My new shirts have “anti-microbial technology” built into them. They’ve been “treated to inhibit bacterial growth and protect from odor (sic).” I feel like someone who has been kicked forward in time five years. The last shirts I bought had no tags and I thought that was an incredible leap in shirt technology.
I just checked and the pants and underwear I also bought lack this technology advance. You’d think it’d be easier to license the anti-microbial innovations. One of the shirts I bought has buttons… like, all the way down the front buttons. I haven’t worn a shirt with buttons in years.
I know I have some very nice dress shirts somewhere, but other than once for the funeral of a friend of mine, I haven’t seen them since I moved back here in 2002. Previous to my moving to the Big City for work it was rare that I could find a button-up shirt that fit. It was also pretty rare that I needed one.
The problem I’ve always had with clothes is my size. I’m too big for normal stores, I’m not nearly big enough for the Big and Tall stores. I was in a hurry and bought what was marked as a “small” in one of those stores once and the shirt could have been a dress.
It’s only recently that society has caught up with me and now XL and XXL are standard sizes. So back when I was living in Ottawa I could almost never find a button-shirt that fit my 18″ neck. There was also the cost issue. Welfare cheques don’t have a clothing allowance for single dudes. Although, the first time I signed up my case worker tacked on an extra $20 because I smoked.
Because of my size there was also no way I could find clothes in thrift stores. I did consider myself lucky to find this one place in a downtown mall that for a little while sold polyester dress shirts made in Lebanon and/or Syria. They were multi-coloured with big prints on them… and they were something like 2 for $8. So I wore those for a while, but after one time in the wash you’ve got $4 handkerchiefs.
The first time I bought them I remember walking through the mall for almost an entire afternoon trying to justify the cost. It’s something I do even now. Just last week I was holding a pair of eight-year old jeans with both leg-cuffs torn and frayed trying to justify spending money on replacing them.
It was even one of the reasons my mom and I would fight when I first moved back here. Keeping in mind that at the time I had no income, my brain was fried and my ‘wardrobe’ was stuffed into two garbage bags, she offered a couple of times to pay for a wardrobe upgrade… but I’d get pissed off because she wasn’t using the money to pay off her own bills.
The first couple of years I was back here, while I was on welfare again, mom would kick in $200 for clothes once a year. Of course I fought it, resented it and was embarrassed like crazy when we’d be at the counter and mom would pull out her credit card. But she’d ask one week, I’d say “fuck that”, then three weeks later I’d tell her it was okay.
For the past couple of years, thanks to being on disability, I’ve had enough coin to spring for my own clothes. But it still takes three weeks between the time I figure I need a pair of shorts to when I’ll actually go out and buy them. And during those three weeks I’m thinking “$30 for shorts… or I can have orange juice until the end of the month.” Or that there’s some kind of beast I’ll encounter later on and it’ll cost $30 to get past him…
When you’re shit-poor, and you’re eating food-bank bread and you feel lucky to have a chopped up hot dog in your brown beans you spend your entire month justifying costs. You also spend a lot of time not buying clothes. And the ones you have, you hold onto them. Until very recently I’ve never thrown out or donated a piece of clothing.
The only clothes I’ve ever thrown out have been socks, but only after they’d become sleeves. Last year I finally broke down and tossed out over twenty pairs of socks, every single one of which had no heel left. Some of them I had been carrying around since the mid to early-nineties. Now I walk around wondering why I have no socks.
While I was living in Ottawa, towards the last part of the nineties, and then when I moved to Toronto I left bags of clothes in my parents attic. After I moved to Toronto my mom donated most of it to a local charity. After I found out I actually felt lost. Like there was something missing. Some of those things I had worn back in high school. Thankfully she didn’t toss my Pink Floyd Tour shirt.
When we were kids mom did what she could to keep us clothed. At the time I was pissed off that I didn’t have what the other kids had, but looking back she did a remarkable job. After the divorce mom received no help from my father. The judge told him to give mom about $25 a week in support, but he never paid and the laws which would have forced him to didn’t come into being until twenty years later. So there was never a whole lot of “new” in our home.
There’s a weird comfort in having a roomful of clothes. When I was nineteen and in Ottawa it was a safety issue… a backup, even if it doesn’t entirely fit, is still a backup.
Even now I have T-shirts, sweaters, jeans, khakis, jogging pants, sweatshirts, underwear, socks, shoes, towels and sheets in piles all over my bedroom. Most of them are over two years old, and a lot of them have some kind of stretch, pull or tear in them. Although, thanks to my buying clothes for myself and kind of feeling comfortable doing it, there are more whole-clothes than partial-clothes.
But taking care of them is still something I’m working on… I still have a brain block when it comes to regularly doing a wash.