I bought the belt I’m wearing at a truck stop in Montana over 40 years ago. It’s the only belt I ever wear, not because I’m cheap, or neurotic, (although I am, I am), but rather because it’s the only really comfortable belt I’ve ever been able to find.
As with many components of my wardrobe, I’ve bought lots of other belts over the years. Early on, I bought clothes because I wanted to look cool. I still buy clothes to look cool, only now I’m more realistic about the end result. The clothing might look cool on someone else but it never looks cool on me. Over the years, after hundreds or possibly thousands of wardrobe purchases, it has finally sunk in that what I’m trying to find when I shop for a piece of clothing is something more comfortable than what I’m already wearing.
Basically I have one outfit that I wear. Aside from the dozen sets of identical underwear and socks which I rotate through, I have one favorite pair of pants for summer, and another for winter, two or three favorite shirts, one sweater, one hat, and one pair of shoes that I wear all the time. I do also own one suit for those rare occasions when my wife tells me I have to wear a suit. Oh, and the one belt that I’ve had for over 40 years. None of my other clothes are that old, but if they would last as long, I would still be wearing 40-year-old pants and shirts, as well.
Now, it’s not that I don’t try to buy new clothes. I buy new clothes all the time. My goal in buying anything new has become to replace one of my favorite outfits before it completely wears out. I’ll see the pictures in the catalog and read the detailed description of some new design made of the most comfortable blend of materials ever created, using Space Age technology and the hair of animals that only live in the mountains of Timbuktu, and I’ll order the exact size that I wear in a stunning new color that’s only just been invented for this garment. Then a few days later, the package will arrive at my door, and I’ll rip it open and put it on, and stand in front of the mirror trying to convince myself how cool I look, and how even though it doesn’t feel exactly the way my regular clothes do, that it will if I just wash and wear it a few times.
Unless it’s really ugly or misshapen, I will give the new garment a solid try. I’ll bask in the comments of friends and associates who will notice I’m wearing something new and cool-looking (if someone else were wearing it), and try to encourage me that I’ve made a good choice. I’ll weigh all this positive feedback against the fact that I just don’t feel right – I’m noticing what I’m wearing, the tag is itching, the crotch is too tight, the material is bunching up under my armpits. Before long, this lovely new garment is consigned into the depths of my closet with dozens of other lovely, almost new garments that I occasionally comb through to send to the Goodwill and make space for the next batch of contenders for “Raymond’s Wear Daily.”
When I was younger, I used to go to the Goodwill and other used clothes places looking for bargains. I was always amazed at how many perfectly nice, practically brand new clothes I could buy there at a fraction of their original price. But now that I’ve experienced the other end of the Goodwill pipeline, I realize that almost all these clothes are ones the donor didn’t want because they weren’t comfortable enough to wear all the time. As you grow older, that’s really all you’re shooting for in life.
I know I’m not alone. I was just visiting my friend, Allen, who was hitchhiking across the country with me when I bought my belt 40 years ago, and told him that I still had it and wore it all the time. He immediately showed me his belt and said, “I bought this at Bill Jones Leather in Cleveland in 1976. It’s the only belt I own.” So here’s something we both realized: The reason you can never find really comfortable clothes at the Goodwill is because people never give those away; they just wear them every day until they die. But what happens to them then?
Like most guys, when my time comes, my wife will undoubtedly insist that I wear my one suit. But the rest of the clothes that we always wear will wind up going back to our families, along with other “artifacts,” like our canes, and our false teeth, and our watches. Some relative will inherit the watch, which they’ll stick in the back of the “I don’t know what to do with this crap” drawer. But the rest of the stuff that we’re wearing on that fateful day is too beat-looking even to give to the Goodwill, so it’ll get tossed in the trash, while all the crappy clothes in our closets that we never wore get recycled to some hipsters in the cool part of town, or poor people who can never afford to have any comfortable clothes, just the almost-new stuff from the Goodwill.
But what about the belts? I’m pretty sure, since nobody can see them, even in an open casket ceremony, and since most guys only have one belt, that your belt gets buried with you. So if I ever lost my belt and I wanted to find a comfortable replacement, there is probably only one place I could go to dig it up.