I had gone to Bayshore to refurbish my wardrobe, that is to say: I needed a couple of pairs of socks, and maybe a new pair of pants. I don't like shopping, as you can probably tell, and my average annual outlay for apparel is less than two hundred dollars, and that includes expenses for shoes and handkerchiefs. My wife, Jennifer, has given up on me, and believe me she's tried. For more than twenty-five years.
I thought my old friend Jack could be of assistance, so after spending half an hour fruitlessly meandering from store window to store window, I headed for the food court on the third floor, where I was sure to run into Jack. It was lunch time. I found him, leaning over what little was left of an all-dressed slice of pizza. I sat down.
I said: "Jack, where can I get a pair of jeans that will last? The ones Jennifer got for me last year are worn out, they've got holes at the knees. They're supposed to be sturdy, but in fact they don't even last as long as my regular pants, or even these corduroys I'm wearing."
Jack said: "My man, you're a fashion ignoramus!"
I said: "How so?"
Jack said: "People don't buy clothes for durability; they buy them for fashion." I thought I detected a sarcastic tone in his voice.
I said: "Jack, you've known me long enough to know that fashion and I don't see eye-to-eye."
"And rightly so," said Jack, "'Fashion is the lowest form of philosophy. It tells you how to conduct yourself according to the most inconsequential precepts.'" (Pause) "I read that somewhere," he added.
"That's a good line," I said. "Whose is it?"
"I don't know, but I'll try to find out and let you know. Here's another one: 'Jeans are the pants of the proletariat and the costume of the prole-wannabe's.'"
I said "Who are the prole-wannabe's?"
Jack said: "All those entertainment millionaires who dress like slobs because they want to pretend they are just common folk."
I said "Jack you've given me new insight into the ways of the world. Now I'm ready to go shopping," hoping that he'd take the hint and stop. But Jack was on a roll: "Fashion's rules are made up by people who have absolutely nothing better to do, and don't know any better. The year's styles are determined on a whim by a bunch of guys who from the time they were kids never stopped playing with dolls. And the grown-up dolls they now play with hardly even look like women! I guess that's where the word mannequin comes from. I mean, have you ever heard of a womannequin? I rest my case."
I said: "Jack, I don't think there is a case to be made, let alone to let rest. Besides, it's not only men who are fashion designers, you know, there are women designers too."
Jack said: "Name some."
I said: "Well, I don't know of any. But then, I don't know the names of the fellas either. In any case, all I'm looking for is a pair of jeans and some socks."
Jack said: "In that case, don't give fashion another thought. The way you dress, you're either 35 years late or just ahead of the next new wave. Who knows, you may be part of the sartorial avant-garde. Or else very retro. Very, very retro. So retro it'll never get back into fashion."
I didn't quite know how to take that: insult or compliment?
As I was mulling that over, Jack got up, grabbed me by the elbow and said: "Let's go find you some socks. I think I know just the store for you. Zellers."
Sjef Frenken is a renaissance man: thinker, writer, translator and composer of much music. A main interest, he has many, is setting to music the poetry, written for children, during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Nimble of mind, Sjef is a youthful retiree and a great-grandfather. Mostly he's a content man, which facilitates his relentless multi-media creativity.
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