Monday, October 09, 2006

ease myself into... a body bag

There’s a scene from the movie The Fly that burned itself into my brain. I assume the same thing happened to many of you. You know the scene I mean. Try as hard as I might, I haven’t been able to forget it. It’s the thrilling moment when Jeff Goldblum shows off his wardrobe to the girl. It’s full of several copies of the same outfit, and he says some probably made-up thing about how Einstein wore the same suit every day to save brain power, and that that’s what he does as well.

Whether or not that b.s. about Einstein was true didn’t matter. I immediately felt a connection to the Seth Brundle theory of sartorial simplicity. I wanted to wear the same thing every day. I wanted a uniform. Preferably some sort of ninja costume.

“To save brain power” would be the official reason. The actual reason would be so that I could sleep later and not have to spend time rummaging through annoying piles of itchy, heavy fabric in the morning. I knew that that time could be better used for sleeping. And I can’t stand rummaging. If stuff is on hangers, I always somehow knock it off, and from somewhere along the rod something gives way and all my ties slither onto the floor and shoot off in all directions like a Biblical plague. If the clothes are in piles, the sh*t I want is always far, far towards the bottom, and rummaging through the piles unfolds all the other stuff, and the pile is now somehow half a foot higher than before, and the damn drawer won’t close. I don’t know about you but I’d rather be sleeping than full body wrestling a floppy heap of textiles, thanks. Not to mention that having an official outfit would save me the humiliation of that yearly trip to Bob’s with mom to buy new jams or parachute pants or what have you.

It’s 15 or 20 years later and the dream has not died. Sure, some elements have changed. For example, I now know that Steve Jobs has used a similar approach to clothing, and there’s just something so annoying about Steve Jobs that it almost ruins the monoutfit concept. Also, with the passing years the annual back-to-school shopping trip has turned into a shameful biannual screaming match where Kim tries to convince me that I should buy this or that, and I try to convince her that I am doing just fine with my old clothes. Often I am so violently outraged at having to take off my pants in a shopping mall and carefully measure how much fatter, in inches, I’ve gotten since the last shopping trip, and then pay someone for the honor, that Kim will actually have to buy the clothes for me. I usually end up liking the new clothes eventually, but shopping is such a disgusting ordeal that in the store I am always convinced that no horrible little scraps of fabric are worth that humiliation. Or that money. I’d rather stick with my old clothes. Even if they have worn so thin that the fabric at the knees and crotch is essentially a cobweb or the sheerest of fairy gossamer.

Another compelling reason which I’ve added to my one-outfit theory over recent years: I want some dignity, dammit. Let me explain. First off, I’ve never been a very dignified person. I do not always know which fork to use. I do not carry myself with poise or hauteur. I have been known to slip on icy pavement, walk into glass doors and I have repeatedly picked violent fights with old men in public. And I have worn a t-shirt, jeans and sneakers on most of the days of my life. Nothing wrong with that. But, secondly, living and travelling in other countries has sort of shown me that there’s something I’m lacking. As are most Americans. We have no clothing dignity. We’re slobs in random ugly clothing. Many of us in fact wear only items of clothing with the prefix “sweat-”. If you look at people in the Middle East for example, a lot of them have clothing dignity coming out their ears. A white robe topped with a turban or headscarf makes any random dinar-less schmuck on the street look like the Pope.

Or look at Indian women and saris. They’re basically wearing ancient Roman togas – just a big sheet, really – except with noserings, and it gives an immense aura of importance. I’d just as soon mess with one of them as I’d talk back to Caesar’s wife. Yes, their love handles are hanging out, but darn it they’re hanging out with dignity. Another example – kids in school uniforms look civilized and studious, then when you see them in their normal clothes they look like little imbeciles and jerks. I guess that’s my point – I’m from a country where adults dress like kids who get to pick their own wardrobe. We have no traditions, no urge to dress a certain way, and that has its good aspects but detracts a lot from our clothing dignity.

Anyway, I have no point here except to say that I am trying to turn over a new bolt and am actively working to select and refine my uniform. It’s a work in progress. This summer at school I wore the same thing every day by necessity because I didn’t want to pack too much, but as it involved Converse high-tops and orange shorts, it wasn’t really the most dignified uniform. But it was a start. It is getting late and I’d better stop writing now. I had hoped to add pictures of my actual clothes to add to the excitement. Maybe later. Perhaps in future updates I will continue to elaborate on my unique and fascinating ideas about haberdashery. Now back to sewing my ninja costume.


Anonymous said...

xcellent post, as always. I am completely with you about the lack of dignity in American clothing. I still vividly remember seeing a man in Egypt wearing a white robe (there's a technical term for the garment that eludes me) adorned with a red and white string. I don't think I've ever seen anyone as distinguished in my life. I know we have suits, but I find them lacking in comparison.

The desire for a uniform reminds me of Seinfeld's riff on movies about the future -- how we eventually all just decide on a jumpsuit with a stripe on it. Except it's funny when he tells it.

superkimbo said...

Oh the torture. The torture of trying to get Alex to buy new clothes. He makes his worn out clothes sound so silky and nice, gossamer wonderlands of simple fabric. Yeah, right. You don't have to go out in public with him. I just wish I had a picture of his old middle school sneakers that he wore until I sneakily threw them away a year or two ago in Munich (that was quite a victory, let me tell you).

And, I don't know why he insists on choosing such inapproopriate clothing for the weather. When he says "heavy" fabrics, he's refering to the wool (yes WOOL) pants that are part of his "uniform," which he wears every single day. This summer I tried my hardest to get him to buy some light summer clothes that can become his uniform (give that the average temperature year-round in Malaysia is 32C), but no luck. He did buy that pair of orange shorts though. Now that's dignified.

Fiwibabe said...

Alex, you are training to be a teacher. If you keep wearing those pants they'll wear so thin that the kids will see your undies and they will call you names behind your back.

So, therefore, I'm with Superkimbo. Face your fears and go through em' (or something like that - I saw it in a self help book). In time you will realise that shopping places you in a zen like trance that will enable you to be super organised and very teacherly. I didn't get that way from going to university mate - it's the shopping, I swear by it.

albtraum said...

I really like shopping for books, CDs, DVDs and video games... and beer, i guess... but having to shop for anything else just makes me angry. If I know what my goal is before I go in, I don't mind. but I can't aimlessly wander around looking at clothes for more than around 15 minutes. I just can't. I think a lot of guys are that way. Well, at least my dad is, that's all the evidence I have.