|Not his actual jeans...but close...|
Were I to post photos of his outfits every day, many people would gain great amusement, chuckling.
They'd see his unnoticed spots on faded shirts, his failed meal-napkin attempts to clean others. They could admire off-brand Dockers-wanna-bes frayed at the bottoms. Corduroy worn shiny and smooth. Flannel shirts with pocket flaps curled, super-comfortably large, tucked into his belt, cinched at his belly button.
We've always affectionately called him sartorially-challenged; he says he's merely relaxed.
Attempts to correct or improve the situation are regularly rebuffed. Our daughter made a Nordstrom Rack run, returning with presentable jeans and pleas to wear them a bit lower than his midriff. But why try on new jeans when his nicely broken-in ones, with threadbare knees, serve so well? The man works in radio, remember.
Shirts his size are cast off as "too constricting." And why pay for bland, solid-color t-shirts, when he's got stacks of freebies splashed with garish promotional slogans?
We begged him to change one Sunday before a family outing--when he was clad in a roomy royal blue t-shirt with the name of a not-well-received cable talk show embroidered on the front in canary yellow. He declined.
Beside his two dozen t-shirts touting failed movie titles, he's got a collection of organization button-downs with logos so embarrassing, he's tried to camouflage the advertising by pulling out threads, creating a peek-a-boo look above the pen-pocket. On one shirt, his attempt to obliterate the company name led him to transform it into a "tan school".
His philosophy is that like fine wine, remnants of which can be found on his shirts, clothes in general improve with age. He will not part with sentimental reminders of his life decades ago, and indeed, my collection of photos through the years shows him with babies, toddlers, grade-school kids and high schoolers, our same three children, aging in his beloved (also aging) shirts. In middle school, he wore the same sweatshirt to school every day, and it's still in his drawer.
Do not believe that I could sneak into his wardrobe while he's at work for some discarding and renovation. That would bring a similar reaction to my re-arranging his stereo equipment, and hell hath no fury like a funkily-dressed audiophile.
Perhaps the most famous story about his penchant for casual attire regards an invitation to meet with President George W. Bush in the White House. For the occasion, he wore a sport jacket, white shirt, tie, and black jeans. His best black jeans, of course.
After the meeting, former drug czar William Bennett, also in attendance, took my husband aside. In a kindly, gravelly whisper, he said, "When you meet with the President, it's customary to wear a dark suit." If only my husband would own a dark suit. Well, there is the one from his Yale graduation, that he still pulls out when necessary.
After 27 years of marriage, I've come to accept my husband's idiosyncrasies as charming. I don't connect my own self-esteem to his appearance, and the fame of his nonchalance about clothing often leads our hosts toward low expectations. Our children, however, are tenacious in nudging him toward respectability, lending credence to the Skinnerian notion that intermittent reinforcement is most difficult to extinguish. Occasionally, my husband, upon their urging, will pitch a wholly holey shirt.
He'll condescend to their insistence because he knows there's a rack of frayed-collar alternatives still beckoning in his closet, mellowing with each passing day.