There is a running joke in my family about pinstripe suits....
When I was just a high school lad, I worked in a couple of very high-end Princeton men’s clothing stores dusting shelves, putting items away, emptying wastebaskets and - on football Saturdays - selling what are known as men’s furnishings (shirts, socks, neckties, belts, pajamas, etc.). I remember a customer in 1956 paying the astronomical sum of $50 for a single necktie. That was my first exposure to idle money.
I developed certain clothing tastes from that experience and those have carried over into my adult life. I have lots of khaki pants. I nearly always wear button down shirts. My white bucks are long gone, but not my Bass Weejuns. I’m pretty conservative in the way I dress, but I can go most anywhere and not embarrass myself (at least not by what I am wearing).
That said, it is true that I did get asked to leave the lobby of the Raffles Hotel in Singapore once because I was wearing Bermuda shorts. I wanted to tell the staff person who escorted me to the exit that I had been thrown out of better places. He needed to hear that, but it wasn’t really true and I would have carried guilt about such a fib for many years. Without question, the Raffles Hotel is the best place I was ever asked to leave. I have buried that secret within the deepest reaches of my soul and I feel ever so much better to at last free myself of that burden.
Here is a totally true clothing anecdote. In the 1970s, when I was establishing myself as a businessperson in downtown Cleveland, I favored a long-gone discount clothing store that was within easy walking distance of my office. Over a period of years I bought many items there and I was always satisfied with the quality of my purchases. I don’t always shop in a discount store today, but I wasn’t rolling in money then (and, in fact, I am still waiting to do so).
One day about 50 years ago, I was shopping in this emporium when I came upon a wonderful brown suit with white pinstripes. I think we can all agree that inflation has increased the value of what I paid then. The suit (including alterations) was, as I recall, something in the range of $27.95. Yes, you read that right - twenty seven dollars and ninety five cents. At today’s prices, that would mean the suit would cost about $111. Can we also agree that $111 isn’t going to buy much of a suit now… probably not even the pants much less the coat? Perhaps only a single leg of the pants. I succumbed for $27.95. How could I pass up such a bargain?
I remember when I put my wonderful new suit on for the first time. I wanted to look my best. I had some sort of meeting that day. I may have even received a compliment or two about my new look of success. I do have a clear recollection from long ago that, for the first half hour or so, I sat with my left leg crossed on top of my right leg. Finally, it was time to shift my legs. Imagine my surprise when I looked at the right leg and found that the stripes on the right knee had disappeared. It was like someone had taken an eraser to a blackboard. Of course, I immediately covered my right knee with a legal pad as I put it over the left knee. A half hour later, same result on the left side. No more stripes. That was the end of any compliments about my fine new suit.
There are two important lessons to be learned from this experience.
Anyone who sells someone a necktie for $50 in the 1950s should probably think twice before buying an entire suit for $27.95 in the 1970s. That just doesn’t add up.
If you have any striped suits in your closet, make sure all the stripes are still there. Stripeless in Cleveland is not a good look.
And then, there is the story about my brother treating me to a custom cashmere sport coat from Hong Kong. We’ll save that one for the near future.
DY: In Just a Few Words is a blog that comes out when something needs to be said or every Tuesday - whichever comes first. Davis Young is a communications professional who adds 50+ years of experience and perspective to issues of the day. His emphasis in DY: In Just a Few Words will be humor (a touch of sarcasm here, a pinch of facetiousness there...). Once in a while, he will touch on something a bit more serious - but hopefully not too deep or depressing.
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