Saturday, November 14, 2015
Shortie raincoats are the gong of doom
"What do you see that I don't?" my wife asked, as we snaked forward in line Thursday morning, waiting to get out of the Stygian platform at Union Station. I had whipped out my cell phone and taken the photo above. She hates that. Her heart bleeds for whoever I take a picture of—even if they don't notice I'm taking a picture. Even though the odds of their seeing themselves on this blog are miniscule. What if they did? The horror.
"The rain coat," I replied. Even worse. I was suggesting something amiss about someone else. I can be a cruel bastard that way.
"What about it?" she asked, bristling.
"It's hideous. I hate them."
"I think it's stylish," she countered, mounting a defense in her capacity as Counsel for Everyone Else.
I sighed. "I wrote a column, years ago," I said. "That's explain better than I can." It's a bit sophomoric; I was young. But maybe it'll help convince her...no, that's impossible. At least then maybe it'll entertain you.
Never wear a short coat.
I'm sorry to jump into my subject like that, without the requisite string-plucking, throat-clearing and preliminary pontification we columnists like to indulge in before we get down to the matter at hand.
But this is so important, and some harried people just read the first line and move on, that I want to at least plant the seed of reason if I possibly can.
Short coats are hideous.
You know the type of coat I mean. Not snazzy ski jackets that flare out below the waist. Not bomber jackets or Eisenhower jackets, or anything else that's vaguely outdoorsy or has elastic along the bottom.
I mean those Navy pea coats. And dress cloth coats that just happen to peter out about a foot above where they're supposed to. Short coats, on men. The horror.
STOP WEARING SHORT COATS NOW!
I just came back from getting coffee. There was a guy at the elevator wearing a sort of blue double-breasted pea coat. It went down to his upper thigh, barely covering his pelvis. He looked like the mascot for a Dutch cocoa company who had misplaced his wooden shoes. He looked ridiculous. I almost told him so, just out of basic human sympathy. But he was about 6foot-2 (which made the coat look even worse).
Short raincoats are the lowest rung of doom.
You ever see a guy wearing one of those beige shortie trench coats? The kind without a belt? It breaks your heart. You know his whole life story, just from the coat. The entire sad, squeaked-through-high-school-only-to-crash-and-burn-in-junior-college- and-now-he 's-selling-industrial-glovewear-and-doesn't-date-much-so-no-one's-around-who-cares-enough-to-tell-him-about-how-bad-the-short-coat-looks saga.
And lose the watch caps while you're at it.
I will grant you that cold weather headgear is tough. Military caps look good, but how many police officers and Marine lieutenants are there? After that is a quick slide downhill. I myself wear a cloth cap that makes me look like I just passed the lice exam at Ellis Island and am waiting for a tug to the Lower East Side.
But at least it isn't a knit watch cap. If you're unloading barrels of whale blubber from a tramp steamer on a cold night in Copenhagen, I suppose they're all right, but otherwise knit caps make you look like Rocky Balboa's dim older brother.
The only thing watch caps have going for them is they're cheaper than the equally horrific massive fur hats with the flaps sticking straight out. Again, fine in context; fine if you're skinning a reindeer in Lapland. Bad if you're running into the White Hen on Diversey.
Maybe these feelings about short coats betray me as an old person. I notice that the pre-real-job crowd seems to favor what was once considered dorky: thick Buddy Holly glasses, grotesque polyester fabrics and yes, shortie coats, particularly those Navy surplus jobs that cost about $20 on Belmont Avenue.
But they should be careful. The all-forgiving perfume of youth fades in time, and you should have abandoned your fashion quirks by then or face a lifetime of ridicule. When I was young, we used to wear green Army surplus fatigue pants. I thought they looked fine. Now I know fatigues would make me look like a man who spent the night under a trestle, so I wouldn't wear them to paint the house.
—Originally published in the Sun-Times, Feb. 10, 1998