--How To Buy Dress Shoes For Men
"Some trouble..." That echoing, chortling, spewing sound you just heard was me choking on my Diet Pepsi. I HATE buying clothes. I am the classic Male Kamikaze Shopper--I zoom in, swoop down, grab something... and commit fashion suicide.
Which may explain why I dress the way I dress (and would that I did so as some kind of intense, political, post-modernist statement like writer John Shirley; sadly, I'm not that deep)--jeans, usually black, sometimes blue; T-shirts (t-shirts? Tee-shirts?), often black, sometimes gray, blue, or burgundy (see my footnote here concerning shirts); black lace-up shoes, Rockport, more often than not; never shorts (sweet Jeebus, no! Not with my pudgy, fishbelly-white legs!), never a suit, never a tie, once in a great while (weddings and funerals) a sportcoat or blazer and then only under duress--more and more I'm coming to resemble Cayce Pollard in William Gibson's Pattern Recognition (which I just happen to have re-read):
Pollard is a freelance marketing consultant, a coolhunter with an unusual intuitive sensitivity for branding, manifested primarily in her physical aversion to bad logos and corporate mascots. As a consequence, Pollard dresses in plain clothing unadorned with brand markings of any kind, referred to as "Cayce Pollard Units" or C.P.U.s. These are typically Fruit of the Loom shrunken cotton t-shirts with skirts, tights, boots, and a Buzz Rickson MA-1 bomber jacket.
From the novel: "CPUs. Cayce Pollard Units. That's what Damien calls the clothing she wears. CPUs are either black, white, or gray, and ideally seem to have come into this world without human intervention. What people take for relentless minimalism is a side effect of too much exposure to the reactor-cores of fashion. This has resulted in a remorseless paring-down of what she can and will wear. She is, literally, allergic to fashion. She can only tolerate things that could have been worn, to a general lack of comment, during any year between 1945 and 2000. She's a design-free zone, a one-woman school of anti whose very austerity periodically threatens to spawn its own cult."
I relate--boy, do I relate--though with me it's more of a matter of my not knowing what goes with what nor giving a flying, uh, fig whether the designer label is cool or not. Well, that and the fact I am one of the many Children of a Larger, Chubbier God, so clothing designers have not taken my particular body configuration into consideration. Or they have... and recoiled in horror-- see The Devil Wears Prada and this little exchange between Stanley Tucci and future ex-wife Anne Hathaway:
Andy Sachs: "So none of the girls here eat anything?"
Nigel: "Not since two became the new four and zero became the new two."
Andy Sachs: "Well, I'm a six..."
Nigel: "Which is the new fourteen."
Nigel: "I don't know what you expect me to do. There's nothing in this whole closet that'll fit a size six. I can guarantee you. These are all sample sizes--two and four."
To be honest, if it didn't make me look like some kind of deranged survivalist circa 1975 (the Kurt Saxon/Turner Diaries era) I'd wear nothing but military surplus. Hey! the stuff's durable as hell, infinitely adjustable, transcends fashion, and, come the Zombie Apocalypse, I'll already be equipped!*
But I'm forced to live in a pre-apocalyptic world, one in which I find myself in need of clothes--losing about 60 lbs. in 5 mo. will do that to a fella--so it's been forays to Target and Wal-Mart and Old Navy** for
Shoe score: a pair of Streetcars "Diplomat," regularly priced around $75.00, for $30.00. They look like something Sheldon of The Big Bang Theory would wear so at that price I had to get 'em (Sheldon is my hero/short-duration personal savior).
*For those of you who remember Bloom County, you may also recall "The Great LaRouche Toad Frog Massacre":
" 'First,' " said Opus, reading from the government manual, " 'Gather shovels.' " We dispersed and looked for shovels, returning with several. " 'Second, quickly and without panic, take refuge in the countryside.' " Shovels in hand, we formed an orderly line and proceeded to march behind our hyperventilating leader down the street, passing by others who were clearly reacting to the threat of thermonuclear annihilation with less self-control than ourselves. We, after all, had taken the precaution of procuring not only an official federal civil defense handbook, but an official - if reluctant - Civil Defense Coordinator as well.
Upon reaching the dandelions of Milo's Meadow, well removed, we supposed, for Ground Zero, we stood at attention and awaited further instructions. " 'Dig shallow trenches, " Opus continued. " 'Lie down in trenches, cover self with wooden door or like object and await blast. After shock wave passes, emerge and go to nearest emergency Civil Defense Center and fill out emergency change of address forms.' "
With this, we seized the handbook and hacked it to pieces with our shovels. Opus was officially decommissioned and we quickly adopted a favorite stand-by approach to an approaching holocaust - hysterical panic. This is always fun to watch, so Milo and I settled back into the grass to savor the confusion, our own fates apparently sealed. Opus wrung his hands and worried about what radiation would do to his complexion.
Steve Dallas jogged by, dressed in designer fatigues and wearing an extraordinarily full backpack. "JOIN ME IN THE HILLS!" he yelled in passing. "ONLY THE PROPERLY EQUIPPED WILL SURVIVE!" Or the lawyers, we thought. "JOIN ME AND WE'LL CRAWL FROM THE RUBBLE AND LIVE TO FIGHT ANOTHER DAY. TO THE HILLS! ONLY THE WEAK WILL PERISH!" This was no comfort to the nearly shattered Opus, who had no illusions as to where he stood in the strong/weak classification. Watching his best friend Steve Dallas disappear into the woods dressed like Rambo proved the final decisive blow to an already critical frame of mind and he plopped over unconscious. Lying serenely among the clover, Opus was blessedly unaware of Portnoy and Hodge-Podge marching up the hill with a fully automatic 45mm American Ruger Assault rifle, apparently intent on massacring the imminent hordes of Communists in groups of fifty or more. "We're gonna massacree 'em!" bellowed Portnoy, waving the weapon that had obviously been borrowed from the shelves of the K-Mart Sporting Goods Section. Milo and I, concluding that the general scheme of things just couldn't handle this much fun, tried to dissuade Portnoy and his fellow conspirator from their patriotic mission. They would not hear of it. These, after all, were a groundhog and a rabbit, two of the most excitable critters to be found in modern meadows and wont to excessive behavior. "We'll go out blasting!" they said.
**I cannot believe I went to Old Navy. That is so not my kind of place, but they had T-shirts at $5.00 a pop and I can't buy used washrags for that price.