Penkava: Never a clothes call, men, if you go khaki

I am not a slave to fashion. Even as a little kid growing up, I pretty much reached into my dresser drawers and put on whatever I pulled out. Once I learned not to wear my underwear on the outside of my pants, I was good to go.

Sure, there was some special clothing I enjoyed wearing. I remember sporting my Hopalong Cassidy Western Frontier Cowboy outfit to school one day, complete with spurs and broad-brimmed hat. After a showdown at the “It’s Not OK Corral” with my third-grade teacher, Mrs. Schneider, I decided that it would be better to blend in than to mosey with style. Besides, I probably shouldn’t have greeted her with, “Howdy pardner, hold it right there and move your hands reeeeeal slow-like.”

After that lesson, I moved through life without a fashion worry, surviving the Ban-Lon of the ‘60s and the polyester of the ‘70s, as well as later onslaughts of Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and some brothers named Brooks. Sometimes I fell into The Gap and other times I would just Guess. I do admit a bit of beguilement with the deep, captivating voice of the guy from the Men’s Warehouse commercial, but I was able to resist it … I guarantee it.

Of course, during courtship, my clothes mattered a bit more. I thought that I looked really groovy with my Nehru jacket and bell-bottom pants. Or maybe it was the tie-dyed T-shirt I wore under my far-out mod mohair vest along with my polished black Beatle boots that caught my future wife’s eye. Whatever it was, it worked as smooth as a Cat Stevens song on an 8-track tape. I was ridin’ on the Peace Train, man.

But once we get beyond the marriage ceremony, most men couldn’t care less about fashion. Sure, there’s no doubting the importance of wearing the jersey of your favorite sports team. And there are not too many men who would turn down a chance to strut around the house in a “Star Wars” Jedi Master pajama set. But, let’s admit it, the only color coordination going on in our lives is adjusting the hue settings on our HD televisions.

And so it goes. It’s not like we husbands have given up on fashion. It’s just that we have our own version. And that version is called, in a word, “khaki.”

This mode of dress superlatively simplifies the clothes shopping process for men. We just walk into the store and when the clerk asks to help us, we just say, “Khakis, please.” We are then led to the khaki area, where we grab a few pair of pants. The clerk next says, “Anything else?”  We reply, “Shirts please.”  We are then led to the shirt area where we select some. Remember that colors do not matter because it’s a scientific fact that khakis are woven to universal pigment synchronization. So that’s it … four words, 10 minutes, and we’re done shopping. For the year.

Whether it’s going out to a movie, dining at a restaurant, or attending a get together at a friend’s house, all we men have to do is khaki it up. Want informal? Khaki. Want semi-formal? Khaki. Want casual? Khaki. Want smart, contemporary business? Khaki. Got an invitation to a party whose theme is British fashion in 19th century India? You got it, khaki!

So wives, who ever guessed that the guy you married would turn out to be a regular khaki fashionisto? Thanks to that stout twilled fabric, our lives are inextricably woven together. And I bet you if my Hopalong outfit had been khaki, old Mrs. Schneider would have let me mosey to my heart’s content … reeeeeal slow-like.

• Michael Penkava is a retired teacher who taught for 35 years at West Elementary School in Crystal Lake. He is currently all khakied up and ready to mosey. He can be reached at mikepenkava@comcast.net.

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