Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"(Mis)Reading The Signals"

Okay, here it is.

I am standing in line at Peet's Coffee with Anna's betrothed (her choice of words), Colby. And I spot this guy ahead of me, unremarkable in every way, but two. He's got his sunglasses slipped into the top of his shirt - in the back - and he has a floppy hat clamped to his pants.

I check this guy out, and I immediately start to seethe.

Steam is "this close" to shooting out of my ears. Rivulets of froth surge from the corners of my mouth. I am about to speak. Not to the stranger, but to Colby, my pre-emptive admonition:

"Hold me back!"

What's going on here? It's just fashion. It's a "fashion statement." Somebody in Peet's Coffee - incorrectly in my view - believes that slipping his sunglasses into the back of his shirt and clamping his hat to his pants makes him look


"Anyone can wear their sunglasses on their faces, and their hats on their heads. Look where I put 'em!"


Full disclosure: This is not an isolated prejudice. I have more. All of them along similar lines. For fear of appearing entirely around the bend, I will divulge only two:

The jacket draped over the shoulders.


The sweater knotted in the front.

I do not care for those looks.

The "jacket draped over the shoulders" is primarily a Continental look, popularized by an Italian man I will generically call Aldo. I have no idea what Aldo, practically, was thinking, meaning what practical purpose there might have been for this jacket-applying alternative.

Perhaps Aldo's rationale went something like this:

"I'm-a the kind of guy whose back gets a-cold, but not-a my arms. My arms actually get a-hot. So I drape-a the jacket over my shoulders to keep-a my back warm, while-a my remain uncovered and a-free to the world."

I don't think that's-a the reason. Aldo just likes the look. He thinks it's attractive to women.

"Look! His arms are out, but he's still wearing the jacket!"

And they swoon.

To me, he looks like an idiot. My greatest joy on earth would be to see Aldo's jacket slide off his shoulders and drop unceremoniously to the floor. But it never seems to happen. It appears to be glued there.

In a way, the "sweater knotted in the front" is the American equivalent of the "jacket draped over the shoulders." More casual, but just as ridiculous. Though I'm open to an explanation.

"I was thinking that I needed a sweater. But then I got outside, and, d'you know, it turned out to be warmer than I realized. At that point, I had two choices. I could retrace my steps, and leave the sweater inside. Or I could hold the sweater in my hand, in case, d'you know, a sudden breeze kicks up. Wait a minute, or - a third option - I could, d'you know, let the sweater hang down my back, and knot the sleeves over my chest. That's it! It's perfect!"

To me, such behavior screams of neurotic indecision. "Should I take a sweater? Should I not take a sweater? I know. I'll take the sweater,

But I won't...exactly...wear it."

Why do these "looks" so seriously attack my equilibrium? Because I associate them with snobbery. Like "the right car", or a blazer with a crest.

"You see them as 'snob signals'."

I do.

"Well, lemme ask you a question. If these...sartorial proclivities.."

Well put.

"Thank you...were not - at least in your mind - snob signals', would you want to indulge in any of the them yourself?"

That's hardly the point.

"The point being..."

The snobs have co=opted the 'looks'. You adopt one, and you're a snob.

"So in fact, you'd really like to slide our sunglasses into hour shirt, and knot your sweater over your chest, but you can't, because 'snobs' do it."

I would like to have the choice.

"But you actually like those 'looks'."

No! They look stupid.

"Okay, lemme get this straight. You resent these 'snobs' for precluding your ability to adopt 'looks' you would never adopt anyway."

Yes. How dare they!

"What that sarcastic?"

I believe it was.

"So you're coming to your senses?"

I believe I am.

"Does this mean that next time you spot someone adopting one of those 'looks', you will now be more tolerant?"

Of the 'look', yes. But not of the people.


There's a snob in there somewhere. I was just hating them for the wrong reason.

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