2.24.2009

Salesman

Charlie decided he needed a suit. Being in a uniform all day, all his life, his wardrobe consists of shorts and underarmor or race t-shirts. I thought he could do with another pair of jeans or Dockers, but what would I know? My wardrobe consists of the same sweat pants every day until I can smell myself. So off to Men's Wearhouse we go.

I don't know about this place. I went here once when Dylan needed a bow tie for an orchestra concert. I got in and got out as fast as humanly possible. It was like accidentally stepping into the men's room.

As soon as we walk inside, Charlie sees a tan sport coat in some sort of faux suede. "I love this," he says. "What do you think?"

I think it isn't a suit, which is why we're here. As soon as we fulfill our requirements we can go do something else. I'm looking around and I can't even figure out what these racks contain. I don't like to shop, but I really don't like to shop for men's clothes. What goes with what?

Charlie puts on the faux suede coat. It makes him look like a different person. I don't know if I'd come up and talk to this person. He's kind of professional-looking.

He steps away from the rack and I see his shorts under the coat. Now that looks ridiculous, and more what I'm used to living with. Charlie wears shorts in the snow so shorts with a sport coat looks like home.

"It's nice," I say. I could get used to being around this professional-looking man. Professional-looking if he's hiding behind a rack, that is.

"How about this one?"

He holds up a dark blue faux suede jacket. Everything he owns, I swear, is that same dark blue. How to I politely tell him I'm going to throw up?

I don't have to. Out of nowhere comes a blur of a salesman. "I'll be right with you," he says. "It's just been crazy today. Crazy!"

That made him sound gay, which would be comforting, but he wasn't. He was kind of not much of anything. He's the kind of guy who would work at Men's Wearhouse for thirty years, which it turns out he has. Why do I know this? When you work at Men's Wearhouse you have an overwhelming need to talk about yourself all friggin' day long.

"I was an Art Major in college," he says. "There are a lot of things you wouldn't know about color and what goes together."

Really? I have a degree in Art History. Since I don't work at Men's Wearhouse, I don't feel the need to share.

"When we were in painting class," he says, "We had to paint the canvasses white. Why paint them white? I asked. They said you have to paint them white to start with a white background. Everything looks better on a white background."

I wonder if he didn't realize he was painting gesso on the canvas. You do that for preparation, not for color. I don't think he wants to be corrected. It might ruin his point for future presentations.

Charlie's trying on suits, picked out by the art major Peter. The guy knows his clothes. He pulls a couple of suits up and holds them against Charlie, still wearing shorts. It's kind of like Halloween shopping.

"With your big muscles, you'll need a bigger size. We're going to have to do some tailoring," he says, "because you're so big up top here."

Charlie likes this. He has been working out. It's nice to not hear about the salesman for a minute, anyway.

"You have to buy one of these," he says. "These are our top sellers and I can't believe they put them on the Buy One Get One Free sale. We sell so many of them."

He's working us. At this point I'd buy suspenders for myself if he laid them out on his presentation table. He's got us where he wants us. We know nothing about this stuff and he does, so we're happy to ride along.

"I was the only person ever in a commercial who walked in front of George Zimmer," he says. Why is he talking about this? Did he run out of conversation about his college days as an Art Major?

"It was in the '80's," he says. "My mom was in a music video at the same time. It was a crazy time in our family."

"What music video?" I ask. I unfortunately spent way too much time watching MTV when it first came out. Was his mom Cyndi Lauper's mom in Girls Just Want To Have Fun? Was she in Devo's Whip It video? Anything by Journey?

"Um, I forgot."

"What band?" For the first time since I arrived in this man-land, I'm interested in something.

"I'm a musician at night," he says. "I don't use that part of brain until the sun goes down. Why can't I think of the name?"

He never does answer, but he's laid out a beautiful assortment of men's suits, ties, slacks, shirts, belts, and even suspenders. Burgundy ones. He has a better name than burgundy, though, but I can't remember it. I even asked him twice. It says Burgundy on their website, or Cognac. I notice some snappy white snakeskin lace-up shoes on their website, too. Why didn't he show us those? I guess Charlie's shorts wouldn't match.

We've walked right into his sales pitch and that's fine. I couldn't find my way to a pair of slacks to match Charlie's sport coat if you gave me five minutes and a thousand dollars. We bought not only the faux suede sport coat, not in dark blue thank God, but a couple of suits, pants, shirts, ties, shoes and belts. They all match and look like outfits salesmen wear.

Now all Charlie has to do is figure out somewhere to wear them.