Clean shirt, new shoes
and I don’t know where I’m goin’ to.
Silk suit, black tie,
I don’t need a reason why;
They come runnin’ just as fast as they can,
cause every girl’s crazy ‘bout a sharp dressed man.
• • •
Time was when this was ZZ Top’s World. Perhaps we just lived in it. Pity we don’t anymore. At least as it pertains to the nattily attired menfolk referenced above.
I, for one, miss them. They made me feel good about life, OK? Humanity as art.
Even if you’re not old enough to remember the true downtown of yesteryear — Wilkes-Barre’s no exception — some swell old photos can catch you up fast. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, on a daily basis, our boys once wore not only sharp jackets, snazzy ties and smart shoes — two-toned oxfords? — but finished off their looks with full-length coats and tippable hats, even if just for a stroll across the Public Square. And the women, not to be outdone, followed suit, pairing their mandatory dresses with pillbox hats plucked from perfect arrays of stacked and labeled boxes.
And, at least in these old pictures, the grown-up boys and girls all looked like the loveliest of busy bees, scurrying to and fro while going about their basic daily business. Did they need a better reason to look nice? Of course not.
Stroll across that same Square these days, and, well, to say times have changed would certainly understate.
Barely dressed has wrestled best-dressed, and guess who won?
Yet there are, or were, glimmers of hope. Fedoras for men and women alike were trendy as late as early this year, following on the heels of the sweater-vest revival. Bowties weren’t far behind. And at least on certain key occasions, a person — man or woman — was simply expected to look a certain way. Don’t know about you, but I was down with that.
Maybe because I really, really liked those timeworn pictures of our townies, taken in an era when class and elegance were in. Allegedly, folks had so much less than we did way back when, so how did they manage to look so dashing? And what trains of thought ran timely when they decided they could never, ever set foot in the F.M. Kirby Center, nee Comerford, if not properly dressed? Been to a show there lately? Safe to say the standards have been relaxed, eh?
And now, I’m told, another one bites the dust. Downtown Wilkes-Barre’s premier social club, The Westmoreland Club, is going casual, it seems, at least for most affairs, easing up on its own longstanding jacket-and-tie rule for the big boys.
So, time to throw in the towel?
Standing amid heaps of raiment earlier this week, plucked from my own groaning closets as I engaged in that nasty but necessary ritual of changing out the supply for the seasons, I could not help reflecting. If we didn’t live in a world so full of mixed messages and split personalities, at least when it comes to our garments, I wouldn’t need at least half of what I have, right? And these closet rods, even reinforced, wouldn’t be bowing threateningly under the weight of it all.
Job One? Get rid of something — lots of somethings. But what? I do need my “cozies” — thank you to my darling Will Arnett and “Up All Night” for that term as it applies to loungewear — but I also relish an occasion that calls for something better. And, like good scouts, should we not all always be prepared?
Or should we just come as we are, to wherever we’re going, throwing on any old thing we have?
Now, I may be fussy — socks, generally speaking, should match shoes, as should belts, and if it’s denim it has to be dark and that sort of business — but truly I’m missing an old, good world and just hoping we can hang on to whatever pieces of it we might have left.
Shoot me, but there’s just something about a man in a suit …
Sharp-dressed man? Heck, yes! Count this girl among those crazy about him. Or is she just crazy?
You can say it’s so, but I’d bet I’m not alone. I’ll see you one silk tie and raise you two topcoats.