Thursday, July 1, 2021

I'm Retired 12 Years as of Today, So Why Do So Many Suits Still Hang in My Closet?

They hang as silent sentinels in my closet. Designer suits and sports jackets I haven’t worn regularly since I retired 12 years ago. 

Designer Names: Claiborne. Jones New York. Oscar de la Renta. Chereskin. Emanuel Ungaro. Andrew Fezza. Rafael. Amherst and Brock. Lazetti. Mino Lombardi. Calvin Klein. Robert Stock. Christian Aujuard. Adolpho. Austin Reed.

Dozens of ties hang limply from not one but three tie racks. Dress shoes—loafers and laced, black, brown and cordovan—mounted on shoes racks. Drawers-full of dress shirts, mostly button down white, blue, pink and yellow Oxfords, some still unopened a dozen years after no longer part of my daily ensemble.

I could start a “gently used” haberdashery store, if so inclined. 

I officially retired July 1, 2009. 12 years. 144 months. 626 weeks. 4,383 days ago. 1,350 blog postings before today. 

Though I mostly dislike not wearing socks, I named my blog as affirmation my wardrobe choices would be eclectically mine going forward. That means jeans almost exclusively cover my legs. I can count on my fingers, perhaps needing a toe or two, how many times I’ve worn a suit and tie, even to synagogue services or catered affairs. One of those times was to Ellie and Donny’s 2012 wedding. Dan and Allison wed in 2006, before my apparel emancipation. Fortunately, they chose a relaxed dress code for their outdoor nuptials. No suits, jackets or ties required, joyfully welcomed by all considering the weather was similar to current heat wave conditions—temperature in the 90s with equally high humidity. 

During my four years as a reporter in Connecticut, I owned two suits: a brown corduroy (the jacket could double as a sports coat) and my wedding suit, a deep blue tuxedo. 

Working on Park Avenue and E. 55th Street in Manhattan required an immediate wardrobe accommodation. Lebhar-Friedman demanded suits and ties be worn every day. Sports jackets were not permitted in the office but acceptable when attending conferences or trade shows. 

I quickly discovered the off-price retail market. In Milford, Conn., an English chap named Lenny operated an eponymously named store across the street from the Connecticut Post mall. In Yonkers, where an Outback Steakhouse now stands, BFO (Buyers Factory Outlet) furnished more suits. Syms opened in Elmsford and then a few steps off Park avenue, a block from Lebhar-Friedman. On Madison Avenue, two blocks from L-F, I found suits at Mern’s. I bought designer suits from Marshalls and Filene’s Basement. Some sports jackets came from Costco. In time, at any given moment, my closet contained more than a dozen suits, an equal number of sports coats.

I wasn’t a fashionista. My taste ran to mostly traditional patterns and cuts. But I enjoyed the thrill of the hunt to find what I considered reasonably priced suits and jackets. My job visiting retail stores throughout the country facilitated my passion. My favorite sports jacket, a Claiborne, came from the clearance rack of a Gottschalks Department Store in Fresno, Calif. $50. Impossible to pass up. 

In a Schottenstein store in Columbus, Ohio, I bought two suits, a summer weight poplin and a three season wool suit. Outside Columbus, the company’s mostly Midwest stores were known as Value City, open seven days a week. The chain was as an off-price discounter, scooping up excess inventory from manufacturers or beleaguered retailers. 

The Schottensteins, residents of Columbus, were Orthodox Jews who didn’t want their fellow congregants to see their stores open on Saturday.

The Schottensteins devised an accommodation. They renamed their three Columbus Value City stores with their family name. Those Schottenstein stores closed on the family’s sabbath. 

My father rarely complimented me on any of my purchases. He bought his suits and sports coats wholesale. Though I did the next best thing by buying off-price, he never acknowledged my shopping acumen. 

As I was driving him one day he asked about my recent business trips. I told him about my purchases at Schottenstein’s and that I was wearing the wool suit. He instinctively reached out to finger the end of my suit sleeve. Rubbing his fingers together he said, “Ah, the Schottensteins sell good suits.” I accepted the compliment without further comment.

Over the years I have donated suits and jackets to charities. I don’t know why I have kept so many. My son and son-in-law don’t need any (even if they fit). I’ll probably soon assemble another bundle of discards for charity.

Speaking of discards, back in January, 11-1/2 years after I retired, I finally cleaned out most of the paper remnants of the last 32 years of my paid professional life. I dumped in the recycling bin hundreds, perhaps a thousand, business cards from retail executives and suppliers obtained at trade shows and conferences. The rolodexes and card holders landed in the plastics and metal recycling bin.

My desk still resembles the aftermath of a tornado strike, but I’m okay with that (though Gilda isn’t).