Thursday, May 06, 2010

Great Suburban Traditions No. 9 - Badly Dressed Men

You see them only at weekends. After the effort of suspending all residue of wit, spontaneity and character from Monday to Friday in order to blend in with their fellow faceless professionals at the next desk, the white suburban male is sufficiently sapped of energy that he can only succumb to the worst manifestation of sartorial defeat. And so, while cowed into carrying out the chores his wife claims to have been doing all week (when in fact she was at Book Club talking about the area’s top 250 delis), he dons the universal uniform of the bedraggled dad – baseball hat, over-sized t-shirt, and crumpled knee length khaki shorts, all supported by depressingly brown loafers or sandals.

Badly Dressed Suburban Man’s identity is then boiled down to two basic items. 1. The sporting allegiance proclaimed on his baseball cap, which is generally worn backwards until the age of about 35, then turned front on to hide a receding hairline and to avoid skin cancer. 2. The name of a college on his t-shirt. He didn’t necessarily go to that college, but no one’s going to be interested enough to ask him if he really is a Duke graduate or not, so he can get away with it. Sometimes the t-shirt is just blank. Navy blue seems to be a favourite, as it can disguise the summer sweat a little better. The main thing is, it shouldn’t under any circumstance match the shorts, but that’s not a problem. After all, what actually goes with beige or pale grey?

You’ll see masses of them listlessly operating shopping trolleys, wandering the mall in a daze, or standing on the sidelines of a sports game automatically yelling, “Good job, buddy!” approximately once every sixty seconds. In the right hand pocket of their shorts is a Blackberry, which they fondle to remind themselves of who they really are on week days. The money maker, the main man. Although the wife has forbidden them from taking the Blackberry out and pretending to be reading important e-mails, they surreptitiously caress the keys, thinking that the weekend does at least have one saving grace – it makes going back to work on Monday morning more of a relief than a duty.

This passive assault on fashion hasn’t changed one jot in the 11 years I’ve lived here. You can admire its stasis in the same way that you might happily occupy a few hours by watching a tortoise walk in circles. You could even claim that its progenitors are, albeit unwittingly, involved in a collective statement against the fickle transience of mutating trends. Or perhaps it’s a collaboration of housewives dressing their husbands down to stop them looking hot to potential predators. The husbands acquiesce for the sake of a quiet life, and because hell, just because a t-shirt’s 20 years old, doesn’t mean you can’t still wear it, right? What's more, you can jump in the pool and drown yourself without ruining a good shirt.

More Great Suburban Traditions:
No. 8 Going To The Mall
No. 7 Cocktail Hour
No. 6 Grocery Shopping
No. 5 Limited Guilt
No. 4 Asexuality
No. 3 Dog Crap
No. 2 Neighbourhood Watch
No. 1 The Piano Recital


Gorilla Bananas said...

Aren't they just reliving their carefree adolescence? Or imagining that they're reliving it? Someone should start a fad for wearing a kilt with the wife's knickers underneath.

Dave Lifton said...

At first I read this and laughed at the recognition from the amount of time I've spent in SAHIP's town. Then I realized that, less than an hour ago, I was walking around town wearing - badly, according to SAHIP - a light blue shirt and beige pants.

But I am glad to see you blogging more frequently, SAHIP.

Mark Sanderson said...

You're describing my friends, before time transformed them and split up the football team I've turned out for 13 years. Man is faily limited when it comes to shorts. It's cargo pant or nothing. I don't find the flip-flop very becoming unless you're on a beach, either.

No Good Boyo said...

Around Casa Morgana I like to wear my prize t-shirt of the Shane MacGowan/Nick Cave cover version of "What a Wonderful World", plus culottes and deck shoes. When we walk the children or something I put on a black linen jacket and look like an unassuming 3rd-rate rock musician.

At work I wear tweed and twill in the autumn and winter, and crisp linen in the spring and summer, like a disgraced peer skulking in Oporto.

If I lived in America I'd dress in Oirish national costume and wear a "Kiss Me, I'm Polish!" badge, to keep all the bases covered.

Stay-At-Home Indie-Pop said...

Thanks for your adds and observations. A friend of mine wears the same pair of thigh-high, side-split, tight black shorts he's had since the 1980s, all summer long. I wholeheartedly admire his retro-nerd persistency and refusal to go knee-length, while avoiding him completely from May through September.

Mind you, Mrs. Pop sits by the neighbourhood pool calmly awaiting my arrest by the Soccer Mom Morality Patrol for wearing skimpy Speedos, in defiance of those ridiculous swim-pants that balloon up every time you dive in the water, and which turn your average native into a splash happy flab-slab of human flotsam. But impractical as they are, thank the almighty Lord that no observers will be tempted to contemplate the existence of sexual organs, even as Tubby Dad struggles to avoid drowning at the hands of his own cumbersome trunks.

Anonymous said...

This suburban series is brilliant.
Reminds me of this:,758/