Today, I tied the perfect half Windsor. The knot was just slightly asymmetrical, there was a nice dimple, and the tip of the tie just barely broke the top of my belt buckle. I did it on my first try. It’s my maroon club tie. It bears the logo of a proud institution that I can finally sport with legitimacy. It isn’t aspiring, it is earned.
I don’t think shoes have to be earned, but it took me forever to find the right ones. They are brown slip-on loafers. Not Weejuns, or the normal penny loafers. The seams around the top of the shoe turn inside, making them just a little sleeker. They ride that thin line between formal and casual. (For the longest time all I could find were either frat boy moccasins or Euro genie shoes. Thank you, eBay.) Of course my brown leather belt matches.
I have on flat-front cotton khakis. They reach right to the top of my shoe, covering my socks but not touching the ground, no break in the pant leg at all. This was luck. Even when I have had pants hemmed they never get it perfect. They still pool on the shoes or sag in the seat. This pair came right off the rack. Serendipity.
I rarely if ever use a comb, just fingers. The key isn’t the comb, it is the product. I’ve gone through gels, mousses, pomades. Some just didn’t have the hold, others held but turned flaky by mid-day. I don’t want wet and glossy, nor bed head, just a nice mid ground that looks tidy, but with a little style. I’m too old, too responsible to do anything wild, but I’m not quite ready to give up and have hair that is just blah. So the idea is to do the blah 'do, but with fingers instead of a comb. With the right product it works. At least it works for what I want, and today I got it right.
I shaved and did not cut myself. Not on my neck next to my Adam’s apple, not at the corners of my mouth. Not only did I not cut myself, but I shaved in record time and managed to still erase that pesky little patch right under my nose. That spot where nose and upper lip meet. The one that no razor built by man can quite fit. Today I got it.
I buttoned down the collar on my powder blue shirt, and took a step back to take it all in. Perfect. After all these years of wandering in sartorial ignorance, being swayed by cargo pants or T-shirts, being wooed by four button suit jackets or chunky soled Doc Marten’s, I finally figured it out. I nailed it. Today I was top to bottom happy with what I put on.
Then, when I reached for my jacket, I turned just a little sideways. It ruined everything.
That dreaded ballooning a shirt makes when tucked in, the one you should buy slim or fitted shirts to avoid, was full of me. My stomach hung out over my belt buckle like some cornice — an avalanche just on the brink of happening.
It wasn’t always like that. That thing, that baggage, that waistline that isn’t really me, it is a some-thing, not a part of a some-one. It isn’t me, it is just some passenger that stowed away while I was busy with other things. It used to be I could not only not find the right shoes, but I couldn’t afford them. I could never afford them so much so that even if I had money I had no idea what I should be buying. I was in the wrong shoe wearing the wrong shirt, in the wrong fit, but on the perfect body.
This body had its own reputation.
Every bit of it was solid. Large in the chest and shoulders, slim in the waist and wrists. I was maybe a little thick in the ankles but massive enough in the calves to balance it out. While I may not have been clothed very well, I had a great form to fit. My form wasn’t the best part of that body of old; the best part was what it could do.
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