Column: Buying a new suit leaves him fit to be tied


I finally broke down and bought a formal suit, my first in 23 years.

Prior to that, the last suit I bought was for a job interview. I wore it to fool the interviewer into thinking I was the kind of man who enjoyed wearing suits to work.

It worked.

I got the job.

I still have it today — the job and the suit.

I was thankful for the job because I needed a paycheck to chisel at the credit card balance that chronicled the purchase of the suit. After accepting the job offer, I learned that wearing a suit was not required. I should have rented a tux, saved money. One reason I still have the same job today is I never wanted to wear a suit again for a job interview.

This fall I had to buy a new suit after pulling my old one out of the closet, the first time in a decade that it had seen daylight, and discovering it no longer fit me comfortably. All that hang-time and neglect in my closet must have caused it to shrink, most noticeably in the waist. It’s strange how old clothes do that, how they need light to keep from shrinking.

I initially planned to wear the old suit to a public function I was invited to speak at, but because of the suit shrinking in the dark over time, I went to the local haberdashery on the Square to get a replacement.

I selected a black suit. I stood cadaver-still in the Calvin Klein while a man — we’ll call him Jim (since that is his name anyway) — did the measurements. He announced my waist size, which was a big, fat lie, and then he muttered “no butt” (tailor-speak for “no butt”). This triggered an unwanted, high-school flashback, a memory I had suppressed for decades.

My classmate Debbie Young made a comment similar to Jim’s as I walked by her desk in social studies class, only she used the three-letter alternative to butt. “You have no @$$, Saalman! Hey, everybody, look at Saalman. Saalman has no @$$.” Everyone laughed. There were chants of “No @$$ Saalman.” My classmates’ taunts rivaled in intensity to those aimed at Carrie White in the shower room scene of that Stephen King movie “Carrie.”

Jim seemed undaunted by the no-butt challenge. I’m sure he’s faced a good many no-butt scenarios over his long career at his shop. He tugged and tucked and performed whatever voodoo pinwork was necessary to tailor the suit to my tush — or lack thereof. While he did this, the narration at the start of each episode of “The Six Million Dollar Man” came to mind, that part when Oscar Goldman says, “Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology…”

I had complete confidence in Jim’s tailoring. I was certain that after the alterations were made there would be no more “No @$$ Saalman” to deal with. So kiss my Six Million Dollar butt, Debbie Young.

After being fitted for the suit, I bought a new tie since I assumed my favorite one with the blender, salt shaker, lime and margarita glass pattern might not be appropriate for the Boy Scout-sponsored function that I was to speak at.

The problem with the store’s ties was they didn’t come with pre-tied knots for those of us out of practice tying ties. Oscar Wilde once said, “A well-tied tie is the first serious step in life.” I’m 48 years old, but when it comes to ties, I still feel like I haven’t advanced beyond baby steps while traversing the path of men’s fashion.

I have never been good at tying ties. The day before the speech, I practiced tying my out-of-date ties, achieving the same pitiful result, each attempt making the tie look like one worn by a freshly fired, overly sauced businessman staggering home from a bar at 2 a.m.

On the day of the speaking engagement, I took my tie to work for a co-worker to tie. When I arrived at the event, his wife pulled me aside and worked that magic that wives do, applying the final touches to make my tie and me presentable — she did those mysterious gentle tugs, twists and final patdowns that femininity brings to the neckwear game. “Marry me,” I wanted to say.

I must admit, the suit definitely drew attention. Friends and co-workers seemed shocked to see me in a suit — a rare sight indeed. Some looked ridiculously bewildered, as if I had actually shown up clad in Lady Gaga’s “meat dress.”

I lost count of how many times I heard the obligatory meathead question, “Who died?” The unoriginality of this question irritated me so much that I wanted to answer, “Some smart aleck who asked me that same lame question you just asked. That’s who died. I took him to the river and shot him. Then I wore this suit to his funeral.”

“You sure clean up well,” was another common thing I heard, as if I was being chronically mistaken for someone who typically forgets to shower after slopping hogs or sweeping chimneys or playing mud volleyball.

One co-worker actually used her cellphone to take my photo, as if she had just spotted Big Foot.
Anyway, I survived the speech. More importantly, I survived the suit. It’s hanging in my closet now. I hope it doesn’t shrink.

Scott Saalman and the Will Read (and sing) For Food Players will perform a public show at 7 p.m. Nov. 7 at Huntingburg Old Town Hall, to benefit the Shared Abundance food pantry. Special guests: The Sisters of Second Avenue and Herald columnist Jason Recker.

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