Clotheshorse: David Foster Wallace's The Pale King

David Foster Wallace's final, unfinished novel contains some astute observations on style and men's clothing, of which these two were my favorites.

On the narrator's father:

He looked good in a suit -- like so many men of his generation, his body seemed designed to fill out and support a suit. And he owned some good ones, most single-button and single-vent, understated and conservative, in mainly three-season worsteds and one of or two seersucker for hot weather, in which he also eschewed his usual business hat. To his credit -- at least in retrospect -- he rejected the so-called modern style's wide ties, brighter colors, and flared lapels, and found the phenomenon of leisure suits or corduroy coats nauseating. His suits were not tailored, but they were nearly all from Jack Fagman, a very old and respected men's store in Winnetka which he had patronized ever since our family relocated to the Chicagoland area in 1964, and some of them were really nice. At home, in what he called his "mufti," he wore more casual slacks and double-knit dress shirts, sometimes under a sweater vest -- his favorite of these was argyle. Sometimes he wore a cardigan, though I think that he knew that cardigans made him look a little too broad across the beam. In the summer, there was sometimes the terrible thing of the Bermuda shorts with black dress socks, which it turned out were the only kind of socks my father even owned. One sport coat, a 36R in midnight-blue slubbed silk, had dated from his youth and early courtship of my mother -- she had explained -- it was hard for her to even hear about this jacket after the accident. (175-6)

On the narrator's 70's sartorial proclivities:

I can't think of this period's hair without almost wincing. I can remember things I wore -- a lot of burnt orange and brown, red-intensive paisley, bell-bottom cords, acetate and nylon, flared collars, dungaree vests. I had a metal peace-sign pendant that weighed half a pound. Docksiders and yellow Timberlands and a pair of shiny low brown leather dress boots which zipped up the sides and only the sharp toes showed under the bell-bottoms. The little sensitive leather thong around the neck. The commercial psychedelia. The obligatory buckskin jacket The dungarees whose cuffs dragged on the ground and dissolved into white thread. Wide belts, tube socks, track shoes from Japan. The standard getup. I remember the round, puffy winter coats of nylon and down that made us all look like parade balloons. The scratchy white painter's pants with loops for supposed tools down the side of the thigh. I remember everyone despising Gerald Ford, not so much for pardoning Nixon but for constantly falling down. Everyone had contempt for him. Very blue designer jeans. (159)

(Clotheshorse is an occasional series on the intersection of literature and men's fashion.)

Clotheshorse: The Great Hierarchy of 80s Jeans in Kevin Brockmeier's A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip

Photo from Michael Galinsky's Malls Across America
"Holes are cooler than no holes..."

From Kevin Brockmeier's searing, lovely A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip: A Memoir of Seventh Grade:

He sits down and gives his jeans another try. The coolest jeans are black or acid washed, followed by gray, followed by faded blue. Holes are cooler than no holes, buttons are cooler than zippers, Levi's are cooler than Lees, Lees are cooler than Wranglers, and Wranglers are cooler than Toughskins. It has taken him longer than average, but he is learning. (166)

(I love clothes, and I love books -- anytime I run across a particularly neat intersection of the two I'll post a short representative quote here, under the label Clotheshorse, with minimal commentary for maximum enjoyment.)