On Friday I opened my email on my office computer and started checking my email. On any given day there might be sixty different emails to process, much of it spam or things I’m not interested in seeing, but one thing that always stands out are the solicitations from various big box stores that signal the beginning of a new merchandise season.
It’s just mid-way through July and I’m already getting pounded with emails about school supplies and school clothing. Having never worked in retail clothing, it always seems to me that the merchants just can’t help themselves, jumping into the upcoming season long before it arrives.
School starts in late August and already there are displays for pencils, backpacks, blue jeans and tennis shoes. Maybe if you wait too long to get these things advertised there is the chance that they will miss the window when moms and kids are negotiating about the things they “need”.
As sixth child in a family of ten kids, there was never enough money to buy us everything we wanted. At the start of each new school year we were lucky to get one new pair of blue jeans along with a new package of underwear. Our father believed that there was just one type of shoe that a kid needed and that was logging boots. We wore these seven days a week because it’s all that we had. When I look back on the family portraits we took, front and center are my brother and I in our Sunday best, wearing our well-worn boots.
Though we never saw ourselves as being poor, there were times when comments from people made for awkward conversations. I recall one woman who lived through the block asking me if I owned any socks that didn’t have holes in them. At the time it was something I had never really thought about, but when I did, the answer was no, I didn’t. After that day I started raiding my father’s sock drawer.
Another consequence of having the proper fitting school clothing was the fact that we were always growing. The blue jeans that fit in August were totally highwaters by the time May came around. In my day there was nothing worse than wearing pants that weren’t long enough. Looking back on my upbringing I recall being in the fifth grade when I realized that every pair of my blue jeans had holes in the knees, and it wasn’t fashionable back then like it is today. In our modern day it is hard to find a kid who doesn’t want a pair of jeans that has been bleached, torn, shredded and otherwise ruined by the manufacturer and is then sold as being the new look.
At the age of ten I was finally old enough to have my first paper route. There were just two things I wanted to do with the money I earned; buy candy and buy clothes that fit. Unfortunately, a ten-year-old child isn’t really the best judge of which clothes are going to be practical. Because they were in style back then, I bought a pair of white bell bottom slacks. They were $10 and took half of my paper route money that month, but they were wonderful. I wore them a couple of times before they had to be washed but was horrified when I tried them on after going through the wash as they had shrunk and were completely unwearable. It was the worst day of my life!
Perhaps the result of these deep memories of ill fitting or worn out clothes, as an adult I am pretty much a clothes horse. I must have forty pair of slacks, ten pair of jeans, twenty pair of shoes and maybe a hundred shirts. In a marriage there is always one of the spouses who takes up 80 percent of the closet and it’s usually the woman, but in my home it is definitely me. My clothes have spilled over into three of the kid’s bedrooms and it is definitely a problem.
I know I need to pass many of these lightly worn clothes on to one of the thrift stores, but it is really hard to do. Even with more clothes than I could ever possibly wear out, if I see a good sale it is impossible for me to pass up. Last fall, while visiting my son in Florida, I stopped at a Macey’s store for a pair of shorts. An hour later, having not found a pair of shorts, I left the store with twenty-one pieces of clothing which totaled $112. Nearly every garment was discounted down 80 to 90 percent, with a net cost of just $5 each. To date I’ve worn just half of this new clothing but it’s something I can look forward to as the summer heat pours in.