At Brooks Brothers on Michigan Avenue on a recent Saturday morning, the salesman Adam and the tailor Mario could tell I was nervous. When I tried on a sport coat—which I kept calling a "blazer"—I took on a grave look. My un-thought theory apparently being, you don't really know how you look in a blazer unless you see yourself looking deadly serious in a blazer. Because guys who really know how to wear blazers are deadly serious guys.
So acutely did Adam and Mario sense discomfort on my part, that they remarked on it. "You're among friends," Mario said. (Mario, the father of a friend, is both shorter and more charming than his last name, Chiapetta.)
I explained that I was holding a writers conference, in New York. I said that I often attend writers' conferences, frequently as a speaker. And usually, whatever I have in the closet—purchased off the rack at Eddie Bauer (and if it's a journalists' show, Kmart)—is good enough for a crowd of writers. Because, I said, "Writers are the worst dressers in the world."
"Really?" Adam said. "They don't dress like that one guy, with the white suits?"
"Tom Wolfe?" I said.
"Yeah, Tom Wolfe."
"No, they don't all dress like Tom Wolfe. He's the only well-dressed writer in the world. That's why you know who he is."
Which left me to answer the question, if I'm going to another writers conference, why suddenly did I feel compelled to drop many hundreds of dollars at Brooks Brothers?
Because at this conference, I'm in charge. And everybody who attends any professional event—even writers—want and honestly deserves to know that at least one person, preferably the person in charge of the event, knows how to match a jacket with pants and pants with shoes.
Even if he has learned these things only in the last fortnight. "Your socks should be the same color as your pants," Adam told me. "They are an extension of your pants." I have gray hair; how could I just be learning this now?
But having these new clothes has given me an area of confidence that I hadn't yet had. I feel better rehearsing my opening remarks at the kitchen counter, imagining myself doing it in this sharp, tailored get-up. Previewing the World Conference of the Professional Speechwriters Association for one of the speakers, I told him (with a grave face), "You're gonna like the way I look."
Off to New York first thing tomorrow and then a little side-trip after that for R&R. No more blogging until the middle of next week, unless there is an emergency. Like, I spill something all over the new blazer.