Fashion wise, I’ve never been GQ material. In fact, truth be told, I've never even read GQ. I was a Sears’ guy growing up and then moved up to JC Penny when I hit college. I would never turn Heidi Klum's head, unless that is, I turned her head away because of my fashion senselessness.
I've been told that I owned a leisure suit in high school and wore it to the homecoming dance. I have no recollection of this. What’s even worse, the jacket of my leisure suit apparently did not even match the pants. My outfit had thrift shop written all over it. And yet, in my Appalachian community, I fit right in.
The first time I met my wife, I was wearing white bibbed overalls and no shirt. My wife grew up on Long Island. I doubt she had ever worn bibbed overalls. Looking back, it occurs to me that I should have never dated someone who would have dated me, dressed like that.
My fashion sense improved over the years but I’ve never been a trendsetter. I did, however, command the retro nerd look quite comfortably.
Recently, I decided to upgrade my wardrobe. I spend a lot of time speaking in front of audiences all over the world and I wanted to make sure I wasn't still sporting an Appalachian leisure-suit image. But there’s a problem with jumping into the fashion scene at my age. I’m a 50 year-old, skinny, balding man with no discernible pecs or biceps. Fashionable clothes today are designed for 20 year-old muscular studs with a full head of hair. While I could certainly improve upon my current wardrobe, I have to accept that I can only get so much hipness out of this unhip body.
I went to Nordstrom’s, on the advice of a friend to get assistance from one of their fashion "advisors." First, I needed a few new shirts. I browsed the designer styles that I could wear with both nice slacks and jeans. Most of the shirts these days have vertical stripes which, unfortunately, accentuate my lanky frame. Add to that the funky pink and blue colors and all of the sudden I’m sporting a more feminine, European look. I guess this is the androgynous look of today’s urban male—not commonly found in Appalachia, I might add.
Next, I looked for stylish jeans to go with my new shirts. Since I no longer wear Sears’ Toughskins, I wanted something that was fashionable but without the faded seats and pre-ripped knees.
I found a nice pair of Lucky brand jeans that had "your lucky" printed on the inside zipper flap. That struck me as odd. And when I put them on, I discovered that the waist sat just above my knees rather than at my hips where it should be—which at my age, is just below my chest. As a result, the mid section of my body looked twice as long. The vertical stripes on my new shirts lengthened it even further so now, I appeared to have the midsection of a seven-foot tall man. Plus, because the low-riding waist didn’t feel quite right, I was pulling it up every few minutes. Uncomfortable yes, but isn’t that the price we pay for looking so amazing?
Finally, I needed a new black suit. My "advisor" who, by the way, appeared to be wearing a suit from Macy's, directed me towards a Hugo Boss suit that was very nice. It was stylish but still mainstream. The price was right so I decided to try it on. Little did I know that this suit was, in reality, a black blazer with a pair of black tights. The legs on the pants were made for the slim legs of a seven year old. When I put the suit on my tall and lanky body, I looked like a crow on stilts. My advisor convinced me that this was the contemporary style and that it didn’t look odd at all. He said that I just needed to “get used to it.” Easy for him to say with his normal sized Macy legs.
I really don't want to be the guy who is still wearing argyle socks and a cardigan sweater with elbow patches. And yet, I don't want to be the old guy who is clinging to his youth by wearing hip clothes on an unhip body. I must admit that my new wardrobe does give me a sense of confidence even though the fit is a bit uncomfortable.
So, do me a favor. If you see me tugging on my jeans or unable to sit down because my suit pants are too tight, don't stare. Instead, just walk up to me and say, "Didn't I see you in GQ?"