Back when I was a young man and wanted to be thoroughly fashionable like Sean Connery or Steve McQueen, I’d occasionally go out on the limb, a very long limb, and lay aside my bellbottoms and buy a suit that I thought was really “boss,” as they said. This meant a trip to Robert Hall because we had no one to inspire us like Joseph Abboud or Tom Ford.
Then, in a demonstration of adolescent individualism, I’d wear my outfit to school with complete disregard for public opinion, except that my worst fashion critic, a.k.a. my mother, would typically douse my enthusiasm by glancing at my trousers and sniffling, “Where’s the flood?”
For those of you from another generation and/or planet, that meant, “Get rid of those high water pants,” which were generally short enough to show your socks, if not your knee caps. They also imperiled your health by exposing your ankles to rain, wind and snow. Back then, the prevailing practice was to let your cuffs drag along the ground, collecting dirt, chewing gum, cigarette butts and motor oil.
“High waters,” I quickly learned, were absolutely and positively uncool and reserved for geeks like Jim Nabors and in later years, Steve Urkel.
Times change and fashions change with them. Who would have thought that years later, high-water pants would earn the imprimatur of GQ and an entire generation of young men? If you’ve ever wandered the streets of New York, you’ve surely seen throngs of professionals going to work in suits, which by my classical standards are too short and too tight and most likely impede their breathing, along with the motor function of their lower body parts.
Form-fitting suits are definitely fashionable with the young lions of the corporate world, who sport facial hair and haircuts like David Beckham and carry their Barbour leather attaches around with self-absorbed aplomb.
When I see these up-and-comers walking side by side, it reminds me of the First Holy Communion procession at St. Joseph’s Church circa 1959, where the boys wore monkey suits so tight they could have been doing penance for adolescent sins yet to be committed.
Nowadays tight is right. You’re a fashion nobody if your pants aren’t jacked up past your navel and riding high above your ankles — so high and so tight they look as if they’re three sizes too small or got stuck in the dryer with a tennis ball for several weeks.
Skin-tight suits were popularized, I suspect, by Pee-Wee Herman. The guys who wear them now were youngsters when they watched his TV show and had their sartorial tastes subconsciously influenced every Saturday morning.
Years ago, I read Dress for Success, but it never said you should wear suit pants so tight that your voice goes up two octaves when you talk to the boss, along with those wild and weird socks that have zebra stripe patterns.
This trend creates enormous pressure on me. I have to leave behind the wide lapels, the pleated pants and the cuffs, or it will be the end of my career. I want to be a trendsetter, one of the “in crowd,” as Dobie Gray would say. I want to look like Daniel Craig, a.k.a. James Bond, in that form-fitting gray Tom Ford suit, where he circles the globe, shooting spies, having high-speed chases, and getting romantically involved with sinister women — but I’ll forego that last adventure since I’m married and already involved with a sinister woman.
I’ll even buy some pastel neckties and shirts with spread collars and start tying full Windsor knots in memory of Ronald Reagan, not to mention the Duke of Windsor. (James Bond didn’t like them. As Ian Fleming wrote, “Bond mistrusted anyone who tied his tie with a Windsor knot. It showed too much vanity. It was often the mark of a cad.”)
It’s a fundamental truism. The trends of tomorrow are created by the numb-nuts of today, which means in five years, you’ll see farm boys in Hope, Arkansas, birthplace of Bill Clinton, wearing leftover Dolce & Gabbana suits to the hog-wrestling competition at the country fair. The Great Mandala comes full circle.
Truth be told, I prefer the classic-fitting suit popularized by JFK, the “all-American look.” In these perilous times, God bless America … please. Regardless of what GQ says, I don’t want to look like a 7-year-old stuffed into a small suit reluctantly serving as the ring bearer at his older sister’s wedding. Been there, done that.
Contact Joe Pisani at email@example.com.