First Words — 03 February 2017
Good advice when formal wear goes bad

By Mark Gauert

City & Shore Magazine

Group leader: “Is there anyone here for their first meeting? Please introduce yourself by your first name only. We want to welcome you now.”

Me: “Hello, my name is Mark … and I once wore a powder-blue tuxedo and ruffle shirt in public.”

Group: “Hello, Mark!

Group member we’ll call John: “A powder-blue tuxedo and frilly shirt?”

Me: “Ruffle shirt. Yes.”

John: “Like Jeff Daniels wore in Dumb and Dumber? Man, what a great costume for Halloween!”

Me: “No. For prom.”

Group, shifting uncomfortably: “Oh.”

Me: “It wasn’t my idea! It was the ’70s! We were all under the influence of Disco!”

Group falls silent, shake heads.

Group member we’ll call Mary: “You poor dear. You’re brave to admit this, after all these years. Most men would have kept that kind of information bottled up till they turned powder blue.’’

John: “Maybe he should have kept it bottled up. At least the frilly part. I can’t get the image out of my head now.”

Group leader, calming buzz of general agreement: “I think we can all agree that admitting you once wore a powder-blue tuxedo and ruffle shirt in public is the first step in recovery, Mark. Well done.”

Me: “Thanks! I can’t tell you how good it felt to get that off my chest! The tuxedo and ruffle shirt, that is.”

Group leader: “We understand, we all have stories of formal wear gone awry.”

Mary: “You’re among friends here, dear. Why, my wedding gown was made of camouflage mesh from my husband’s duck-hunting blind. The things we do for love, I say.”

John: “That’s nothing. I wore a powder-blue G-string to my sister’s wedding.’’

Me, shifting uncomfortably: “Thanks. Now I can’t get that image out of my head.”

Group leader: “Talking out these fashion failings is the best way to heal and to move on. Tell us, you’ve been holding on to this secret for a long time. Why open up about the tuxedo and ruffle shirt now?”

Me: “Well, there’s a big formal event coming up this month – the Boca Raton Concours d’Elegance. And comedian Jeff Foxworthy is entertaining there at the gala …”

John: “Oh, man, Jeff Foxworthy is great – those ‘you-might-be-a-redneck’ jokes he cracks are funny!”

Mary: “Jeff Foxworthy? Why, I think he went duck hunting with my husband the day before our wedding!”

Group, buzzing: “Oh?!”

Mary: “No, wait – oh, I don’t know. Everybody looks alike in camo mesh.”

Group leader: “Let’s let Mark finish.’’

Me: “So, I was reading our interview this issue with Jeff Foxworthy, and he was talking about what he’s going to wear to the Concours d’Elegance, the biggest black-tie event of the year.”

Group leader: “And what did he say?”

Me: “He said, ‘I will do black tie from the waist up, and from the waist down it’s usually blue jeans and cowboy boots.”

Group, shifting uncomfortably: “Oh.”

Me: “But he also said that’ll be OK because, ‘One of the great things about being the entertainment is that they’re not going to kick you out for what you’re wearing.’”

Group leader: “He’s right, not everyone can pull off a look like that in a formal setting …”

Me: “I know, but he also said something else profound, I think, for the rest of us.”

John: “That you might be a redneck if you wore a powder-blue tuxedo and frilly shirt to prom?”

Me: “No. That whatever you wear, don’t forget to be yourself.”

Group: “Oh. Ah!

Group leader: “That’s pretty good advice, from a guy who cracks ‘you might be a redneck jokes’ for a living.”

John: “So, what are you wearing to the Concours d’Elegance?”

Mary: “Yes, dear, what’s it going to be?”

Me: “Well, I was thinking about dusting off that old powder-blue tuxedo and frilly shirt …”

Group: “Oh?!”

Me: “But that wouldn’t be me. At least, not anymore.”



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