Life was simpler for the caveman. When he wanted a new garment he would grab his spear and head for the forest. He knew, one way or another, he was going to end up inside a nice warm animal skin. It was dangerous, but it was simple.
Suit hunting is still not completely safe and it’s much more complicated. In some parts of today’s “forest” the stalking can get sticky, like at Herman and Harry’s Haberdashery:
“Herman, there’s a gentleman here who wants to use our phone to report an accident!” Harry called out as I entered the store.
“Wait a minute,” I said. “There’s no accident. I came in to buy a suit.”
Harry eyed me up and down. “You weren’t in an accident…..really?”
“No,” I replied, conceding round one. “I’ve been too busy to keep my wardrobe up to snuff. I guess this suit is a bit out of style now.”
“Not at all, Sir. Not at all. That’s a very unique garment. Would you mind telling me where you purchased it?”
“It was so long ago I can’t remember. I think it came through the mail, though.”
“Ah, I recognize the label,” Harry said, looking inside my jacket. ” “A big name in the industry.”
“Is it really?”
“Yes, but not the menswear industry. I didn’t know they made men’s suits. They’re famous for their hang gliders. I can see now there’s a certain flair to the trousers. Have you noticed a sensation of buoyancy on windy days?”
Harry had me where he wanted me then. Leaving the store was out of the question. I couldn’t walk on a downtown street in this outrageous clothing, especially if it’s windy out there.
Following this demoralization phase, Harry and Herman always get their prospect to to try something on, “just to check the size.”….. “How does this feel, Sir? It looks like a good fit .”
“Fits okay, I guess, Harry, but I don’t like the style and it’s much too loud.”
“Loud, Sir? We don’t deal in loud clothing. Stylishly visible, perhaps, aesthetically conspicuous, to be sure, but not loud.”
“Please speak up, Harry. I can’t hear you. This orange-striped lavender jacket must be over 150 decibels.”
Following round two of this sparring event, the customer is asked to choose a suit from the rack and is led into a small curtained booth. Struggling out of my suit and into theirs was a difficult, strenuous operation. There was also the fear that somewhere in midsuit I would tumble through the curtain into the showroom in my skivvies.
After ten sweaty minutes I emerged disheveled but decently clad. Decently, but not stylishly. The trouser cuffs were turned up halfway to my knees and only my fingertips were visible below the jacket sleeves.
“Almost perfect!” Harry gushed. “Just a few minor alterations.” Herman agreed and they got me onto a platform in front of a bank of mirrors. A small crowd began to gather and a young man took my picture with his cellphone. I hoped I wouldn’t turn up on Facebook.
“Waist 36,” Harry called to Herman and the crowd murmured. “Hold it, Herman!” Harry said. “Sir, unless you plan to hold your breath while wearing this suit, please exhale and relax. That’s better. Waist 40!” he shouted and the crowed giggled.
When this embarrassing event ended, Harry and Herman talked me into one of their “three-piece, double breasted ‘specials’ and then began to suggest suit materials starting with outrageously expensive vicuna and working their way down their list depending on how loud I gasped when they mentioned the final price. I was hoping we didn’t get down to burlap or cheesecloth.
Finally I opted for a fabric I could afford if I gave up lunches and maybe reach my pretended 36-inch waist. I still remember the day I proudly unwrapped my purchase and showed it to my wife. “Behold my worsted suit” I said.
“It certainly is, ” she replied.