My Plaid Shorts

plaid shortsHer look said disgust.

“Good grief,” my wife told me, “go look at yourself.”

I shuffled into the bedroom to confront the full length mirror.

“What do you see?” she asked.

“A beautiful swan,” I said.

“You are hopeless.”

She gets upset whenever I wear my favorite summer shorts in public.

“Plaid is back,” I tell her.

“Those,” she said, pointing at my shorts, “will never come back because they never were anywhere to begin with.”

I fear she is right. I bought these shorts for a dollar at the Salvation Army Store. I did it to shock her and horrify my children (mission accomplished) but soon discovered how comfortable and practical they were.  The fabric is soft as fleece and the pleats generously forgive my periodic binges into the forbidden realms of chips and beer.

But before I bought them, I should have answered several troubling questions:

How did they get into the Salvation Army Store in the first place?

Here I envision an old man’s wife sneaking them out of the laundry and spiriting them across town for disposal. I can almost feel her fear rising as her husband discovers them missing and flies into a rage.  I can imagine the despair, the accusations and the tearful denials.

Anyways, his loss is my gain.

How did something so hideously ugly find its way into the supply chain?

These things do not occur by happenstance.

What deranged designer was crazy enough to draw red checkered baggy shorts on a sketch pad? Who bullied the tailor into sewing the prototype and how did it all get past marketing? Who coaxed manufacturing into the conspiracy and how could a financial analyst pronounce a product like this profitable?

And finally, after all of that, why did upper management sign off?

You would think somewhere along the line the klaxon of alarm would have sounded but it did not.

Why not?

Who buys shorts like these new?

A clue might be found in the remarkably wide and profoundly deep pockets.  The material is so durable that I routinely carry wire snips and screwdrivers in them.

But who does that – besides me?

Then the naked truth struck. These shorts were designed, marketed and manufactured for old men like me.

In that instant, I realized I had become an old man – but that did not bother me.  What shocked me was the fear that I had become that kind of old man.

What we wear says who we are.  It is why we dress up  – but there comes a point when we no longer care about saying anything.  Changing clothes doesn’t fool anybody, so we might as well dress for comfort.

But that is just it – while standing before the full length mirror it struck me,


As I melted from a graceful bird into an old coot, my wife nudged me aside so she could consult the mirror.

“How do I look?” she asked.

“Like a swan,” I told her, “like a beautiful swan.”

Author: Almost Iowa

36 thoughts on “My Plaid Shorts”

  1. Why is it women declare jihad on a man’s wardrobe? I have lost one or two shirts in battle, and have a pair of shorts that has seen more than its share of arrows. Not to mention the other shirt that I believe was kidnapped in the still of the night.

  2. That is incredible! I forced my kids to listen as I read this aloud so they would know I’m not the only one. I specialize in shirts! I have a favorite tie dye that would go so well with those shorts. Maybe we could do some kind of Old Guy Garanimals.

  3. This is the male version of “When I Get Old I Shall Wear Purple.” Maybe buy your wife some comfy purple shorts for next season, then you can both Old Fart it in style.

    1. My favorite line in that poem is “And make up for the sobriety of my youth”. Considering that sobriety is not how I spent most of my youth – that give me a lot of latitude. 🙂

      My wife does dress for comfort [but let’s just keep that between you and me, okay?]

  4. Yes, yes. Those shorts. They remind me of my dad and his friends, actually. If you really are curious, I’ll point to you 1962 as the probable year for those things. But what I really am wondering is this: when did “old coot” become a perjorative? Coots are wonderful. It’s true that their uniform gray is pretty corporate, but those white bills the perfect accent. So they’re awkward and funny when taking off, and sound like 40 years of whiskey and cigarettes when they call out to one another. I think they’re one of the best birds around.

    Not only that, when they arrive down here, we know that winter’s finally on the way. I haven’t even seen a scout, yet. Maybe they’re still hanging around the midwest, looking at those shorts.

    1. ” So they’re awkward and funny when taking off, and sound like 40 years of whiskey and cigarettes when they call out to one another.”

      You could be describing the old farmers at the Prairie Cafe.

      As for the coots, they are still hanging out at my pond, taking side trips into the Minnesota Mosquito Refuge, and waiting for another kid to take a corner too fast with a grain cart. They will be heading your way soon, I notice their flight patterns tightening up and last night we had the first hard frost of the season.

    1. It’s a technique I often employ. If I don’t know how to end an essay, I say something about swans. It gets them every time. Puppies work too. Never try salamanders, I did that once and still regret it.

        1. I tried to go that route but was warned that the recording technology couldn’t quite handle the subtleties of my voice…. The studio would loose their insurance.

          1. Live performance is where the money is these days. So I would say start doing live concerts. I am sure there are bands out there that could play as loud as you sing.

  5. I found this post to be utterly incomprehensible. Every morning I dress in a three piece suit, silk tie, Italian shoes, alligator skin belt, Armani socks, waistcoat, overcoat. (In the summer, I might unbutton my top shirt button between the hours of 2 and 4 PM). I wear dress shirts from Brooks Brothers, my wallet and briefcase are Bridge, and my cufflinks are Tiffany. .I know this might sound much too informal to some, but I have just retired, and I think I can unwind just a bit.

    I am unfamiliar with the term “shorts” as an article of male apparel. I have seen that checkerboard pattern before, usually on flags at the races.

    1. I am with you on that Sy. Before I retired I had to dress up for work. Every morning I sniffed my polo shirt to see if I could get another day out of it. I also made sure my khakis were not all that wrinkled and my socks at least matched.

      But now that I am retired, I am free from those ridiculous constraints. The only thing I worry about these days in terms of hygiene is staying clean enough to have Scooter come near me when I call.

      Hey, and sleeping in the shed is not all that bad. 🙂

  6. “…so durable that I could carry wire snips and screwdrivers in them as a matter of course.” Sounds like my husband. All that plus nuts, bolts, multiple key rings, etc., etc. You never know when you’ll need that stuff, I guess. Great post!

    1. “plus nuts, bolts, multiple key rings, etc., etc”

      And all that stuff eventually finds its way into the clothes dryer…..[bang, bang, bang, tick, tick, tick]

  7. Good story. I have been in shorts and t-shirts for three plus years. it’s not an old man way but the freedom to wear what we want. (Wire snips and all sorts of other junk needs to fit in the pockets)

  8. My brother sent me a card for my 50th birthday that said “Congratulations, now you look like dad!” At 50, that scared me. At 60, it’s a badge of honor. Those shorts look comfy. That’s what matters. well, that and the pocket for the wire snips, those things always come in handy.

    1. ““Congratulations, now you look like dad!” At 50, that scared me. At 60, it’s a badge of honor.”

      I still have a ways to go to get there. Black knee high polyester socks with shorts.seems a bridge too far. 🙂

  9. Yes, I understand this. I just checked and I’m wearing my late husband’s Nike jogging pants and a long black t-shirt. All cotton, all comfort.
    Since most of my clothes are “vintage” I, too, have often wondered where these items began and how they showed up in my wardrobe.
    As always I enjoyed this column.

    1. The day before yesterday, I switched to my winter wear: long pants, woolen socks, boots and a hooded sweatshirt…and that is what I will wear until spring melts it off. The only concession I have made to new clothes is CarHart jacket, the warmest thing I have ever had.

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