Fashionably Unfettered

by David Francis

I have never been accused of being a slave to fashion. At the same time, no one has ever suggested that I am a fashion king. In fact, I think it is pretty much safe to say that fashion and I really have no discernible relationship whatsoever.

Now I want to point out from the start that there is a marked difference between someone who doesn't care about or even understands fashion and someone who rebels against fashion. For example, right now what is often called the grung look is very popular. Grung-fashioned people shop at local Salvation Army and Goodwill stores to find clothing that gives them the appearance that they don't care what they look like, but, of course, they really do. If you don't believe this, just consider the following scenario: If you see a grung teenage kid getting ready to go hang out with his/her friends and you offer this person a nice Polo sweater with tailor fitted khaki slacks and some nice loafers--will they take them? Of course not. Wearing such articles would have an unimaginable sociological impact on their lives and leave impression on others that they do not want to give. Now offer this same apparel to an actual fashion ignoramus and that person will think to himself: "Hmm... More things to cover my body and keep out the wind. I will take them." That is the difference between a fashion rebel and a fashion lethargic.

Now I'm not here to mock grung fashion. Quite frankly, grung is the closest thing to sensible fashion that I have ever seen. When I was in high school fashion was an expensive undertaking. Many of my peers were visibly shocked that I would have the audacity to come to school wearing jeans that weren't of a major label or tennis shoes that did not have their own commercials. So you can see why I respect grung. If someone ever told me that a fashion was coming that mandates trips to second hand stores, I wouldn't have believed it. If I had any inkling of fashion at all in those day, I had always connected it with spending more money than you needed to in order to look cooler than the people who couldn't afford to. I applaud grung for breaking with this definition--but it's still fashion.

Because of the complete disregard a fashion lethargic has for fashion, identifying one of these people on the street can not necessarily be done simply by looking at what they wear. You can't do this because a true fashion lethargic simply doesn't care what he wears. Now this might mean that they will wear nothing but old ratty T-shirts and jeans, but it is also very possible for them to be very spiffy dressers. It really depends on what the people who care about them are willing to spend to not be embarrassed in their presence.

Take my situation for instance. Just before my wife and I married and we knew each other well, she felt comfortable enough to inform me that I dress rather shabbily. She suggested that I go with her to the local Eddie Bauer to buy some new shirts and pants. I was immediately skeptical. I explained that I didn't really believe in spending much money on my wardrobe. However, she assured me that I could find some really good deals there. I didn't really believe this, but knowing that the mall that housed this Eddie Bauer store also had an arcade nearby, I theorized that the trip wouldn't necessarily be a complete waste. So I went along with it.

Now, with the hope of pleasing my fiancée, I went into the situation quite willing to break a little from my normal shopping method. This, of course, was a necessity since my normal method of shopping was all done through the mail. That is to say, I waited for my older brothers to grow out of or tire of their clothes and mail them to me. However, my good intentions were spoiled when I saw for the first time in my life just how much money fashion-conscious people were spending on their wardrobes. Rebecca took me to the shirt rack and showed me some shirts. They looked very nice. She looked at the price tag and got excited. "Wow! That's a really good deal for these." she noted. I reached for a price tag. I was confused.

"How many do I get?"

"Well, as many as you want." Rebecca answered enthusiastically, pleased to find me so willing to change my bad dressing habbits.

"No. No," I corrected her, "I mean how many shirts do I get for the amount on this tag?"

Disappointment immediately set into Rebecca's face. "Just the one shirt." She said.

"Are you kidding me? Why, these guys aren't even trying. Do you know how many shirts I can get for this at the Salvation Army?"

Rebecca didn't even bother showing me the pants. She finished her shopping while I went to the arcade.

But she wasn't through yet. The next Christmas she gave me two Eddie Bauer shirts. When I tried them on I realized that they are the nicest shirts I had ever owned.

"There," she said. "Aren't those more comfortable than any other shirt you own?"

"Yes." I said.

"And don't you think they look better?"

"Yeah. How long have these stores been around?"

"At least ten years. See what you've been missing? We can go back to Eddie Bauer today and you can get some more if you want."

"No need." I pointed out. "If they've been around for ten years, their shirts are going to start popping up at the Salvation Army soon. I'm going to keep my eye out for them."

"You're hopeless." She said.

The point of the story is this: For every Christmas, anniversary, birthday, etc., Rebecca buys me nice clothing which I accept most gratefully. My mother in law, seeing her daughter's dilemma, has also joined in on the battle to make me presentable. So, albeit rather slowly, I am becoming an occasionally fashionable dresser without the slightest effort from myself, and certainly I am developing no kind of fashion sense whatsoever. So given that I have done my laundry recently, someone seeing me on the street might think I was concerned with my wardrobe, when, in fact, to this day I have yet to spend more than three dollars for a pair of pants.