A Straight Shot of Politics

A blog from a gentleman of the Liberal political persuasion dedicated to right reason, clear thinking, cogent argument, and the public good.

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Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

I have returned from darkness and quiet. I used to style myself as "Joe Claus", Santa Claus’ younger brother because that is what I still look like. I wrote my heart out about liberal politics until June of 2006, when all that could be said had been said. I wrote until I could write no more and I wrote what I best liked to read when I was young and hopeful: the short familiar essays in Engish and American periodicals of 50 to 100 years ago. The archetype of them were those of G.K. Chesterton, written in newspapers and gathered into numerous small books. I am ready to write them again. I am ready to write about life as seen by the impoverished, by the mentally ill, by the thirty years and more of American Buddhist converts, and by the sharp eyed people [so few now in number] with the watcher's disease, the people who watch and watch and watch. I am all of these.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Living On The Fat of the Land

I am obese. There are doctors who might speculate on whether or not I am "morbidly obese", but they just don't know Joe Claus. I appear to be in good company in America. Supposedly somewhere around sixty percent of us, I believe, are also obese. But I do wish the people who sell us our clothing would take more notice of this fact, besides starting to charge extra money, which many do, for larger sizes. A couple of years ago, I began to routinely look to Big & Tall retailing to serve some of my clothing needs, with the corresponding contraction of sizes, colors, and styles.

The regular clothes purveyors are starting to take notice. Men's pant waist sizes that used to stop at 46 everywhere have been inching, in the cheaper lines such as suit separates, up to 52. The shirt makers still haven't broken through the neck size of 18 as the largest off the rack, but the high end off the rack retailers have given in to demand and are now regularly offering custom shirting.

But, unfortunately, the people who manufacture clothes are largely in third world countries where prosperity has not yet translated into massively higher calorie intakes in an exerciseless life (though their time is coming, and it warms the cockles of Joe Claus' heart to think so! With the clothes they do make for me, they deserve it!). And the people who dictate fashion, even for men, make a point of pride to remain perfect mediums all their lives whatever the frantic and anorexic costs.

So while I do not have to go naked, my life is a constant struggle of trying to look a little less like an unmade bed in my clothes than is normal for a fat man. The makers of men's clothes may make them bigger, but they have yet to figure out how to change the proportions of the parts (such as shirt collar lengths) to keep a decently dressed fat man from looking like a teapot in a tea cozy!

And the fascist fashionistas have declared for decades now that obesity is the Sin Against the Holy Ghost, which is said to be beyond forgiveness, and have condemned us all to styles (such as two-piece suits and long, four-in-hand knotted ties) in which I either look wrinkled and sloppy, or like a well-dressed fifty gallon oil drum whose bespoke clothing comes from Omar the Tentmaker.

Now I know that the odds are that a certain percentage of even my miniscule readership have the same problem I do. So I'm going to offer a few hints of what to do if you are a fat man who wishes to look reasonably well-dressed despite a world-wide clothing conspiracy to keep you looking as ridiculous and absurd as possible.

First of all, shop regularly and systematically in thrift stores and don't let yourself be discouraged that so few Big and Tall clothes show up there. When they do, they will be gems, and you are not looking (as are the "normal" sized shoppers) for a whole wardrobe of better label clothing which you could never afford to buy new. Be content to find one or two pieces that look good and are in good shape on the good days, and take the bad days as they come. You don't have to spend nearly the time on any one shopping trip that your smaller brethren do, since you can, with practice, whip through racks of too small like a hot knife through butter. Be persistent and shop the same stores regularly, for you are looking to catch things before anyone else rotund has seen them.

Second, buy your dress shirt collars a little large. Snug fitting here means a very bad set to the collar which gives you a sea-turtle look. It takes a larger collar to lie properly, with the proper knot style in the tie, you can set it to best effect--and, as a bonus, it will be more comfortable, and your constant discomfort will not ruin your good looks.

