By JEFF PICKELL
“Hold on,” I said to the shopkeeper. “I don’t want this pomade. I want Dapper Dan.”
“I don’t carry Dapper Dan,” he replied. “I carry Fop.”
“Well, I don’t want Fop, dadblammit! I’m a Dapper Dan man!”
Actually, I said none of the above. With the exception of a word substitution for the sake of newspaper suitability, I lifted the passage from “O Brother Where Art Thou?”
I remembered the lines the other day when my mom said I was looking rather dapper in my new duds. She had scavenged a bunch of clothes for me off the clearance rack at Kohl’s and made the comment as I tried them on.
To tell the truth, I was digging my new wardrobe, which is funny because eight years ago, I wouldn’t have been caught dead in clothes from Kohl’s. In high school, I was an utter shill for Abercrombie & Fitch and J. Crew—the stores that play unidentifiable music that hypnotizes you, makes you pay $100 for a pair of torn jeans, $70 for a wrinkled button-up.
The stores present the ultimate paradox. It wasn’t considered cool to be seen at them with your mom, but your mom was the only person in the world who could afford the clothes they sold. So you would go to Abercrombie & Fitch and see all the “cool” kids in your class sheepishly following their moms from clothes rack to clothes rack, doing anything to avoid eye contact with you.
Sadly, you never got the chance to scorn because you were always following your mom around, too.
But after a while, I got tired of begging my mom to shell out the bucks for overpriced clothes, and just wore whatever she was generous enough to buy me. I think this was the case for most of the high school boys from my socio-economic background, because we all looked the same in that our outfits were well-put together, but different in that each kid’s mom’s taste was reflected in his apparel.
This changed in college. Without their moms around to pick out clothes for them, all the students wore the same thing—well, at least on Friday night. The last class of the week probably got out at 5:30 p.m. By 8:30 p.m., the streets were awash with males aged 18 to 23 garbed in faded jeans, a backward ball cap, and an ultra-ironed button-up shirt.
As the years progressed, these shirts were more and more frequently of the “pink” variety, which seemed counter-intuitive for a group of guys trying to pick up girls.
My friends and I called it the “Bro’ Hatch,” because the guys who wore the attire were also prone to addressing you as “Bro.’”
We could never call ourselves Bros because we were an unfortunate mix of poor, lazy and uncaring. Phil held on to every t-shirt he acquired since he was four, and as the months passed they formed a giant mountain in the middle of his dorm room. My roommate Kyle never wore anything except Levi’s, a t-shirt and indoor soccer shoes.
I never wore anything my mom didn’t buy for me. Still don’t.
One time—one time—I tried to pick out clothes by myself. The adventure amounted to me hassling a friendly J. Crew worker for a half hour and giving up. The problem with asking store workers for assistance is they want you to buy the priciest stuff. I, however, find myself drawn to the clearance racks. Otherwise, I’d be dropping between $100 and $200 on an outfit and that ain’t happening.
This is where Kohl’s comes into the picture. I discovered it while working for a rival clothing store my senior year of college.
I never knew nice clothes could be so cheap. Sure, the jeans may not be faded or torn, and the shirt may be wrinkle resistant, but I can settle for not looking like a bum if it means I don’t have to pay out the wazoo.
I went over to a Toledo mall a few weeks ago for some people and movie watching, and it seems the high school fashion situation remains largely unchanged. Kids followed their mothers nervously around Abercrombie & Fitch, squabbling about whether something was too expensive. Groups of teenagers swaggered about the food court, pants sagging, collars popped, hats propped at skew angles.
They really did look rather silly.
Clothes function to provide warmth, to conceal the imperfections of the body, to make one look nice, among other things. When applied properly, they render a lady charming, a fellow dapper.
Unless you’re young. Then you use them to look like a goof ball.– Feb. 7 2007