By Arthur H. Gunther III
When one of my sons bought his 1929 home, a smallish but well-crafted, ideally situated place, he and his wife noticed the paucity of closets, not uncommon in houses before the 1930s. Wardrobes, often stylish and beyond-utilitarian, served instead. And, of course, people had fewer clothes.
The man they bought from offered this advice: “When I buy a shirt (which needs its own hanger), I discard one.” Yankee words, surely.
The comment comes to mind because I have just visited a fellow in New Jersey whose spouse likes to outfit him. Maybe it’s an affection thing. Maybe it’s a hands-on thing. But he’s a busy shoe repair guy and doesn’t have much interest anyway in shopping for anything. He wears t-shirts mostly, the same ones week after week, month after year, etc. Once, after his wife became tired of seeing them, she told him to go to a certain closet, which apparently he hadn’t been to in a while, or perhaps ever, and pick out seven t’s for the next week, and she would make cleaning cloths out of the old ones.
He moseyed up to the attic-area closet and found not 10 or 20 t-shirts but perhaps 100, quite a few dating back to when his weight was less. Some had sayings like “Whatever!” (1990s), ‘Like Totally!’ (1980s), even one from the 1970s, “Dyn-O-Mite!” Now this is a 46-year marriage, so you can believe that the shirts have been around this long. Why the fellow hasn’t worn them yet is a mystery as old as almost five decades. Perhaps Freud could offer an opinion.
Rather than wear the newly discovered t-shirts, the guy might sell them on eBay as collector pieces. Maybe there’s a “Reagan (or Carter) for President” one. He could also give them away to a clothing collection agency, which he plans to do.
At least he can be thankful that he doesn’t have a secret closet full of plaid pants with wildly patterned, buttoned shirts, which was the 1970s norm and which may explain why the nation, from government to society, to the economy, was going down the tubes in that decade.
The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.