Dressed for Success

Published 4:05 pm Thursday, July 6, 2017

Written by Steve Wong

To say I’m a casual dresser is to overstate the obvious slouch that I can be. I hate to get dressed up. I hate dress shoes, men’s “hosiery,” suits, tucked in shirt tails, notched belts, a straight part in my hair, and especially neckties. I really, really hate neckties. I’m not too fond of a clean-shaven face either. But I’m in good company.

As I have become more and more familiar with the culture of the Carolina Foothills, I have been told more than once the citizens are “over” getting dressed up for social affairs. Oh, they still like to eat, drink, and be merry; they just don’t want to get dressed up for it.

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Because many of them are retired business people, they have “been there, done that” and don’t care to do it anymore.

The author, wearing his unique brand of American Casual, with his daughter on a past trip to Rome.

Many of my days are spent at my home office with nobody around but the dogs and cats, and I often lapse into total unpresentableness. As this very moment, as I frantically write this column past deadline, I am wearing yesterday’s un-ironed button-down shirt, yellow boxers with blue stripes, and black socks that may or may not be right-side out. I’m very comfortable, and I’m saving energy by having the air conditioning turned up to 74 degrees. The only physical activity I’m engaged in is typing and nibbling. Because my Florida-room office is on the backside of the house and we don’t have any curtains on the windows, I get plenty of natural light without the worry of prying eyes.

Knock-knock. It must be those door-to-door Christians, bringing me some more reading materials. Now where did I put my pants?

Knock-knock! How can I get from my office to my closet in the bedroom on the other end of the house without the nice church ladies seeing too much of me through the glass door? I hate to pretend I’m not home, but I would hate to embarrass them in my state of undress.

Knock-knock!! From past visits, they know I’m here because my car is in the driveway and that I’ll politely accept their religious tracts. We’re on a first name basis.

Knock-knock!!! Whatever… as I pass by the front door, I hold up a finger and silently mouth, “Just one minute.” If they’ve not seen a man of certain age in his underwear by now, it’s time.

I found my pants, made nice with the domestic missionaries, and added their pamphlets to the stack on the reading table. They made it a special point to give me one on “Christian manhood,” and I thanked them.

This being a summer Friday night, tonight there is a free concert in Tryon’s Rogers Park, something the wife and I often enjoy. I know the dress code: T-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops. It’s also the dress code for shopping at the Bi-Lo, unless you opt for the more casual alternative: flannel pajama bottoms, plastic Crocs, and a tank or tube top. The classics never go out of fashion.

Maybe I should at least try to rise above the masses. I believe I’ll wear my signature attire: A Hawaiian floral-print shirt with a rounded tail (not tucked in, of course), my baggy plaid shorts, and athletic shoes, even though I’m not an athlete. This was my standard ensemble when I went to Rome, Italy, a few years ago with my wife and daughter. Rome is an old and hot city with lots of American tourists in search of ice cubes and locals who don’t use deodorant but they do use bidets.

With a roll of her eyes, my fashion-conscious daughter repeatedly told me that a floral shirt paired with plaid shorts is not appropriate when shopping on the Via del Condotti. I told her repeatedly that drinking warm Coke reluctantly served by rude and smelly Romans was uncivilized. When in Rome…

But I’m not in Rome this summer. I’m in the Carolina Foothills, where the women wear their gray hair long, the men sport a three-day shadow, and grandchildren visit but don’t stay. At this Friday night outdoor concert, the beverages will be cold and the people will be casual, friendly, and freshly showered. I should fit right in with the crowd. •