For a change, this blog post will begin with a little pre-work. To fully appreciate the meaning of this story, take forty-five seconds and watch this brief Seinfeld clip on Youtube. For those of you who aren't familiar with the episode, "Golden Boy" is Jerry's favorite piece of clothing, a six-year old yellow T-shirt that has started to deteriorate after many, many trips through the washer and dryer. Now, with the homework out of the way, on to the main story...
Those of you who know me best are probably not too surprised to hear me admit that fashion is not one of my top priorities in life. In my mind, clothes serve two important purposes and nothing more: (1) they prevent painful and potentially dangerous chapping and frostbite in the winter, and (2) they prevent me from getting arrested for indecent exposure. As long an article of clothing is still able to fulfill those two critical functions, I see no need to pull it out of the wardrobe rotation. In fact, many of my favorites clothes are like a fine wine, growing better and better as the years pass. With each day, their comfort, functionality, and sentimental value increase exponentially.
Over time, though, I've come to realize that not everyone shares my philosophies on clothing. You see, in the past decade, a larger and larger portion of my closet is filled with articles of clothing that Jerry would classify as "Golden Boys." In reality, if there were another tier of clothing above Golden Boy status, I have some prized pieces that would definitely fall in that category. Take, for example, my favorite navy blue Nike sweatshirt:
The single image can't do Golden Boy justice. You'll have to take my word for it--Golden Boy has an incredible number of holes, the largest of which is on the right shoulder. The more I think about it, it's probably not fair to call that one a hole. The truth is that the right shoulder went missing about five years ago, victimized by years of throwing my backpack strap over my right shoulder as I walked to class throughout high school and college.
Golden Boy was my spring jacket, my winter coat, my casual sweatshirt, and everything in between. He's been there for weddings, sporting events, funerals, Bar Mitzvas, and job interviews. Along the way, Golden Boy picked up holes in the front pocket, both elbows, the hood, the drawstrings, and countless other areas. And if you can't tell from the photo, the cuffs on both sleeves look like they battled a wood-chipper. And that backpack strap hole...it's only grown larger with time, to the point where every time I pull Golden Boy over my head, there's a 50/50 chance I'll make it through the actual head hole on the first try.
Every time I wear Golden boy in public, I get plenty of stares, and close friends are never shy with their harsh comments and judgment: "Why don't you buy a new sweatshirt?! You look homeless!" But Golden Boy is nowhere near retirement--he still keeps me warm in the winter (in most places, anyway), and last time I checked, no one was ever charged with indecent exposure for baring a shoulder in public. In my eyes, he looks just as good as he did a decade ago. Here's a shot of Golden Boy, circa 2002. Look at that handsome devil. And the sweatshirt looks pretty good, too.
But even though Golden Boy lives on, I've struggled with a similar problem in recent years. This particular issue first came to my attention about four years ago with my favorite pair of Express dress pants. I'd only owned these pants for about a year, and I only wore them to work once or twice a week. I took great care to hang them up immediately after wearing them, and I dutifully followed the "Dry Clean Only" instructions on the tag. That's why I was shocked when I noticed that the pants had suffered from crotch failure.
That's right--after just thirteen months of ownership, the crotch of my favorite dress pants looked like a bad slice of Swiss cheese. I sent a strongly worded email to the Express customer service department, but the only response I received said that I could take the pants into the store for an exchange. It seemed like a fair offer, but I could never summon the courage to walk up to the cashier, place my damaged pants on the counter, and demand an exchange because my crotch gave out after one year of light office use. Four years later, those pants still hang in my closet, stuck in a never-ending holding pattern of embarrassment.
Don't get me wrong: I didn't give up on my favorite dress pants that easily. After spotting the hole for the first time, I wasn't ready to retire the pants over a little crotch exposure--they still served both critical functions of clothing, keeping me both warm and covered enough to prevent jail time. I combed meticulously through the dress code at work, and it made no specific reference to crotch exposure...and I could sit with my legs crossed at the important meetings anyway. But I eventually gave in, finally coming to terms with the fact that a partially exposed groin area probably leaned a little too far toward the "casual" end of the "business casual" spectrum. Plus, I figured some of my more sensitive co-workers might be unsettled if they ever realized that I was walking around with some extra ventilation downtown.
As you'll recall, I previously mentioned that this was my first brush with crotch failure. Unfortunately, it would not be my last. The next victim was my favorite shorts, a pair of (originally) black Nike tennis shorts that I've had since I was fifteen years old. I wept for hours when I looked down one day while wearing the shorts, only to realize that there was a lot less fabric standing between me and indecent exposure than I had expected.
While this was horrifying, it wasn't as shocking--these shorts were a decade old, and Mom's needle and thread had already repaired the seams along the side of these shorts several times. Countless hours in the sun had turned my favorite shorts from deep black to a dirty brown color. And while Mom's sewing skills were able to save the crotch that dreadful day, father time eventually caught up with the shorts, and late in 2010, the left cheek finally gave out, the fabric having grown too thin to accommodate any further attempts at repair:
Crotch failure had now hit me twice--and hard. One incident? Call it bad luck. Two? Chalk it up to coincidence. But as fate would have it, crotch failure was not finished with me yet. I won't go into the gory details of the other accounts--this is, after all, a family-friendly blog. But it's worth noting exactly where the tally stands today. Including the Express pants and the Nike shorts, I have now crotched my way through two pairs of dress pants, one pair of jeans, and three pairs of tennis shorts. I'll spare you the trouble of getting our your calculator--that's a total of seven failures!
That's neither bad luck nor coincidence; I realize now that the problem must be me. The sample size has grown to the point that is has become statistically significant, and the facts are now simply undeniable. My crotch doesn't discriminate against brand name, fabric type, or quality of workmanship. Coming to terms with this harsh reality was not easy...I felt confused, even ashamed. What was I doing wrong? Too much hip movement in my chair at work? Not enough? Was I destined to spend my life burrowing through the crotches of each and every pair of pants I would ever own? That seemed like a lonely and expensive way to live. I knew that if Mom started charging me for all of her repair efforts, she could easily pursue full-time work as a crotch hole-cobbler.
But luckily, the shame wore off over time, and I taught myself to look at the bright side. I didn't want to flatter myself at first, but it's clear to me now that my crotch is unstoppable. And while some might view this situation as a curse, I choose to look at it as a blessing. I have shunned my embarrassment and will finally start asking clothing stores the question I should have started asking years ago: "Do you sell any pants with a Kevlar-reinforced crotch?" I'm afraid, at least in the beginning, that the answer will almost certainly be "no." But if fashion designers hear the question enough, they'll eventually have to give the public what is so separately wants. And if they don't, then I hope Mom is ready to embark on a new career path.