September 27, 2010
This weekend I attended the Harvest Ball, in support of the Botanical Gardens in Glencoe, Illinois. It was a black tie affair and so, reluctantly, I unzipped my tuxedo from its black envelope in the closet. I don’t know about you but I just don’t care for playing dress up even for a good cause. Maybe it’s a guy thing. My wife spent half the day at the beauty salon and enjoyed every costly moment of it. To me spending a Saturday afternoon in a tricked-out downtown basement getting dolled up sounds like Hell, perhaps not its burning, miserable core but certainly an outer ring. My wife scoffs at me for suggesting as much. You’re getting pampered, she says. There’s camaraderie, gossip; it’s a wonderful experience. It better be. I think about the hundreds of dollars it all probably costs, not including tips.
Needless to say, I don’t do any of that stuff. I shave and shower and get dressed. The only real difference is getting dressed. Oh, but what a difference! Instead of choosing a pair of pants and a shirt now I must go through a complicated process not unlike assembling a bicycle on Christmas morning.
Where to begin? Let’s go right to the worst part: putting on cuff links. Part of my struggle here is due to my own ignorance. For twenty years I tried to put them on after I’d put on my shirt –truly the definition of frustrating. Flipping the order solved that problem but I still fumble and bumble and invariably get it wrong.
The reason I didn’t start with every man’s nightmare, the dreaded bow tie, is because I don’t even go there. Clip on ties are acceptable to more and more people and thankfully my wife is one of them. Many moons ago I tried tying a bow tie and, after an hour of agonizing failure, I had to ask another man to do it. Oh, the humility! Never again.
Then there’s the tux itself. Either too tight or too loose, it’s never the right size. This is because I haven’t worn the damn thing in at least a year. Regardless of which scenario, an ill-fitting tux makes me feel like an awkward teenager. When my wife tells me I look handsome she sounds like my mother.
Disdaining patent leather slip-ons –they look and feel like ballet slippers- I now wear a nice pair of black boots. I don’t know if this is acceptable and I don’t care.
I know some men get a kick out of black tie. I read Details and GQ. I enjoy a nice cashmere sweater and sporting a sharp tie once in a while. I also like the look, smell and feel of $500 dollar shoes. I just draw a line at black tie.
I recognize it works for James Bond, George Clooney and old rich guys getting in limos on Park Avenue. I can live with the fact that I ain’t one of them. For years I never gave my sartorial deficiency a second thought. Not difficult given the relaxed dress in most creative departments. But along comes Mad Men and suddenly advertising is fashionable. As is drinking. Even smashed the characters look smashing. Hmmm. I’d love to see Don Draper tie on a bow after tying one on.