I once got a Chinese fortune cookie that said, “A thrifty man is a free man.” Brothers and sisters, that sums me up to a T. I’m all about that bargain bout that bargain bout that bargain baby, if not about that base or the painful song that goes with it.
So it was with great pride, if not some snickering, I watched my son suit up for prom a week ago. Hey, he may have spent a jillion bucks on flowers, dinner and a limo, but not a nickel on the tux. He was living proof that tuxedos, decently maintained will last forever. You see, his tux was actually my tux, which was actually my grandfather’s tux. It came from Muse’s, “Style Center of the South,” which was a swell place to buy tuxedos…back in the 1950’s. And yes, we do wear tuxedos in the South; sometimes even over our overalls.
I figure, after all these years, the amortized cost per wear of that tuxedo is down to under a dollar per use. Candidly though, that sucker is looking a little dog worn these days. Of course I didn’t tell my son that, and it really does look great, in photos from distances of 15 feet or more.
When we pulled that sucker out of the closet on the day of prom I noticed the lining showing through a couple of small moth holes in the back of the coat and the stitching in one of the hems had disintegrated, so one sleeve was about two inches longer than the other. Nothing that couldn’t be fixed with a black Sharpie and black Duck Tape.
I couldn’t do anything about the pants, which, since the last time he wore the darned things seemed to have risen up like Lazarus. That said, given all the rain we’ve been having down here, short pants is not such a bad thing. OK, so he looked like Gomer Pyle in a suit; but that doesn’t matter because he had a really cute date, and no one was looking at him anyway.
But this blog isn’t about him, it’s about me. After a looooooong hiatus, I had the opportunity to put on a tux myself this past weekend. No, I did not put on the Pyle costume. I have my own tuxedo. Before the mid 90’s I used to have to put on a Tuxedo a couple of times a year for work and other assorted hoohahs.
In 1996 I blew my knee out and subsequently lost a lot of weight. Since Grandpa’s tux was a little tired then, I thought to myself, “Self, you may have a limp, but you are thin again, and you are going to neeeeeeeeeeed a tuxedo. So why don’t you splurge and have one made. I worked for Delter Air Lines, so for about nothing I could fly to Seoul Korea, haul butt to Itaewon, for a couple of days, get all of my Christmas shopping done, and treat myself to a custom tuxedo w/fine Super 100’s wool and silk.
When I landed on the doorstep of Johnnie La’s, “my personal tailor” and he told him what I wanted he shouted, “You don’t need no Super 100’s!” He also shouted a lot of other loud and colorful comments in his native language.
I stood my ground and with a certain amount of eye rolling and head shaking, he proceeded to measure me for my tux. The next day, I went back for a fitting and even later that day picked up my brand new, black, shawl collared, tuxedo. And for $327 U.S. Dollars, I looked like friggin’ Frank Sinatra. I have no clue if he used Super 100 and I have no clue if he used silk, but that sucker looked good, although it was a little itchy.
As luck would have it, I came home from Korea, wore the tuxedo a grand total of once; changed jobs and the Tuxedo has been sitting in the closet for almost 19 years. My cost per wear until this past weekend was exactly $327. I got pretty fired up a couple of weeks ago, when my cousin invited my wife and I to this big shindigglywiggly over at the local University. After 19 years, I get to pull the Tux out of the bag and in doing so, cut my cost per wear in half. I figure if I wear it one more time after the weekend, I can safely say it has been better to own my tux than rent one.
Anyway, Saturday morning, I pull the bag out of the closet. I inspect the tux and it looks good. I can’t find my tux shirt, and my brilliant wife figures it’s been sitting at the dry cleaners since the last time I wore it. I am dumb enough to ask if she thinks it is still there. She says, “if you’re asking about the dry cleaners, yeah, it’s still there, but you can kiss your shirt good-bye dumb ass.
Fortunately, my grandfather was the same size as me roughly, and since we never throw anything out, I was in luck. The shirt had mellowed to a bit of a less than white white, but it was fine, and clean, and all pretty in its dry cleaning plastic. I would have worn my son’s shirt but it was still sitting all funky in the laundry from prom last weekend. Hey, I’m not proud.
We load up the car, drive across the state, and because it is 85 degrees and pouring down rain all weekend, we “chill” in the hotel for a couple of hours before the big event.
At 6:00 Saturday evening, 19 years and 30 pounds heavier from the last time I put on my tux, I am thinking to myself, “what the hell was I thinking 19 years ago? Why would any idiot have a suit made when they were half-starved after surgery?” And the shirt, 15 1/2 inches against a 16 1/2 inch neck…unbelievable. If I’d ever wanted an hourglass figure, I was sporting one now, plus as a bonus, my neck skin is rolling over my collar.
At 6:45, we step into the mist (it had stopped raining thankfully), and itching and hot we make the two block trek from our hotel to the venue; My wife looking great in her black dress and uncomfortably high heels and me in my pinched penguin suit.
The shingdiggly was absolutely great. It was nice and cool inside, there were iced beverages, and we got to sit for a long periods of time. Post the main event, there was an after party at the bar in our hotel, which was perfect, knowing the only thing we had to drive was the elevator, and that only to the second floor when we tapped out for the evening. The after party was great too, primarily because it was also cool, there was plenty of seating, and cold beverages. As luck would have it, it was also reasonably dark.
Most of the time we were there the DJ was playing a bunch of crap I never heard of with so much base it made my heart shudder inside my uncomfortably tight tuxedo shirt. But as the night, actually morning wore one, from the dust bin of the 80’s the DJ unearthed a copy of Confunction’s “Too Tight,” which inspired me to the dance floor one last time to shake my groove thing (whatever that is).
Korean’s are known to be quite good tailors, but they have two known weaknesses, they are buttons and thread. At this point I am out on the dance floor, thinking I am James Brown, but looking more like a middle-aged pole dancer. On the dance floor, going into, what I can only describe as a wide legged squat, spontaneous combustion occurs. The seam in the back of my pants explodes while simultaneously, the grommets holding the front of my trousers together come unthreaded like a Yo Yo. I might add, my grandfather’s noose-like collar, on his 50-year-old shirt, however, would have made an executioner proud.
I did mention it was dark, and fortunately it was late. So the peep show was limited to only a few dozen fuzzy-eyed party animals. And that was the end of the night for us; our metaphorical parking meter having way past expired.
And the moral of the story? Well there are actually two. First, be careful when you have snickering thoughts about others’ clothing. And second, buy American. Indeed, the wages of thrift may not be death, but they can be pretty awkward.