Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Manly work duds make statement

Call me Scarf-face. That's how I was greeted by the woman behind the counter at the Westwood BP station.

Maybe this was a simple case of mistaken identity. Or the woman was just trying to be friendly. And funny.

But, I have my doubts.

This seems more like part of a diabolical scheme hatched by my wife to make me dress better for yard work.

Of course, it is entirely possible the BP woman knows another customer with this highly recognizable facial feature. And calls him by his nickname.

Then again, she just might be a literalist.

A tattered scarf was wrapped around my neck. All the way to my chin.

Geeky looking? You bet.

But it did the job. The temperature was dropping, and I had been working in the yard all day.

The scarf protected my throat - my Achilles heel during the cold and flu season.

Rather look like a geek than get sick.

Killer look

As for the rest of my outfit, you be the judge.

Coat - A ragged blue ski jacket, old enough to vote. White innards protruding from threadbare cuffs.

Jeans - Muddy, faded, battle-scarred. No designer label.

Sneakers - Paint-splattered high-tops. Shoe outlet specials. No swoosh.

Headgear - Double-decker, flu-fighting combo. A white railroad engineer's hat over a blue-knit Snoopy ski cap, pulled low to cover the ears.

Eyewear - Heavy-duty lenses in a horn-rimmed, shock-resistant frame. My wife calls them psycho-killer glasses.

Quite a fashion statement.

Dress down

No need to get all dressed up to be the family gardener, I tell my wife. Pump gas in crummy work clothes and they'll still take your money. No one cares what you wear.

She disagrees.

"No woman wants to be married to someone who looks like a bum," she says. Every wife wants her husband to look nice. Especially when he's out in public. Even if it's just a gas station.

That's wonderful in theory. But impractical when you're lounging at the pump after spending the day manning a rake, spreading composted cow manure on the garden and standing on a ladder to fish ripe leaves from a gutter's murky waters.

Such work requires manly clothes. Duds that aren't afraid to get dirty. And come clean with no fuss. Tough stuff that won't shred even after thousands of close encounters with jagged edges.

Magazine and newspaper ads constantly display baby boomers doing yard work while wearing just-ironed khaki slacks.

TV commercials depict GenXers clad in baggy pants. Rake in hand, they stare at the strange implement - unsure of which end to use.

To me, a hard day's work must be done in clothes that can work hard. No sense ruining a good pair of khakis by snagging them on a fallen limb.

Droopy drawers could fall down the first time you bend over to pick up a pile of leaves. That would be embarrassing. And drafty.

Give me clothes that let you break out in a honest sweat. The older and the rattier the better.

They make you want to work hard. Fearlessly plunge into the thick of things. Build up a good head of steam. Accomplish something.

These kind of clothes may draw stares. People may even call you names.

After the BP woman called me Scarf-face, I got to thinking: What if it truly was an honest mistake.

Someone else is walking around with a scarf wrapped around his neck like a tourniquet. And looks like me. Poor guy.

Call Cliff Radel at 768-8379; or E-mail: cradel@enquirer.com

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