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JIm Pfiffer

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  1. The fashion fads of aging

    A humor column by Jim Pfiffer, Elmira, NY

    I recently found a photo of myself from the 1980s, when I thought I was a fashionable dude. At the time, I was wearing my trademark bright red fake snakeskin cowboy boots with tips so pointed they could poke your eyes out.

    Totally tubular, dude.

    Those boots weren’t made for walkin’. They were tight, hot and uncomfortable. But I endured the discomfort because I thought they gave me a radical, edgy swagger. What they really gave me were blisters and deformed pinkies.

    The boots were narrow, uncomfortable and squished my toes together. That didn’t matter, cuz lookin’ good trumped feelin’ good.

    It wasn’t just boots that pained me. I suffered with pants that were too tight, shoes that caused blisters, ball caps that were too small and wool dress suits that were too hot.

    It was a gnarly and modish facade.

    But now, as I slip and fall into my golden years, fashion has taken a back seat to comfort. To hell with the back seat, it’s locked in the trunk, where it can no longer hurt me.

    Skin-tight Jordache designer jeans with embroidered butt pockets and ridiculous prices have given way to comfort-fit-baggy khakis with elastic waists, fuzzy-rimmed slippers and roomy farmer jeans with bare but deep pockets

    Today, when I try on a new pair of pants, I don’t look in the mirror. I look at the waist to make sure I can get a few fingers between it and my belly. I don’t know my waist size. I haven’t measure it since my Levi Docker’s days. I’m sure it’s still a slim 32-inches, although 36-inch pants seem to fit better. Weird.

    It’s interesting how age affects your sense of style. When I was a groovy and righteous teen, I made fun of old fogies who wore “Father Knows Best” cardigan sweaters. Now, I wear one. My wife says I look like Mr. Rodgers, but not as pleasant. Yes, I look like a dork, but I’m a warm and comfortable dork.

    My stress to dress for comfort often embarrasses my wife when we’re in public.

    “You can’t wear your fuzzy slippers to the restaurant, grandpa,” she chides while rolling her eyes so violently, you can hear them.

    Wearing trendy threads was a big part of my adolescent image as I struggled to grow up. (Still struggling).

    Fashion fads had me strutting the catwalks of my teen years in bell bottoms, faded jean jackets (with a Magic Marker drawn peace signs on the backs), US flag clothes and two-foot-long loops of rainbow love beads dangling from my neck.

    Groovy man. Groovy.

    Unfortunately, that same ‘60s and ‘70s fashion scene featured clothing that was designed by people on LSD. How else did we get Nehru Jackets, beer can pull top chain belts and fishnet stockings? (Plump-legged girls in fishnet stockings reminded me of sausages hanging in a deli window).

    Bummer, man.

    I committed some teenage fashion faux pas, like the time I bought my first pair of leather sandals, which, we cool kids, called “Jesus shoes.” I wanted my sacred sandals to fit snugly and comfortably, so I wore them with ankle-high black socks and shorts. Add in my skinny and pale piano legs and I was the ultimate atomic dork-nerd-dweeb was going to get beat-up in gym class fer sure.

    Real downer.

    My fashion sense once got in the way of my career sense. I was a cops and courts reporter with the Elmira Star-Gazette newspaper in the ‘80s, when my red boots were makin’ the scene around town.

    One day, while covering a murder on the city’s Southside, I wanted to get into the St. Peter and Paul cemetery where the body had been dumped. Unfortunately, cadets from the police academy in Corning were stationed at all the entrances to keep out snoops like me.

    As luck would have it, a Jewish burial was occurring just inside one of the gates. I slowly blended in with the crowd as we walked through the gate to a nearby burial site. I was about to slink away to the scene of the crime when a cadet, who had been giving me the stink eye since I walked in, approached me and asked me if I was with the burial procession. I came clean (journalist ethics) and slinked out of the cemetery, ushered by the cadet who warned “don’t try that again.” I later learned that he grew suspicious of me because he “didn’t think a Jew would wear bright red fake snakeskin cowboy boots to a burial.” (Damn smart-ass cadets).

    Today, my callused and ever-expanding feet would require a front-end loader and a can of Crisco to squeeze them into cowboy boots.

    That’s why I wear comfortable lace-less Skechers sneakers and Dollar Store plastic clogs that I can easily slip into without bending over or using my hands.

    I’ve grown partial to one-size-fits-all-perma-press-stain-resistant-pull-over clothes sans buttons, zippers, laces, Velcro, clips, clasps and bungees. I was traumatized by clothing closures in the 1990s when button fly pants were trendy. Dumb idea. The last thing a man wants to face, after downing several brews at a bar and is rushing his bursting bladder to the men’s room, was a row of stubborn buttons. It was common to see bathroom floors littered with stray buttons, that had been ripped from their moorings, by frantic fellows seeking fluid relief.

    Although I’m old, I’m not a total fashion geek. I still swing some swank, when I don my trademark black Kangol flat top wool cap (backwards of course), ala Samuel L. Jackson (who stole the idea from me, BTW, and that’s no pulp fiction, either.)

    I originally kicked it with Kangols to give myself a cool raffish edge. Now I wear them to warm my head and hide my thinning hair.

    Eventually my wardrobe will de-evolve into all-comfort-first-elastic-stretch-oversized Tees, roomy hooded sweatshirts, bulky athletic jerseys and maybe a few flower-print moo moos. Dorkified, yes, but cool and loose in summer and warm and roomy in winter.

    I know there are other Boomers who share my comfort-beats-fashion philosophy. I’d love to chat with you about it. If you see me in public, come talk with me.

    I’ll be wearing fuzzy slippers and accompanied by an embarrassed wife standing as far away as possible while shaking her head in dork disbelief.

    If you listen closely, you’ll hear her eyes rolling.

    Jim Pfiffer’s humor column is posted every Sunday on the Jim Pfiffer Facebook page, Hidden Landmarks TV Facebook page and Twin Tiers Living.com. Jim lives in Elmira with his wife, Shelley, and many pets and is a retired humor columnist with the Elmira Star-Gazette newspaper. Contact him at pfifman@gmail.com.

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