A while ago, I came across this gem of a quote while listening to an interview with Ira Glass on one of my regular podcasts, WTF with Marc Maron. As the topic of fashion was broached, Glass had this to say:
Then I quickly throw on some clothes — the same outfit every day, pretty much. It’s just… I hate shopping because I hate myself and I don’t know what clothes to wear. And I get into an existential crisis when I have to choose clothes because I think ‘Well who am I, that I would wear this shirt rather than this one.’ I’m not proud of that… There was a period about 10 years ago where I would have to get drunk in order to buy clothes.
I think about this all the time, probably because this pretty closely captures how I feel when buying clothes. Shopping is torture. Screw waterboarding – let’s start dragging suspected terrorists to Urban Outfitters on Friday afternoons for v-neck tee shopping with snot-nosed hipsters. We might actually get some answers.
The problem isn’t that I hate clothing – I actually consider myself moderately interested in fashion. No, my distaste for shopping has more to do with the anxiety that it entails. For one thing, finding clothes in my size is a to-do. Don’t get me wrong — being small has its advantages. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve hidden in a modest crevice or disguised myself as a child to gain access to restricted areas. This is for legal reasons, not because I don’t know how many times. Point is, with smallness comes stealth, about which people over six feet know nothing. These advantages are of little help when it comes to fashion, however. Admittedly, the perpetual realization that the smallest-sized slacks in the men’s section are still far too big never fails to emasculate.
But the main reason I hate clothes shopping is similar to the reason Glass gives. It forces me to think about who I am on some kind of deep, existential level. What could possibly be more revolting than that? As if I don’t dislike myself enough, now I have to beat myself up with all the reasons why I’m not the kind of person who can wear white linen pants paired with an ironic Budweiser shirt. It looks great on the mannequin — why shouldn’t it look good on me? What’s he got that I don’t? I don’t hate mannequins in my normal life. While clothes shopping, however, my contempt for them is incandescent. Some small solace can be taken in the fact that they don’t have eyes.
In a way, it’s paralyzing to think about the vast array of clothing that I’ll never be able to wear. Particularly because, in each instance, it forces me to dwell on why, exactly, that may be the case — which defect in my physique or personality is responsible. Could I pull off one of those wispy, Middle-Eastern-looking scarves that Kanye West wears, for example? What does it say about me that the answer is absolutely not? Am I boorish and unrefined? Do I have a weird chin? Am I a bad rapper? The ensuing pit of anxiety is literally bottomless. And this is just one item of clothing–an accessory, at that. You get the idea.
A tank top is a good example of something I have never been able to wear convincingly. I wish I could. I really do. It’d be fantastic if I could throw my inhibitions and sleeves to the wind for just one day. I’ve tried it before. The result is me feeling highly uncomfortable and passersby looking at me disdainfully – condescendingly, as if to say, “nice try, little fella.” This item, as it turns out, is reserved for men with man-sized arms, as opposed to girly-men with bony shoulders and the biceps of a twelve-year-old with polio.
Some other examples of things I can’t wear:
A useless garment. Still, it stings a little that I’ll never pull off the Will Smith in Wild Wild West look. Sigh.
A sideways belt.
As best I can tell, this look requires a carefree attitude and a skateboard. Neither of which I have.
This has become much more alluring since I started watching Mad Men. But times have changed since 1965 and I don’t go on cruises or hang out at the Olive Garden bar nearly enough to pull off a fedora convincingly.
Long story short — I don’t go clothes shopping very often. It’s not a pretty sight. If you know me, this is why I’ve never invited you or anyone else to join me on such an excursion. It starts about an hour in with sharp headaches followed by cold sweat and usually ends with me vomiting on a rack of cardigans while screaming at flustered Banana Republic employees to get their hands off me.
So for now I guess I’ll stick with my small, trusty collection of jeans, sweaters, and collared shirts ranging in color from light gray to navy to medium black. I’ll put off the clothes shopping til the next time I’m in the mood for an aneurysm.