Who are you wearing?
“Never tell anyone outside the family what you’re thinking again.”
— Don Corleone to Sonny Corleone.
Man, oh manicotti … if I was held to that golden rule of mobdom, I’d be sleeping with the fishes. Not that I necessarily have a big mouth. I do, but that’s not what this piece is about.
It’s about my wardrobe.
Ever since I moved to the Adirondacks, I’m no longer a clothes horse. I no longer have to be. I don’t have to attend client meetings, do lunches with my boss in some over-priced Manhattan bistro, walk into fancified Fifth Avenue shops. Now I’m more of a clothes jackass … what’s known in more forgiving circles as a t-shirt and jeans guy. That’s where my big mouth comes in.
My drawers are filled with T-shirts that talk. Some chatter about the things I love. A few scream about what I dislike. That leaves the rest to chime in on the general subject of what kind of a guy I am in a way that silk ties never could. Some are louder than others but, forgive me, Godfather, most of them love to tell everyone what I’m thinking.
I grew up in an Italian-American family … no, not that kind of family. But … without ever realizing it, Vito Corleone’s fatherly advice could have been emblazoned on our family crest. It was never spoken. It never had to be. It was just bred into us somehow.
And then came 1967.
No, I’m not gonna get all tie-dyed shirty, Woodstocky, love-the-one-you’re-withy on you. It’s just the first I can recall seeing kids wearing clothes with words on them. Suddenly I knew what they were thinking, cared about, aligned with, etc. without them ever having to open their mouths. And it was … cool.
For me, 1967 was less about a sexual revolution (I was 9 years old, folks) and more of a contextual revolution. What my young mind didn’t process until years later was this: it was advertising. As Mark Twain said, “I was young and foolish then; now I am older and foolisher.”
Some of my shirts are simply like autographs which are really just proof that you’ve met someone you admire or visited a place that impressed you like my Ausable Chasm t-shirt. One proves that I once enjoyed walking the halls of the Vinegar Museum in Enemy Swim, South Dakota. Another one boasts having docked my boat at Hickok’s Boat Livery (now USM) over on Fish Creek. Still another proves that I saw Steve Earle play in Rutland, Vermont.
Miscommunications have happened. Last week I was proudly wearing my Pink Floyd “Darkside of the Moon” t-shirt, you know the one with the prism refracting a beam of light into the colors of the rainbow? One kid congratulated me on my cool “Pride” t-shirt. I didn’t correct him. Nor did I correct the construction workers in Bloomingdale who, while I was wearing my Carhartt hoodie, nodded at me thinking I was somehow part of their union. But my ASPCA “Love My Kitty” t-shirt underneath made them immediately suspicious.
So what’s my point? As usual, there ain’t much of one. Except to say this: it’s hard to find any piece of clothing, or product for that matter, that doesn’t tell everyone who you are or who you think you are in some way. Own a pair of Levi’s? Drive a Ram pickup? Wear Nike anythings?
You, too, sleep with the fishes.