In addition, wear three-piece dress ensembles, preferably with two button coat styles and longer lapels, though these last are optional. Don't be buffaloed by the fact that you see them on no one else--you will look better in them, for you should wear an open suitcoat for its freedom of movement and its better drape over your heft. And you should never, never, never expose the chest and stomach of a button front dress shirt tucked into your pants. If you can't find three-piece suits, buy deep v-neck sweater vests (try the thrift stores here) or button cardigan sweater vests (button all the buttons if you do). Do not buy sleeved sweaters, buy cotton exclusively, and buy them about a size smaller than normal (XL if your shirts are 2X, ect.). Cotton stretches and will look sloppy in your usual size, and wool and acrylic will be too warm indoors, even with the coat off (which you should be willing to do, if you have a properly sized vest, for uncovered shirt sleeves lengthen your figure--but don't forget to always put the coat on a hanger). Remember that you already have an extra layer of insulation and choose your fabrics accordingly.

Wear suspenders underneath the vest and avoid belts. Make the effort to have your cleaners add brace buttons to the trousers, or, if you can always conceal them with a vest, go to hardware stores (Sears is excellent!) and buy the heavy-duty clip suspenders made for skilled tradesmen. Trousers always drape better with suspenders than they do with belts, and will, again, be more comfortable in the bargain. A further tip: if possible, attach suspender clips exactly over belt loops for a more secure hold.

Your vest gives you the freedom to tie Windsor and Half-Windsor knots in your ties and to wear the tip of them a little short. Take advantage of this, because it will give you better control of the set of your shirt collar than a four-in-hand knot. Wear a concealed tie clip, hooking the rear dangle of the tie to your shirt button placket just above the tie keeping label. This will help prevent natural movement from badly disarranging the set of your tie as it rubs against the resistant textured cotton of your sweater vest.

Choose your colors and patterns of suiting carefully and eschew exaggerated contrasts of tone, pattern, or hue; avoid chalk stripes, or plain solids, in suits and jackets; and seek out very subtle thread color patternings in all your dress outerwear. Look for contrasting textural interest between your sweater vests, your shirts, and your suiting. What the Brits call a very slightly "country" look to the suiting will usually flatter you best. Wear French cuffs with discreet but rich links, if you like, they go well with a jacketless silhouette indoors, but avoid white cuffs and collars on colored shirts.

Heavier men have a harder time achieving the proper "break" of the trouser cuff over the top of the shoe and the exact one-half inch of shirt cuff showing below the jacket cuff. Wear pleated trousers always, don't be afraid to buy shirt sleeves a little long, and have jacket sleeves and trouser lengths carefully altered, if need be, to achieve this. Also, consider "half-boot" slip-on shoe styles and cuffless trousers for a more forgiving treatment at the ankles, and care for your dress shoes (with mink oil and horsehair brushing if they are not suede) religiously.

For casual tops that give three season wear choose the following: long sleeved Rugby shirts, short sleeved polo shirts, and cotton fatigue sweaters. All of these are usually cut better than average in the bigger sizes, and Rugby shirts particularly are designed for big men to both look good and move freely in them. They are also among the easiest styles to find in thrift stores.

Once again, wear suspenders under them and over your t-shirts (preferably deep v-neck once again), buy pleated twill pants for maximum comfort, and choose discreet patterns and colors which flatter your complexion (a girlfriend or wife's eye, if she dresses smartly, is helpful with this). In the summer, break training and switch to all cotton button fronted shirts with straight hems, bought a little large, and worn untucked, over elastic-waisted trousers. Take this season to indulge a little in brighter patterns or colors in the shirting.

Finally, always remember that if you do not feel good in your clothes, you will not look good in them, so never wear anything uncomfortable merely to be fashionable, or to fit in. And remember, further, that being well dressed is a much an attitude as a set of clothing, so always wear your clothes as if you meant it!


Anonymous Sue DiGennro said...

Thanks for the advice Joe. I have started dating a man that is obese (for whatever that means) who takes great care in his clothes. Since I know nothing of the clothing challenge for larger sizes, I looked up some advice in case he takes me shopping with him and asks for my opinion. You have helped. Wish me luck, Sue

1:59 PM  
Anonymous RS Gold said...

Cute story. Makes me want to be better. Thanks for sharing. You are wonderful.

2:05 AM  

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