Now I know Why My Dad Wore Cardigans

Unfortunately I’m severely claustrophobic so I can’t wear “T” shirts.  I’ll never be able to sport a “T” shirt with one of my favourite expressions on it : “I’M RETIRED.  This is as dressed up as I get”.  I would wear that to any special occasion. Be it a wedding, a funeral, the Beer Store, a Royal Inauguration, all the important stuff.

I think of myself like a British Lord.  Not for the royalty or importance, ‘cause I’m neither. You see, much like a Lord I’m not a dirty fellow, I’m just a tad dishevelled, wrinkled, rumpled, and confused. Yet, I’m relatively harmless to myself and others. Even the wife says I’m … you know … clean.  It’s just that I’d merrily pick freshly laundered clothes from a basket on the floor if she didn’t fold or hang them up before I needed any.  As well, my pants are always clean, though sometimes ventilated at the crotch (at least until the wife catches sight of it).  As for intact side pockets.  Really, who needs ‘em?  I carry a small packsack.  I have shirt pockets and a rear pocket (though I despise it, I still have one).  Speaking of shirts, don’t think mine aren’t perfectly clean either.  Those elderberry, fungal spore, and pollen stains are permanent.  They’re not dirt, they’re permanent stains.  I believe once a stain proves itself permanent, it becomes a part of the fabric’s design.  After all, what is color or pattern on a shirt but a glorified stain ?  Oddly, the wife doesn’t concur with any of this seemingly remarkable logic.

An old guy’s clothes gotta be comfy, loose fitting, dull in color, well worn, easily and rapidly removable (if you gotta ask why … then don’t), but above all else, they gotta be familiar.  That was the best advice an old guy gave me when I started “business travelling”.  He told me to always take my most familiar old pair of shoes as well as business footwear.  Not for the conference room, but to be worn when you hit the streets afterward.  To explore and taste an unfamiliar city in unfamiliar shoes is not being comfortable.  He was absolutely correct.  I packed my gardening shoes, the ones I wear when I’m in the most comfortable place in my World, for a trip to San Francisco.  I felt more at Home there, in those shoes, than I would in dress shoes in my Hometown of Toronto.

An old guy’s clothes are more than just protection from the cold.  They’re more than just something to cover up a physique gone tragically awry.  More than just something in which to ditch pocket change, keys, pens, glasses, candy wrappers, tissues, notes, appointment cards, wallets, and such.  An old guy’s attire defines who and what he is, what he’s experienced, where he’s been and maybe even where he’s bound.  In the Spring of 1977, I challenged a wilderness river in a canoe with a friend whom I thought had white water experience.  He certainly talked the part well enough.  I should’ve caught on when he used all the technically correct names for the paddle strokes.  He was an armchair canoe-man I’m afraid.  Long story – short, we lost it the morning of the second day on the river.  A freak blizzard had blown in, covering us and our campsite overnight, and was still raging when we tipped the canoe.  I crawled up the slick rocky bank, freezing and soaked to the skin with a vise-like grip on the canoe’s stern rope.  I saw my buddy (in shock) floating toward a second waterfall and I shouted and cursed over the roar of the water to bring him to his senses.  He woke up just in time to grab my hand before the current swept him away.  I felt kinda bad when he later told everyone that I saved his Life because, at the time, all I could think was “Wake up you SOB, I need a bowsman to get outa here alive”. So we managed to start a fire and I burned some holes in the legs of my denims while drying them.  Anyway, that was arguably the closest I’d come to death at that particular point in my young Life.  I kept those old jeans for many years as kind of a reminder (?) of how I almost bought it on a deserted backwoods river in Northern Ontario.  One day I went searching for those old jeans, but they’d vanished in the numerous moves from College days to adult Life.  I’ll admit I felt a certain loss.  Anyway, my point here is that sometimes a guy’s old clothes really do mean something to him.

So, as this never to be sufficiently cursed Winter finally started to piss off (as opposed to pissing me off) and get warmer, I started wearing lighter clothes under my coat.  Then I didn’t need a coat so I just wore my sweater/hoody.  That became too warm so I started wearing this sweater-like thing with a zipper down the front and long sleeves which I rolled up.  There’s no hood on it so if we come across any morels, I got nowhere to carry them.  So what is this weird sweater, with long sleeves, a zipper up the front, and no hood ?  I glanced in the mirror one day and scared the CRAP out of myself because my Dad was standing there looking back at me !   NOOOOOO!!!!!!!!  I’m wearing a cardigan, and I like it ! God help me !  I have no idea what to do now, but I gotta irreparably damage it so the wife will feel compelled to fling it out.  I wish she had flung it out long ago.  I don’t even remember where it came from.  Who gave it to me, or where we bought it, or wherever it came from.  I think it just materialized in the front closet via some unholy portal from Hell.

