I was married to a very handsome man once, and he never owned a suit. I come from a small town, so did my husband, so I’d have to say, that was probably our main problem. We didn’t know any better. Tailored suits weren’t part of anyone’s fashion repertoire in those Tastee Freeze communities we grew up in. Take, for example, the khaki shorts and Guy Harvey t-shirts we most often see Florida panhandle boys wearing. For those boys, dressing up probably means wearing a Columbia shirt and khakis with a belt, for goodness sake.
It took a little bit of traveling before I realized that I didn’t have any proper training in fashion. I had to meet the right men and women ‘from out-of-town’ before I started to notice all that I didn’t know up to that point: that there are snappy-dressing people who shop in department stores more iconic than Gayfers or Dillards. I was in my forties before I noticed real men and women in seriously impressive clothes, clothes that were made well. I realized I loved seeing for myself people who looked, incidentally, like the ones in the Vogue I liked to read. It clicked! Fashion magazines feature dresses, suits and shoes that you can actually buy and wear yourself.
Men’s suits in particular are a weakness.
A man in a fitted suit who also happens to smell delicious is just about more than many women can handle. Tailored suits are a new discovery for me, and not just the kind you wear to work. It seemed indulgent to me at first, like expensive watches, for instance. But remember, I come from a whole life of seeing boys renting tuxedos and returning them dirty three days later. Years ago, I would have commented arrogantly that, “paying $1000 for a suit is insane,” or “no one in the world knows what you paid for that watch,” as I rolled my eyes. Then, I found myself learning from men who dress well. Once, eating a quiet dinner in a sexy restaurant, a woman passing our table glanced at my date and then tossed her chin over at me as if to say, “Yes, girlfriend. Yes.” Unspoken approval, woman to woman, and recognition that I was with a very well-dressed man. I never forgot it. When was the last time a gorgeous, respectable bombshell of a woman noticed your husband like that?
Now, I am almost finished raising a young man of my own. We are on the home stretch for Homecoming dances and Junior-Senior Proms and the world of mall tuxedos and thrice-worn ironed khakis with colored ties faced us down once again a few weeks ago. Preparing (again) to drop a few hundred dollars on rentals and more new bowties, I made the decision to dress him well this time. His moment had come. We’d finally crossed over the awkward lanky years of tiny waists and weekly growth spurts, and his height thankfully plateaued. His once-bony shoulders are broad and muscular like his dad’s now.
I knew it was finally time to get the kid a real suit.
We made an appointment with a haberdasher. Don’t know what that is? I didn’t either. But it’s a men’s clothing salesman and even in our small-ish town, we have reputable stores who do an amazing job of fitting and tailoring a blossoming young dude with a snazzy designer jacket and pants, an ensemble that will carry him through the next few years of college interviews, friends’ weddings and frat house dinner mixers. It wasn’t cheap (by my standards), but the proof is in the pictures. He looks like an adult, he looks like he knows how to mingle in a crowd… indeed, he looks rather respectable, instead of just being cute. He doesn’t look like he comes from a town with a roadside produce stand. I figure that if I can buy him $7,000.00 worth of braces, I can certainly get him a nice suit before I send him off into the world.
What he smells like will be up to him.