Whatever Happened to Normal Clothes?

(My current columns and older ones will alternate from now on during the pandemic. This one originally was published in The Idaho Statesman in 2007.)

  Expect to see me any day now in shorts with legs roomy enough to accommodate a small family.

  On my feet will be shoes Bozo the Clown would have envied.

  Beneath the shorts with legs the size of pup tents will be the ultimate indignity – a thong.

  That’s what we’ve come to in men’s fashions.

  Fashion has always been dictated by young people, of course, mainly teens and twenty-somethings. And that’s fine. They’re the ones who look best in clothes anyway.

  But why should the rest of us have to wear what they do?

  It hasn’t quite reached the point that there is nothing but young people’s clothes on the market. Department stores still carry men’s dress suits, for example. You’ll find just what you need if you’re scheduled for a bar exam or trying out for a seat on the stock exchange. 

  Other normal clothes for men, however, have become harder to find than a Democrat in the Idaho Legislature. I’m not exaggerating in saying that the situation is almost as bad as it was in the 1970s.

  In the ’70s, it was virtually impossible to find any item of clothing other than socks and underwear that didn’t look as if it had been pilfered from the set of “Disco Fever.” My wife has a picture of me tottering around in platform shoes, checkered bell bottom pants and a shirt with puffy sleeves and a collar big enough to use as a dinner napkin.

  It wasn’t as if we wanted to go around looking like roadies for the BeeGees; there wasn’t a choice. Regular clothes were all but non-existent. And it’s hard not to think we’re headed down that road again.

  Men’s summer shorts, for instance. The legs reach below the knees and are baggy enough to hide a watermelon. Elephants don’t have legs that big. They’re okay for teenagers, I suppose, but for the rest of us they look ridiculous. Show me a sorrier fashion statement than a gray-haired geezer dressed like he’s trying out for the Black Eyed Peas.

 Normal jeans are losing the fashion battle to what I’ve come to call junk jeans. I’ve always gotten rid of my jeans when they ripped. Now they come pre-ripped, pre-ripped-and-stitched-back-together, pre-faded, even pre-stained. You have to look for jeans that don’t look like they’ve been soaked in crankcase oil. They look like a mechanic used them to mop a garage floor.

  To my undying gratitude, a store where I went shopping recently had two pairs of “retro jeans” in my size – no rips, tears, fades, spots, patches or stains. I bought both of them, in the way that you snap up rare and valuable items fortuitously discovered at a yard sale.

  No such luck with shoes. Men’s shoe departments these days look like storage closets for Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey. What law says that walking shoes have to have stripes, spots and geometric patterns in gaudy, fluorescent colors?

  Department shelves once stocked with sensible underwear now feature displays of … thongs!

  Really now, the percentage of men who actually look good in thongs has to be miniscule. Brad Pitt in a thong is one thing. Your Uncle Howard is another. For the life of me, I can’t imagine buying one, let alone wearing one.

  Shirts? No problem if you like checks or stripes. The racks have been cleared of virtually everything else.

  It’s true that fashions come back. Most of the casual shirts in stores today look exactly like the striped and checkered shirts that boys of the Baby Boomer Generation wore to grade school. They may be the height of fashion, but to me they look old fashioned.

  Fashion will always be for the young, but can’t the fashion gods throw at least a few crumbs to the rest of us? All I really want are some plain shirts in a nice fabric, some pants that don’t look like they came off a rack at Jiffy Lube and some sensible, comfortable walking shoes. Is that too much to ask?

  Maybe it isn’t. I was actually able to find a few things like that the other day at a store in an outlet mall. They were on clearance, marked down to half price.

  Maybe it was a coincidence, but the place was crawling with guys dressed just like I was.

Tim Woodward’s column appears every other Sunday and is posted on woodwardblog.com the following Mondays. Contact him at woodwardcolumn@gmail.com.

2 thoughts on “Whatever Happened to Normal Clothes?

  1. With the unprecedented growth in Idaho, and you being a native yourself I am appalled that you would advertise our state and give away the location of its hidden gems. As a native Idahoan, it is nearly impossible to explore these hidden gems now as they are no longer hidden. They are now overpopulated and becoming riddled with trash because of people like you exposing them. I have heard of several people that moved here because they saw your movie! We don’t need more people in Idaho, we’re full! Any native knows better than to give away the secret, shame on you. Think about what all this growth means. Housing prices skyrocket, Idahoans can barely afford to live here now. Outdoor/indoor activities and roads are all overpopulated. I love Idaho, but since the growth over the past 5 years I can barely stand living here. I know I’m not the only one either. I’m a landscape photographer and I have captured much of this beautiful state so I can appreciate that your movie was made with the intent of sharing the beauty but we didn’t need the advertising. At all. I couldn’t even finish the movie, it made me upset. Thanks for contributing to the growth. We are no longer Idaho. We are California and Texas and Utah and every other state that is now invading our own.


    1. I agree with most of what you say. I can’t speak for the movie’s producers, but given the growth that has happened since it was made, I’m not sure they would make such a film today. And for what it’s worth, most of the “hidden gems” have been promoted for years on television programs, in books, advertisements and state promotional materials. They’d been exposed long before the movie was made.


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