Monday, November 21, 2005

I have a long, black coat...

Long before NEO appeared in "The Matrix" (1996, actually), /dev/wife and I were coat shopping. My wife has a clothing sensibility, and I was in the mood for a black leather jacket -- I had gotten a bit on the porkish side (cough), and had outgrown the last one. Lisa and I were at a coat store in Canton Ohio, looking through coats, and she directed me to the section where they had a bunch of long, full length black leather coats.

I still remember thinking that they were a bit unconventional. And expensive.

She talked me into it based upon the longevity of the coat, and the fact that it would be warm in the cold Ohio wind. The material (Lamb skin) was soft as cloth, but very durable. I bought one, a bit on the large side, because it was comfortable, and because when I put it on, I felt smothered -- hidden almost -- inside the thing. It was a really neat feeling.

Over the years, it's become an almost signature item for me. Among the other things it's brought me (besides the inevitable catch on the car door, drift through the mud and so on) is a sort of unique calling-card. People who are just getting to know me, see me as "The guy with the black leather coat", before they learn my name. They know I have something to do with computers, and it's kind of a unique tag that helps get me noticed (okay, some people don't find it to be a positive sign, but after I begin talking it usually eradicates any initial worries).

On to the reason for talking about it. This is part of the whole "American Creative Male" theme (of course).

Over the past 10 years or so (the time I've had the coat), I've been complimented many times by women on the thing. The guys, though, are a completely different story. It's almost a pariah. There have been a few, brave, creative types. The funniest one, I remember vividly:

  • Guy interested in coat (GIIC): "Hey, no offense there, but how long have you had that coat?
  • ME: "None taken. 3 years."
  • GIIC: "I've always liked coats like that, but couldn't see myself getting one."
  • ME: "Why? You like to abuse or neglect yourself? It's very warm."
  • GIIC: "No, I mean.... Well. It's just that I'm not sure what kind of impression it would make."
  • ME: "It might make people think you're fat?"
  • GIIC: "No. I mean. Well. I mean. It's just that --"
  • ME: "Women love this coat."
  • GIIC: "Exactly." (unspoken words at this point: "They want one for themselves.")
  • ME: "No, I mean, they like the way it looks on me. They don't think I'm gay or anything." Me smiling. The guy is getting uncomfortable.
  • GIIC: "Where did you get it?"
  • ME: (I tell him)
  • GIIC: "How much?"
  • ME: (I tell him)
  • GIIC: "That's a lot of dough -- you think it was worth it?"
  • ME: "It's a great conversation piece, at least."
Seriously, the problem is simple: Nothing says "Dress" like a long, full length coat. This despite years of precedent, Neo, the coolness factor, male high school kids using them to hide shot-guns and so on -- it's simply too damn feminine if it comes past your waist and billows in the wind.

Speaking of which, the thing is great in windy conditions -- years spent as a roving Engineering systems guru in the Greater Cleveland area proved this over and over. It's surprisingly practical. During my Dot-Bomb days when I was stuck at the whims of the often busted airline travel schedules, the thing saved me in many an airport. Here I am, between some wild-ass delayed flight in the middle of the night. I'm wearing said coat. Turn it over, slide over on the bench, pull it up over me like a blanket -- sleep. Ahhhhhh.

But what the hell about it (besides the aforementioned "dress-factor") says it's not masculine to wear? Nothing, other than peer pressure and the fact that most men own, at most, half-length coats (Am I the only one that sees "mini-skirt" in the damn things?!? I honestly don't think I can wear one -- just kidding ;)

Well, it could be one more thing -- to buy a coat like that, you kind of have to be on the pull side. Your wife probably isn't going to get one for you (it might signal doubt about your virility, after all) -- you're going to have to be the one to give it the Ole' OK. And if that's the case, you're at best (hopefully) going to be shopping for it yourself with your wife in tow (or as in my case, in tow of the wife). These situations don't happen in a lot of marriages -- usually guys don't "shop" and certainly if they do, it's for stuff they need to better define their amazing masculinity. You know:

  • Auto Parts
  • Home improvement tools
  • A tie
  • Possibly a new sport coat (not too sporty there! Watch it -- are you having fun or something doing this?!? Whoa, don't let the neighbors see!)
If they're on their own, the price of a full-length leather coat of quality is probably going to scare them away, or worse, drop them into comparison mode ("Let's seeeeee, 45 cases of beer, or this? The Beer wins! Gimme the short leather coat for 75 bucks, please!"). Yeah, guys are cheap, typically, in the clothing department -- unless (as previously outlined), they're lawyers or sale-professionals. In the latter cases, the clothing branch goes into something I call ESM, or Expensive Suit Mode.

In ESM, the more expensive the suit, the higher the status. ESM brings on a new form of insanity, whereby the purchaser somehow believes that cloth for a suit has suddenly become a rare commodity, and they're willing to pay more per inch for it than 100 times the cost of thick carpeting. They purchase the suit knowing full well that the only other people who will recognize the value is another sucker who has bought into the entire ESM philosophy.

I'm not one of these people, by the way. All of my suits are bought carefully for way less at clothing outlets, and I've yet to run into anyone who thought they were all that cheap (except for people afflicted with ESM, who have trouble passing bell-hops without turning up their noses). I mean, seriously, suit technology hasn't changed much in over 150 years -- why I'm paying thousands for a few yards of cloth that can be cut via machine into a well-known configuration can only boil down to insanity.

While we're on the subject, just what about me putting on a damn suit makes me special all of a sudden? Suddenly my food service improves, women smile at me and I can get out of speeding tickets easier (yes, this is a proven fact -- okay, I'm sure of it -- okay, I made it up, but it's an intuitive probability).

Thing is, compare suit technology to the yearly round of serious creativity that women are exposed to for their clothing. Not that I'm really complaining all that much, because I love watching the wife try on new stuff -- even when she's dressed. Okay, that was crude. I think my wife looks great clothed in new stuff of interesting design. I won't make her unclothed state a blog subject, but you can likely guess where my mind was headed. Damn it. Back to the subject at hand.

Thing is, she gets to have all this creative stuff. Guys go out with their wives in these amazing outfits, and they're wearing... a suit. Wow! I don't know how you women put up with it. I'm glad it's this way, somewhat -- it makes getting dressed a lot easier -- what makes me wonder is watching how much fun she has doing the dress up thing. No, I'm not about to suggest I want to be a cross dresser, simply saying it might be cool if suits were just a tad on the creative side -- but we all know where that would go. I mean, if a guy has a problem with a full length leather coat, he's gonna shit himself if he walks into the suit store and finds a blazer made out of see-through material or something.

It's fun to think about at least. Makes me grin from ear to ear. Thanks for listening!

No comments: