Spending my days in Midtown has made me extremely self-conscious about
the way I dress. For instance, today I was excited about the cool
autumn weather and my first instinct was to grab a hooded sweatshirt
out of hibernation, and climb into it. Then I remembered that in
Midtown, all the men wear big-boy clothes. And guys in hooded
sweatshirts are usually wheeling a cart full of Café Metro deli
platters along the sidewalk.

I know how to dress. Unfortunately, that knowledge has not been
augmented or advanced since my sophomore year in high school when I
settled on jeans, untucked button-down shirts over concert t-shirts,
and this year’s model of sneakers. And, apart from subtle seasonal
variations–for warmer weather, button-down shirt layer is removed;
for cooler weather, button-down shirt is exchanged for (or, in arctic
emergencies, supplemented with) a loose-fitting sweater–this has
remained my basic template for almost thirty years.

I’ve retained other sartorial tics for even longer than that. My
sneaker fetish began in fifth grade, when the latest sneaker was the
only essential element of any boy’s back to school wardrobe. I was a
regular Pascal Blaise in the suave (tearful, desperate) negotiations
with my parents that resulted in the purchase of Nike Legends for my
first day of sixth grade. They were $55 at the Army-Navy store
downtown–more than my parents had ever paid for a pair of sneakers,
and probably more than my father had ever paid for a business suit or
prescription eyeglasses. Until recently, I still tied my shoes using
the remedial “bunny ears” method despite knowing better. Even now, I
usually save the one-loop shoe-tying method for shoes stores, public
locker rooms, and any other occasion where I need to impress people.
And I still slip plastic sandwich bags in my rain boots so my socks
don’t fly off, and I can only wear a jacket if I first place it on the
floor and then dive into it. Some people might call these behaviors
“functionally retarded,” but I like to think of them as stubbornly

By now I’m so far behind the curve of proper adult fashion that every
potential clothing purchase requires a complete assessment of my
wardrobe. Often, I just won’t bother because the ramifications of,
say, a pair of plaid wool pants would be far too great on my current
clothing situation. I would have to buy new belts, shoes, shirts,
sweater vests (?) — in order to convince people that I am not just
some hobo who stole the pants off a proper English gentleman.

It’s gotten so bad that, like a sad sack with scratch-off residue
lodged beneath his fingernails, desperately hoping to wish away his
low-key tragedy of a life in Lotto investments, I sometimes harbor
this fantasy that a bunch of homosexuals will break into my apartment
(not as sexy as it sounds), then dramatically toss the contents of my
dresser out the window, throw me into their Ford Escape (a proud
sponsor of the reality show in my head), and re-build my wardrobe and
home furnishings from scratch. That seems like a very millennial kind
of longing. Only in the last ten years or so has it become
conceivable, and even probable, that at some point in your life a
bunch of colorful characters will kick in your door and solve your
problems reality TV-style. I don’t mind rushing around, or having my
friends “confess” that I dress like a narc who’s gone undercover in a
Midwest high school. I would let someone take a pair of scissors to my
Batman t-shirt or bulky sweaters or dozens of nearly identical cowboy
shirts. They can destroy them before my eyes, and replace them with
suits and ties and monogrammed undershirts and trench coats for
wet and cold weather. I don’t care–they can burn everything I own, as
long as they stay away from my purple Nike Dunks. That’s my favorite

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