Now, I’m like any other guy.  I’d rather staple my eyelids open, and watch a Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks movie marathon while eating quiche, washed down with gin, than go clothes shopping.  But every now and then, you just gotta do it before you get charged with something.  I recommend you go about mid-morning, immediately after you’ve purchased some sort of toy.  That way, you can draw out the anticipation, the “looking forward to-ness”.  The toy becomes a reward for yourself once you’re through with the heinous task at hand. It’s an anticipatory distraction.  It gives you something else to think about. Something other than that God-damn “bing-bong!” thing that goes off every f#@*ing time I walk in or out of the changeroom !  Which I do for every pair of pants or shirt I try on, ‘cause I wanna make sure the wife approves of every one personally. That way, my butt’s covered (pun non-intentional).  It’s like involving her as an accomplice to the crime should anything go wrong with the new clothes over the next 6 years until she can talk me into clothes shopping again.

However, if we’re talking a pair of zip-off legged convertible pants, a camo netting, or perhaps a set of Welly’s … that’s a different Cadillac full of blonds altogether.  That could entail visits to Canadian Tire, Sail, innumerable Hardware stores (yeah I know they don’t stock clothes in hardware stores, but any excuse …), Giant Tiger, Mark’s Work Whorehouse (fun name), just to list a few.  It could also take many days or even weeks to find just the right size and style at the best price.  Actually, it often takes weeks just to find any at all.  Just so’s ya know, I found the convertible pants at Giant Tiger (thanks to a tip from Ranger), the Welly’s at Canadian Tire, and I’m still looking for the camo netting.  I realize that’s not clothing, but you do kinda wear it, when you’re hiding under it with a camera.

Gotta love Canadian Tire eh ?  They print out and distribute 10,000 flyers/week regardless of whether they got 200 articles in stock, or just that one in aisle 17 at the back on the left hand side behind the campstove covers. And the box it’s in, looks like it really pissed-off a rhino or something.  Or, if it’s like boots, they’ll only have sale priced stock in sizes 18 and 4.  Human sized boots are only available in the brands at twice the price.  But I found my cheap pair by looking in aisle 17 at the back, on the left hand side behind the campstove covers.

I wear toques. I have worn toques all my Life.  I have owned 3 toques in my Lifetime. Do the math, and that’s a little over 19 years per toque.  Hell! That’s longer than most of my High School and College friends’ marriages lasted.  That’s longer than a few of my friends’ lifetimes lasted actually.  That’s longer than anyone played Dr. Who.  This is a picture of my current toque.

Cardigans my hat

You’ll note I didn’t say I love toques, I just said I wear them.  I wear them because they are the tried and true, classically perfect cold weather attire.  They’ll keep your head warm.  If your toque is long enough, you can pull it down over your face like a balaclava, and still see through the knitted fibres. You can roll it up like a bandana to keep your ears particularly warm.  You can pull it over your hand, and wear it like a glove in emergency situations.  You can swat splattered dirt off your coat with it. You can fill it with berries and carry it like a bag.   You can put it on a stick, and raise it above the wall to see if the other guys have any more snowballs left. Folded correctly, it makes an excellent wounded elbow rest or mini pillow on which to rest your weary head.  Upon entering the Pub, in an “all in one move”, you can slip it off, stuff both gloves into it, shake your sunglasses into it, and hang it up on a coat hook without missing a step on your way toward the bar.  A toque is not Love, it’s Life necessary.

The only thing wrong with a toque ?  Toque-hair … if you see that as “wrong”.  Personally, when there’s snow on the ground and I walk into a Public House where less than half the guys have toque-hair … I’m in the wrong kinda Pub.

So now I know why my Dad wore cardigans.  And now you know why it’s such a tragedy to see an old guy in a pair of banana pants and a purple shirt with a green tie, on a golf course.  Someone, somewhere, thinks they’re being kind to him.  OR maybe someone, somewhere is laughing their frickin’ ass off at him while “YouTubing” him dressed like a $5/hour Colombian hooker.  I’ve asked the wife to kill me if I even look pensively at yellow pants.  I think I also asked her to knock me off if try to pull my hair into a pony tail too.  I vaguely remember asking for death if a journalist gets me to say “I’m (whatever number) years young”.  There’s a few more too.  Jeez, maybe I’d better start keeping track of those requests, in case she has been.


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