Saturday, January 18, 2003

New Coat, Old Hat

...and this shirt still creased from the shelf.

At the Holyoke Mall yesterday for the first time in almost a year, as Darcie needed some make-your-own picture framing supplies for a student-led Creative Crafts activity, and I tagged along to help with Willow and justify my birthday by buying clothes. When I was a kid, clothing stores were vast and diverse, and you could buy essentially identical jeans in any of a dozen stores, for example, or Timberland boots, or just plain old white sweatsocks. But these days only Filene's Basement and JC Penney's carry plain white socks, buried low behind wall-sized displays of argyle after argyle, paisley after checks. These days walking into a store like Eddie Bauer (relaxed fit stonewashed jeans at $29) or the Gap (light blue patterned button-down and a pair of unpleated khakis, both on sale and a steal at $27 for the set) or Banana Republic (corduroys under ten bucks on the outside racks, but I don't like the way corduroy crushes after being folded in your drawer for too long, so I's never wear 'em) or Old Navy (nothing for me, but a sweatsuit and pajamas for the baby) is a masquerade; the shops sell a certain style, a certain ideal, one so focused that, for example, all the jeans in the Gap -- all of them -- are cut and worn thin in patches in exactly the same way. Even Baby Gap (another three outfits, a suede hat with velcro flaps and a winter baby snuggli) is filled with parent-types and wannabes, pawing through cute little outfits with matching stuffed bears, whose personalities as parents or parents-to-be crystalize under the hyperreal, hypercommercial influence of a constant stream of perfect babies flashing on the wall monitors.

The mall has always held a somewhat illicit attraction for me. Not only is it an ADHD playgound of Chuck E Cheese proportion, it gives me a rush like a drug to wander through stores playing dress-up in my mind. And not just for clothes: there's a pet store where you can imagine what life would have been like with a German Shephard; espresso bars on each floor, the ubiquitous food court, Brookstones. Darcie took me to Men's Wearhouse, much smaller than the name suggests, to try on charcoal grey suits, a necessity now that the sympathy weight I gained during the pregnancy has sized me out of my old suitcoat from my college days; I looked fine indeed, but we're still thinking about it.

My best purchase was a new coat in some eurotrash store, a sort of double-breasted cotton insulated peacoat with wide flat collars, but cut almost waspishly in a charcoal grey corduroy and on sale for 27 bucks. It's about to lose a button already, but it looks great with my brown-mauve christmas scarf, even if the pockets turned out to be fake. And it comes with a whole new me: Now, when I look down at myself all day, I think of myself as the kind of guy who would wear this particular charcoal grey corduroy style-over-substance coat...

posted by boyhowdy | 12:20 AM |

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