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My Compliments to your Wife


J. D. Pendry

Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes. - Henry David Thoreau

The first year I was out of uniform I spent still in uniform teaching high school ROTC. My retirement wardrobe came from the military clothing sales store. A few months ago, I started a new work adventure. This causes me to share with you another retirement woe.

I was standing near the coffeepot one morning when a twenty-something male co-worker asked, "Are you wearing your uniform today?" My response was a frank no and my scowling, are-you-on-drugs-go-away-before-I-kill-you look that always worked well with privates, lieutenants and an occasional teenager. He walked away frowning and digging at the seat of his wrinkled Dockers. His fluffed dried, wrinkle proof shirt wasn't and his tie... well we just won't even talk about his tie.

His question concerned me though. My shirt was nice - and professionally pressed, I might add. My tie complimented the shirt as they say and the trousers were actually not khaki. The color of the socks matched the color of the trousers and my stylish, tasseled casual shoes were highly polished. Looking somewhat spiffy, I thought - kind of Regis Filbinish.

Later, I was checking my gig-line in the men's room (I don't call it a latrine any more) when I noticed something. My shirt was the same shade as the old poplin shirts I used to wear with the class A Army uniform years ago. My tie was just a shade darker than the shirt and my trousers were practically OD green. I was wearing my uniform. That night I found much green, brown, and black clothing in my closet. My wife and Master Card have since added some color.

On another day, while smirking just a little, a young man commented on my paisley patterned tie. I didn't tell him that sometime during the mid 60's there was an alien invasion or possibly it was clothing designers on LSD. Anyway, all earthlings between the ages of 14 and 30-something had the paisley pattern permanently imprinted on that portion of their brains which selects the clothes we wear. I didn't share with my young friend that I wear paisley quiet often. He'll never notice, however, unless I adopt the newest fashion craze of allowing half of my butt to hang out of my trousers.

Adjusting to an environment with no uniforms and no grooming standards hasn't been easy. For those of you who are about to make the transition let me G2 you on the future. Women, I'm sorry, but you're on your own on this one.

First of all men, if by some fluke of nature you show up to work one day in your new life wearing clothes in colors that actually match, are pressed and shoes with polish on them here's what to expect. The men will look you over then they'll look at one another. As soon as they leave earshot, one will ask the others, "Do you think he's gay?" The women on the other hand are a little more appreciative, but a bit bolder. One of them will inevitably look you up and down and then in the eye and smile while saying, "My compliments to your wife."

My mission here is to protect you from such unfair comments. So I offer you:

JD's Tips on Grooming and Your Retirement Wardrobe

Tip For Before You're Hired

  • Buy one nice conservative suit. Wear it to the job interview. While interviewing observe how other employees (not the boss) are dressed. If hired, buy clothes accordingly and save the suit for church.

Tips For After You're Hired

  • Follow these and the men will not think you're feminine and the women will not compliment your wife.
  • Your socks must never match your trousers. Remember this when selecting socks. White, especially if they have a Nike swoosh on them, and yellow and blue argyles work well with anything.
  • Never starch a shirt - ever. Occasionally select the cleanest dirty one from the clothes hamper. (possibly on no-bathe day - see below) Always roll up your sleeves. It gives the impression you're working hard.
  • Ties must never match shirts unless they also match your red, white and blue flag patterned suspenders. Ties look better when you dunk the tip of them in coffee and wear them loosely around your neck with your top button undone. They also double as napkins in an emergency such as a leaking taco.
  • Never wear lace-up dress shoes with a suit. Brown penny loafers (never polished) go well with everything and they show off your argyles. Ensure you actually have shiny new pennies in them.
  • Never under any circumstance wear pressed Dockers on casual Friday. Do your pre combat check on Thursday night and if necessary stuff them in your pillowcase and sleep on them.
  • Throw away any tool used for polishing shoes.
  • Never wear a conservative colored blazer or sport coat. Some suggestions: lime-green, powder-blue, yellow and my personal favorite yellow and blue plaid. Or, wear the same burgundy colored one, with buttons missing from the sleeve - every day. These will really accent the argyles.
  • Only shave on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On one of the other days, don't bathe. You may select two no-bath days for emphasis, or if the office starts smelling too good.
  • A baseball cap, worn backwards, and sandals make a good statement on casual Friday, especially if its also a no bath day, as do frayed khaki shorts.
  • Grow a goatee and or a ponytail.
  • In case your wife succeeds in dressing you on any day, always keep an emergency kit in the car that consists of a dirty shirt and/or a stained tie and a pair of yellow and blue argyles.

See y'all around the coffeepot.

© J. D. Pendry