Wednesday, April 28, 2021

An unexpected bonus for the shorter man

     Over the past year, I’ve worn a coat and tie exactly once. The incoming director general of the Taiwanese economic and cultural office in Chicago wanted to get acquainted over a Zoom call. I knew he’d be wearing a coat and tie, and didn’t want to be disrespectful: they’ve got enough of that coming from communist China already.
     It was, as they say in diplomatic circles, a frank and productive exchange of ideas.
     A few minutes before we spoke, I stood before the mirror in the bedroom, fingers fluttering at the necktie — blue, not red, for obvious reasons. I wondered if I’d remember how to tie it. But I’ve been tying neckties since 1974, when I played the Mr. Darling/Captain Hook role in “Peter Pan” at Camp Wise and had to tie a tie onstage while delivering lines. You don’t forget.
     The COVID-19 era was pants optional, business conducted from your living room. Now, with the non-wackadoodle segment of the country getting vaccinated, and beginning to emerge from our long hibernation, the question is: Are we going to start dressing up? Or go to work in sweats? Or even buy new clothes? Those with a dog in the race are optimistic.
     “The courts aren’t open, there’s no theater, no trade shows, the financial institutions are all still closed,” said Scott Shapiro, owner of Syd Jerome, the high-end Loop men’s clothing store, which has had plywood over its windows since August.
     “There’s no reason to put displays in the windows because nobody is walking by,” said Shapiro.
     Even without mannequins displaying cashmere sweaters and Italian belts, “our customers are slowly coming back.” A certain Chicago milieu is always going to look sharp.

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