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Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Fountain of Sartorial Simplicity

In our youth-oriented culture, we are all searching for the elusive Fountain of Youth. Ponce de Leon couldn't find it and your car's direction lady won't be able to locate it either. You might want to give it a try on foot, but I am certain you will walk until your legs drop off and still not find it.

Youth seekers try to keep themselves young, temporarily at least, by tasting other restorative waters that are easier to come by. Some of the more popular of these are Botox Beach, Restylane River, Liposuction Lagoon, Pool of Plastic Surgery, Exercise Estuary, Rogaine Reservoir and Weight-loss Waterfalls. After immersion in one or more of those waters, the would-be young shop for age-inappropriate clothes in a further futile attempt to seem hip and youthful. These garments tend to be garishly colored, patterned, striped, polka-dotted, zigzagged, sequined, and slogan-and superhero-ridden. This combination of restorative waters and colorful clothing is supposed to help in our efforts at staying young in perpetuity. But in actuality we are only swimming upstream in Clothes Creek.

I know how to save you from this embarrassment. I can guide you to the right body of water. Why do you think I look 29 when my chronological age is 92? That's right, I was born on September 8, 1918. I have been there, bathed in it, drunk of it and I mean drunk! Please understand that although I can lead you to it, I can't make you drink or think. I can simply guide you. But only you can do that which needs to be done to turn your old bones young. The fountain of which I speak is not the fabled Fountain of Youth, but rather the Fountain of Sartorial Simplicity. There is a trail you must follow to get there. Just mount your clothes horse; the old mare knows the way. You will know that you are on the right path when you come to a sign reading "White Shirt Rapids"–just like I did. I desperately needed it and didn't come across it a second too early.

Allow me a brief digression. I first saw the sign when I was a staff illustrator at a daily New York newspaper some years ago. Outrageously, the art director expected me to be at the office drawing at the ungodly hour of 9:30 am. Worse than that, he expected me to stay there until 5:30 pm (sometimes longer if some text were dropped and the resultant hole needed to be filled with a drawing.) I even had to be dressed in proper office attire. Although I can–and indeed like to–dress well, I can not do so at 8:30 in the morning if I also have to take a bath, brush my teeth, blow-dry my hair, drink a cup of cappuccino, feed the dog and cat, catch a bus and be at work at 9:30. Others have pointed out, not unkindly, that my task was made even more challenging by the fact that I generally didn't get out of bed until 9:25. Be that as it may, I was showing up at work looking far from glamorous (OK, not even good) in mismatched outfits. I would grab a navy plaid skirt, and wouldn't you just know that my blue oxford shirt was at the laundry, leaving me only an array of patterned shirts. What could I do? Out of options as well as time, I had to go to work committing one of the worst fashion offenses, the patterned shirt/plaid skirt faux pas.

Back to White Shirt Rapids. The Rapids are most effective for those who want to look well-dressed without the terror of having nothing that matches in their closet. However, swimming the Rapids, though not a prerequisite, is also good practice for the bathing in the Fountain of Sartorial Simplicity. To reach the Rapids, you must pass by some sexy and seductive printed geysers, grand plaid falls, and gyrating multicolored surfs. You must pass all of them by and throw yourself into the rapids. Let its healing waters rush over you and you will emerge totally refreshed. Another more subtle phenomenon will take place as well, although you will not notice it until you are back on land. You will then see that all of the garish colors and bold patterns have been sucked out of your shirt, which is now pure white! You are instantly relieved of all terrifying decisions about what to wear. Henceforth, you will start every day by putting on a white shirt. No matter what else you select, the outfit will work and you will look great.

The need for a dip in White Shirt Rapids and ultimately a sip from The Fountain of Sartorial Simplicity accelerates when you become a senior citizen. Most seniors seem to stop buying clothes once they retire. They are left to choose from a motley assortment of plaids, patterns, stripes and colors acquired over a working lifetime. My fashion advice to them is simple: once you turn 35, start stocking up on solid colors. By doing this you will avoid scaring little children and enraging dogs with your mismatched outfits when you reach your golden years. If you find the Fountain of Sartorial Simplicity early in life it will have sucked the patterns out of your entire wardrobe for you and you will be prepared for your time as a senior.

Take the plunge and you will be cleansed of the primordial slime of garishly colored, patterned, striped and checked clothing accumulating in your closet. This will assure you a permanent aura of youth. So, forget about The Fountain of Youth–The Fountain of Sartorial Simplicity will keep you forever young.


  1. Much of my current wardrobe comes from the Bay of Bucky.

  2. Perfect.....I'm shopping today for 7 white shirts.......1 for each day...