It's time to change clothes, I guess. I can feel it coming. This morning, out of habit, I put on a light topcoat when I left the house. I've been wearing a coat for six months. It turned out to have been a mistake because I could have walked around at lunch in my shirt sleeves.
People were sitting on steps, on walls and on benches all over town, eating their lunches out of paper bags. Women were sitting with their heads tilted back, taking the sun, supporting themselves on their arms, which were angled back like chair legs.
I like the warmer weather at first, but I hate the idea of switching from winter to summer clothing. I can never remember what I have to wear or whether I sent it to the cleaners when I put it away last fall.
Another thing I hate, when I change from winter to summer clothes or from summer to winter clothes, is that I always feel fatter. The clothes don't seem to fit me as well as they did when I finished with them and pushed them to the back of the closet last season.
Toward the back of my closet, I have one bag of clothes hanging, with three suits, several shirts and two pairs of odd slacks in it. I must have packed them too tightly, because they seem compressed and somewhat smaller. They are no longer big enough for me. Either that or stores are putting my size label in smaller clothes now.
Spring is a constant reminder that either my clothes or my body is the wrong shape. There are other unpleasant aspects to the change. I put a jacket on and remember that two buttons are off the sleeve. It's worse going from winter to summer, because an overcoat covers a lot of mistakes if your clothes don't fit. When I first go out without a coat on, I feel naked.
If I was rich, I'd throw away all my clothes every season. Right now, I'd pack up all my winter pants and jackets, put them in a box and give them to some needy person. If I did that, I can just hear someone in my family saying, "Who'd take them?"
The style of women's clothes changes more in summer than men's. Men are better dressed for winter weather, but women are more comfortably dressed in summer. It's ridiculous for a man who works in an office to come to work in the heat of July or August wearing a coat and necktie. At the same time, the women in the office are wearing paper-thin cotton dresses and sandals.
There's no reason in the world, except habit, tradition and the urge to conform, that men should not wear light dresses in the summer, too. I don't personally have the strength of character or the determination to try and establish the trend by being the first man to wear a summer dress, but I wish someone would. They look comfortable for hot days.
I know what the summer will be like, though. It won't happen. Instead of a dress, I'll be wearing the same old wool socks I wear in winter, the same-weight cotton underwear, the same shirt and a suit that may be a lighter color but is not very much lighter in weight. Thirty years ago, they made men's wash-and-wear suits that were genuinely cooler and lighter. They had no padding.
The big laugh in a man's wardrobe is the summer tie. A summer tie is not one degree cooler around a man's neck than a winter tie.
I remember the days when all summer meant to me was short pants and bare feet. The only uncomfortable piece of clothing I wore all summer was a wet bathing suit.
(This classic column was originally published April 7, 1985.)
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