Skeletons in the closet

On any given day, especially during the summer, there’s a pile of my clothes tossed on a chair in my bedroom or draped over the banister. The combined age of these is tough to calculate, but for every crisp new purchase in my wardrobe, there’s a beaten T-shirt that was worn in high school.

This, I believe, is an essential style issue for most males rounding the 30-curve – what to keep in the closet, and what to toss? Are my past style choices meshing with current fashion trends? Do I even care? The decisions are easier said than done, especially for a sentimental bloke like me.

My biggest problem? T-shirts. I have about a hundred, and despite what my wife tells me, I’ve thrown away dozens in the past. I’m surprised she hasn’t tossed half of them in the trash in the middle of night yet. My dresser, which is just as old as some of my high school-era plain black T-shirts, is buckling under the weight of folded cotton and polyester.

A few months back, instead of giving some shirts to Goodwill, I simply nailed the drawer back together and neatly placed the shirts back in. Mostly, they’re band T-shirts or stuff I’d never find again. There are some with holes, and some with stains. My wife argues that I only wear about 10 to 15 regularly, and she’s probably right.

Of course, as you get older, your style changes. In my early 20s, I was sporting a Beatles-era mop and the same pair of dirty jeans, but as I transitioned into respected workplace-wear, there wasn’t really room for T-shirts with pit stains (sorry). But, I still vacillate between wanting to look like a rock ‘n’ roller and a secret agent, James Dean versus James Bond. Most days, I still wear a cut-off T underneath my workshirt.

Recently, my wife brought home a not-too-subtle attempt at purging our closets – an organizing book. She admits to having a similar inability to toss old clothes, and apparently she’s not the only one.

Lying somewhere in our house, perhaps under my glow-in-the-dark Ghostbusters T-shirt, is “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” by Marie Kondo, a Japanese “organizing consultant.” The book has sold over 2 million copies and has been published in some 30 countries. I bet half of them are smothered under a pile of clothes.

The book offers a series of steps toward organization, a process known as the KonMari method, which consists of gathering everything you own and keeping only the items that “spark joy,” and choosing a specific place for everything to stay from then on. What if my determination is that keeping my T-shirt collection intact sparks joy for me?

There has to be a female equivalent to the man’s knack for keeping ragged shirts. Is it shoes? Underwear? Handbags? Pants? Doesn’t women’s fashion change more rapidly than men’s? Are all females between 13-30 still wearing black yoga pants in place of actual pants?

There are other parts of my closet that are aging, as well. Sweatshirts, jeans, flannels and shoes come to mind. In my lifetime, I’ve probably owned some 20 pairs of Converse All-Stars. Some things I’ve had so long that they seem to have come full circle in the style spectrum, and it’s another reminder of my age. For fashion experts, my age could appear obvious if they looked at my newish, “lived-in slim khakis” from Gap paired with a ’90s band tee.

However, not all fashion trends have come full circle. Last week, I went into Zumiez in the Maine Mall, eyeing pairs of Vans and other shoes that I’ve been buying since grade school. (Vans never go out of style, apparently). I felt like I had just stepped out of the Delorean into 2030. Great Scott, what is going on? There were pants that looked like khakis that had elastic waistbands and cuffs. Laziness is cool now, so I guess fashion has caught up to me.

I suppose in the end, however, style comes down to preference. I’ll keep my tattered tees, and you keep your latest purchase – or, you know, whatever you find that “sparks joy.” Nearing 30, I guess I should be happy that I still fit into T-shirts I was wearing 15 years ago. Do you think I can make it to 40?

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