Sue and I stopped at an interstate rest stop last week and – no surprise in the middle of the summer – it was packed with travelers. Very badly dressed travelers. Let’s think about this – you’re traveling on the interstate, which means you have to have enough money to have a car, gas and insurance, yet you don’t have enough money to buy a decent pair of pants? I’m pretty sure we were the only people in the whole place wearing long pants. We were also the only people wearing clothes that did not have some kind of (usually rude) message on it. When did clothes turn into bumper stickers for our bodies? I’m sorry that you’re with stupid and I’m happy you are pregnant, but I deduced those things without your T-shirts. I could tell from the mullet the guy in front of me at the coffee bar had that he was a fan of Lynyrd Skynyrd long before I saw the band’s tour schedule on his t-shirt. Are you really trying to impress me with that XXXXL Ivy League T-shirt? Were you a first-stringer on the competitive pancake-eating team?
It felt like I was crashing a convention of people with excessive shoulder and back hair. And the men were even worse. When you can braid the hair on your back, it’s time for some personal grooming, guys. If you can afford the tattoo of the dogs playing poker where your bicep used to be, you can afford electrolysis. Or at least buy a flea collar. What surprised me most was that Sue and I were the best-dressed people in the place, which is something I don’t think I’ve ever been able to say before. The two of us set a low bar for fashion. Models for Sam’s Club, maybe. But models nonetheless.
I am not a snob. I am all for being comfortable. If you want to watch TV at home in your underwear looking like a Nick Nolte mug shot, be my guest. If you want to wear the most tattered and torn things you own while you are out in the backyard gardening, go to it. If you’re planning to make a surprise appearance on “Cops,” that food and beer-stained tank top actually makes loads of fashion sense. But if you’re taking the kids to Six Flags or Disney World in an air-conditioned mini-van with back seat DVRs, you could wear some decent clothes.
There should be some basic fashion rules. Unless your son is playing basketball in the van or on his way to a basketball game, he shouldn’t be wearing long, baggy, hugely ugly basketball shorts. Unless your 12-year-old daughter has a full-time job at Hooters or Victoria’s Secret, she shouldn’t be wearing crotch-high shorts and a Dale Evans vest with no shirt on underneath it. If you never exercise, never wear warm-up togs. Showing lots of skin is sexy if you’ve got the body of a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model. That goes for men, too. Unless you’re competing for the gold in some swimming competition, no one wants to see you in a Speedo. Absolutely no one. I’m not kidding, you offend God and nature.
People complain all the time that they don’t make anything good in this country anymore. Now I know why – because if they did make good, tasteful clothes in this country, no one would buy them. Why would you spend money on clothes when you can travel coast to coast in a sleeveless tee that you slept in the last four nights with the logo of the beer you just puked up printed on the front?
“Hey, I’m comfortable,” you might say. Yes, you are. But I’m not.
Jim Mullen is the author of “It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life” and “Baby’s First Tattoo.” You can reach him at email@example.com
Copyright 2010, United Feature Syndicate, Inc.