There was an awesome article that hit the news services about a week ago. A PE teacher in Texas apparently wore the same outfit—a wide-lapelled shirt and dark brown sweater vest—for his school photo. He accidentally wore the same outfit his first two years teaching then, as a running joke, he wore the same outfit every school picture day for 40 years.
I think that is beyond awesome. One, it shows he has a wicked sense of humor (speaking as a former teacher myself, I know that is an absolute must-have in order to stay sane) and two, if shows he is good enough shape to wear the same clothes at 62 he did at 22. Props to him!
Now, I am well under 40 so I don’t have anything in my closet quite as old. Actually, I am notoriously unsentimental about clothes. Anything that I haven’t worn in a year or doesn’t fit anymore I sell on eBay. I’m pretty sure this comes from the fact I wore so many of my older sister’s clothes growing up. Also, my parents, while not hoarders, hang on to a lot of stuff. Dad has a collection of “vintage” t-shirts from various NCAA athletic programs and ties that haven’t seen the light of day in 20 years. Mom has clothes she hasn’t worn in 10, 15, 20 years. I can’t speak to the reason they hold on to these threads so long, but my wardrobe is a pretty sleek, utilitarian operation.
Except for one shirt.
It’s nothing special—3/4 sleeve, v-neck. Charcoal grey with black horizontal stripes. It’s an acrylic/spandex blend that has pilled over the years.
Even though I purchased it in 1999, I simply cannot part with it. When my maternal grandfather passed in 2000, it was the most suitable shirt I had to attend his funeral. When my paternal grandfather passed four years later, I thought it only fitting I wear the same shirt.
I know it sounds strange, but it’s oddly comforting to have that shirt hanging in the back of my closet. It’s something I bought when I was still in college and I wore it on the days I said good-bye to the two most beautiful men on the planet. I can’t remember all who was at either funeral. The Bible readings are a dim memory and the condolence cards got recycled. The money I donated in their name to charity has long since been spent. But the memory of who those men are and how much they mean to me dances in my mind every time I flip past that hanger in my closet. Like Linus’s blankie, this Lane Bryant shirt is a fabric comfort—a piece of the patchwork quilt of my memories of my grandfathers.
So Dale Irby, continue to kick ass in your retirement. I love the humor you showed in wearing the same hideous vintage duds 40 years in a row. In a similar vein but for more bittersweet reasons, I will hold on to this shirt probably 40 more years—one last link to the past with the men I loved!