250. Clothes

When I told a friend that I was about to write an article about clothes, my friend did a mild double-take. I don’t have a reputation for having much to say about clothing. But I think I can wax prolific on the subject of not having much to say about clothing.
I rarely spend much time deciding what to wear. I’ve learned, over the years, that certain clothes or combinations of clothes will get people to make more comments on my clothes than I want to hear, so I don’t get pants that have patterns on them, and there are certain shirts I don’t wear with certain pants. I want my discussions with people to be substantive, and people discuss clothes more than I want to; to me, clothes are trivial. So it’s easier to just avoid the issue by wearing what I think are viewer-friendly clothes.
It used to be that concern about clothing was more of a gender-linked characteristic, and maybe that’s part of the reason I didn’t grow up thinking about it much; I didn’t belong to the group that was expected to think about it. But I know members of my gender and generation who nevertheless try hard to be well-dressed, and succeed. I even know some who succeed without trying hard. So I have to use the gender alibi sparingly.
I know that many children today, regardless of gender, care a great deal about what they wear. Some children tend to want to wear clothes
that set them apart. Others want to look as much like everyone else as possible. There are fads, like not tucking in your shirt, or not tying your shoelaces. Advertisers thrive on fashions, and children are very susceptible to the ebb and flow of fashions. Even if a style lasts, children outgrow their clothes, so they must be great targets for advertisers and a great market for retailers.
It must have been hard to have a father like me when it was time to pick out clothes. At my best, I liked whatever clothes my daughters wore. They seemed to wish I had some opinions about which clothes they wore. And at my worst, I tried to convince them to be as apathetic about clothes as I was. I’ve rarely given clothes as presents; when I wanted to give a gift to someone who really liked clothes, it was a gift certificate, or, in the case of my daughters, a shopping trip. I’d stand in stores and do my best to look interested, but I don’t think anyone was fooled.
Nowadays, concern about clothing is less gender-linked, and thus more widespread. There’s more intergenerational conflict about clothing: “I am not wearing that to school! Everybody would laugh at me! Nobody wears clothes like that!” My daughters are grown up. I still relate to children, but I don’t have to deal with anyone’s clothes but my own. For those of you who do, I wish you peace.

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