Hallelujah

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It’s Raining Men! Hallelujah!
It’s Raining Men! Every Specimen!
Tall, blonde, dark and lean
Rough and tough and strong and mean …

– It’s Raining Men – The Weather Girls

For some reason I have always had an affinity for the song “It’s Raining Men.I like the imagery of it, and I like its passionate upbeat. I like its singers’ throaty, celebratory tone. I also like that the song contains the word Hallelujah. Recently, “It’s Raining Men” skipped, unbidden, through my head. It was the day after Christmas and I was in the mall, at Brooks Brothers, with Andrew.

Since I was very small, I’ve loved men’s clothing stores. As a little girl, I would hide inside King & Co.’s round racks of suits while my father tried on clothes. There, the smooth, tightly woven fabric of finely stitched wool, silk and seersucker enveloped me. I could peer between the lapels’ fine folds and beyond strong-looking, elegant tortoise shell buttons to observe upstanding men as they stepped tenuously out of their dressing rooms onto the store’s red and green plaid carpet. When they saw themselves in the three-way mirror – out of street clothes and into King’s finery – they stood a little straighter; they tilted their chins up a notch, allowing themselves a brief moment of vanity.

My father, a farmer, had few occasions to wear a suit so we didn’t go to King’s often, but our visits there still impressed me. To this day I find the mingled scents of fresh leather accessories, spicy aftershave testers, and crisp, new-smelling silk and wool enchanting. I admire men – young and old, short and tall, wide and narrow – who worry over stacks of cashmere sweaters, who hold a series of striped ties up to finely pressed shirts, who pull suits from tightly-packed racks and peer at them analytically, considering the clothing’s probable impact at a wedding, or in a board room.

I know that my deference for fine men’s clothing makes me sound old-fashioned – and I guess that I am. I’m a Carey Grant kind of girl: I swoon for men in suits the way other chicks squeal for rockers with gel-slicked hair and leather pants. APK, who cuts a dashing figure in a well-tailored suit, picked me up for our first date wearing a crimson tie, a starched white shirt, a dark suit and a long, black overcoat. He’d come from work, and that he hadn’t even bothered to loosen his tie made my stomach drop. I loved that he wasn’t trying to be cool, and that he stood up straight, and that he didn’t apologize for not having had the time to change clothes.

Now, whenever the opportunity avails itself, I go to Brooks Brothers with APK. For his bank job, he wears a suit daily. This year, he’d worn a few of his best to tatters, which led us to Brooks Brothers’ doors the day after Christmas for the store’s annual mega-sale. We arrived before 10 AM to find the store brimming with men and overheated sales guys. When the tailor, Farhad, saw us, he hugged Andrew and kissed him on both cheeks. Like a math teacher working out an equation on a blackboard, he made quick, deft chalk marks on Andrew’s chosen suits. Farhad commended the choices, acknowledging the suits’ fit and functionality as he marked my husband’s measurements.

Between Andrew’s fittings, Farhad graciously welcomed other customers to stand on the carpeted platform in front of the three-way mirror, and he made them feel good about themselves. The men, in turn, stood up a little straighter with their chins up-raised; they inquired about half-breaks and sleeve lengths; they bought, and bought and bought. Which is when the Hallelujah part of “It’s Raining Men” ran through my head. Until then, I’m not sure I’d known the depth of my gratitude for well-dressed gentlemen, for these old-fashioned snatches in today’s society. Had I been bolder and/or in a Grease-like movie (and, of course, not seven and a half months pregnant) I might’ve done a little Weather Girls’ routine right there in the middle of Brooks Brothers. If I had, I bet I could’ve gotten the guys in the dressing room to buy a few more suits.

Beyond whatever shallow analysis one might take from this random posting, I’d like to point out that observing male shoppers does offer a unique perspective on masculinity. I think that’s why I find places like Brooks Brothers so thrilling: the men’s store gives voice to its consumers vulnerability and pride, their desire not just to command respect, but to be respectful.

For this, I am envious of men’s shopping experiences. In comparison, women’s clothing stores are much more insidious; too often, they feed our insecurities and shame us into buying things that will last only for a trend or for a season. Women are expected to care – too much – about how they look. And while I am not so naive as to think that there’s no hype at men’s clothing stores, what hype there is strikes me as good hype, classy hype, hype geared to affirmation — the kind of hype that makes me, at least, want to dance on a tailor’s platform and sing karaoke.

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4 thoughts on “Hallelujah

  1. Nice, Towles.

    I love this: “the men’s store gives voice to its consumers vulnerability *and* pride, their desire not just to command respect, but to be respectful.”

    And, having met your better half, can say he does look good in clothes. Not every man was made for a tux, let alone a suit. But, as you say, even the most shambling of us do look better spiffed up.

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  2. Absoluely! And I get the same feeling everytime I watch my sons or husband get a haircut. No matter what their age I always get a lump in my throat when they sit down and the barber puts the cape around their shoulders, pumps up the chair and snips away, finishing with the fluffy brush and powder and the long awaited lollipop. To think I’ve watched their lifetimes pass in a barbers chair.

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  3. Towles –
    I was just wandering through your facebook page and stumbled upon your blog. This is some fantastic writing. Very interesting. Very talented. You write in such a way that I am able create an image in my mind of the situation.
    I hope all is well for you, Andrew and the children (dog included).

    Like

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