what he called “girly pedal pushers,” which they resembled. Fortunately, it was a short-lived fad.

Adulthood put me in various types of uncomfortable garb. There were hard hats on construction jobs, coveralls in factory work and for the last couple of decades in the public labor force, gun leather and a uniform plus a Kevlar vest, followed by ties and business casual dress.

When my work no longer took me into public, I pretty much settled into blue jeans. These days during the summer I usually wear short-sleeve Latin-type Guayabera shirts with embroidered stripes that my friend Jim Dykes turned me on to. “Comfortable, neat and hide a handgun well,” Dykes said when he gave me the first of them.

In cold weather, it’s jeans, a long-sleeved shirt and a leather vest for the same reasons. I wear Rockport walking shoes the year round. They’re tough, practical and very comfortable – a long way from pointy-toed loafers.

A few years ago, I began to notice that the food, which inadvertently fell from my fork when I was dining in public never made it to the napkin correctly folded in my lap. It ended up on my shirt. One afternoon, while dining with an older friend, I noticed that he solved the problem by using his napkin as a bib.

It was something to think about and I did. Then I realized it was the old question of comfort versus style. I haven’t entirely cured myself of the desire to be stylish, but if my wife Cheryl and I are seated at an out-of-the-way table, I will use my napkin as a bib. Cheryl thinks it’s a good idea.

Slave to fashion that I have been, I have always sought to avoid what I find to be the most uncomfortable of all social situations – sitting in a barber chair. In a barber chair one is hostage to the conversation of other customers and that of the barber.

Through the years I have tried to avoid it in various ways – from letting my hair grow to shoulder length, which I found intolerable, and by wearing a flat-top until I realized it required more maintenance than other haircuts. When I saw my son buzz off his own hair while visiting back in May, the germ of an idea came to me.

Last week, I took a deep breath and told the barber to peel my head – then asked what number guide she had used. The following week, I bought a set of clippers and yesterday I successfully used them. I can now avoid the barber shop forever more.

Can someone shout, liberation!

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