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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sharp-Dressed Man? Not Always...

Do you want to know something?  I was having a heck of a time trying to decide what to confess today for today's edition of the Thursday Confession this week.  I know that I said this last week as well, but this week was challenging as well.  So, in order to get some inspiration, I decided to go through some of the notes that I used to write in my Facebook Notes section.

Before I started off this blogging venture, I used to write a lot of my thoughts and feelings in my Notes section.  I didn't write in there every day...most of the time, I was lucky to get one Note written every couple of weeks.  But looking back through my Facebook Notes section, I've come to the conclusion that some of these notes were just too good not to share.  

I mean, if I'm friends with people, they could read my notes whenever they wanted.  For the general public, those notes have always been sealed.

Until now.

Just for today only, I'll be reposting one of these older notes.  I actually wrote this one back in May 2010, which was right around a time that I was going through some physical and emotional positive changes.  For the most part, I have kept up with these changes, aside from a bit of weight gain (a miserable after-effect of my gall bladder surgery last February).  But, I'm back on track to getting to where I want to be, and everything is good.

From May 7, 2010, the Facebook Note entitled, 'Fashion' (with slight editing).  And, to separate the note from the blog entry, the note section is highlighted in white.

And, the confession?

THURSDAY CONFESSION #7:  I used to dress like a slob because I felt I had no choice.  Now that I have choices, I definitely play the role of sharp-dressed man whenever I can.

Until very recently, I've always been very confused over the whole concept of what makes one fashionable.

Clothes were not something that I considered all that important in my daily life. Of course, that's not a declaration of wanting to belong to a clothing-optional colony, or wanting to travel to one of France's many nude beaches, because let's face it...there are some things that some people really should not see. But, I never tried to keep up with the latest fads, nor did I want to spend oodles of money on clothing either. As long as I walked out of the house with a shirt, a pair of pants, and clean underwear, I was pretty much good to go.

I was also one of those kids who HATED getting clothing items for birthday and Christmas gifts. You all know what I'm talking about, right? Grabbing that box wrapped up in red and green wrapping paper expecting the newest Super Nintendo game or the newest album from your favourite band, opening it up in anticipation...only to find socks and underwear inside of it. Why that sort of thing could ruin Christmas for a kid, especially if the socks and underpants outnumbered the Hot Wheels cars and other random toys.

To me, clothes were the type of thing that one needed to have. But they were also one of the things I hated to spend money on.

I remember some of my earliest memories of Back to School shopping. Buying the crayons and the binders and the packages of 400 sheet lined paper...that portion of back to school shopping was the fun stuff! But once we stepped away from the stationery department at Walmart (or Woolco as it was known back in Canada prior to 1994), and headed towards boy's wear, my excitement soon faded into boredom and frustration.

I was more than happy to have just worn the same clothes from last year for another year. Anything to spare me the dreaded back-to-school clothing shopping. Of course, I didn't have a choice.

Trying on shirt after shirt after shirt was incredibly trying. Don't even get me started on shoe shopping either. Shoe shopping was like hell on Earth for me. The shoe department may as well have been a burning inferno filled with devils armed with pitchforks disguised as smiling happy salespeople standing around the Doc Martens and Birkenstocks. And that's not a dig at the hard working shoe salesmen who have helped people find proper shoes since the 1800''s just how I felt about shoes as a kid. I would literally spend half an hour to two hours in that department trying on dozens of shoes because my mother was so concerned about making sure they fit my feet properly (of which I had no idea why SHE would care since SHE wasn't the one wearing them). Add my unique walking style back then (if you weren't aware, I walked on my toes until age 11 due to a slight arch problem), and it made shoe shopping a nightmare.

To make matters even more complicated in regards to shoe shopping, I was the kid in the class who had the largest sized feet. So, therefore, finding boys shoes to match my massive clodhoppers was even more of a struggle. On one hand, finding shoes was such a difficulty when I was nine...but on the bright side, none of the kids could tell me to act my age and not my shoe size...mainly because for the longest time, my age WAS my shoe size. :D

We now move on to jeans...or rather my fight NOT to wear jeans as a kid. I remember family members trying to buy me jeans and me always refusing to wear them. For one, I found them uncomfortable. For another, none of them really fit me well at all (because as you know, I was in the category of 'husky boy' during my childhood). I actually didn't wear my first pair of jeans until I was thirteen. Prior to age 13, I used to wear what was comfortable. And, what was comfortable were those gray and black fleece pants. You know, the kind that people wear in gyms and school tracks to do warm up exercises in? They were cheaper than jeans, and I felt more comfortable in them. Of course, being one of the only kids to wear pants like that made me another target of cheers and jeers, but I really didn't care. To me, clothes were clothes, and in all honesty, slobby slob was my style back in the early 1990's. Track pants, fluorescent purple and green windbreakers, baseball caps worn backwards, and of course the brief time in third grade I rocked a mullet. A poster child for What Not To Wear if I ever was one.

Now, in elementary school, I didn't care at all about fashion. In high school, I began to shed a bit of that apathy about it and I began to care about it a bit more. Of course, in 1995, I was still hopelessly out of the loop, and admittedly, I styled some of my fashion choices after what people were wearing on teen shows like California Dreams and Saved By The Bell: The New Class. That meant lots of things that I absolutely regret purchasing at the time. Pleated pants. Button-down shirts two sizes too big. T-shirts that looked like the Teletubbies vomited all over them. In high school, I tried my best to fit in...but it seemed like everyone else was one step ahead of me.

And, can we talk cost? My family was working class at the time, and couldn't afford to shop in chic shops. Most kids I knew headed up to Kingston or Ottawa and hit stores like the Gap, Old Navy, Eaton's, and Foot Locker. My parents could barely afford the underwear section at Walmart. 

Well, okay, that's a gross exaggeration. 

But money was tight, and I had to shop at the discount stores. But, to their credit, they managed to stretch a dollar further than the stretchiest rubber band, and always made sure that I had plenty of new clothes to wear every September, and at a tenth of the cost the other kids were spending. I wonder if that's where I inherited my own desire to be a spendthrift myself. 

(Don't worry, I'll get into more detail about that later on.)

There was also another reason why my gravitation towards fashion was slow-going, and it was mainly in relation to my body type in high school.

I was fat.

And, at the time, designers like Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren didn't make clothes for fat people. Well, affordable clothes at least.

You know that feeling that people get when they search through racks of clothing, eyeing every single garment with a fixed gaze, hoping to find that perfect piece? Having a lot of different choices available and arranged by size so it made it easier to pick out that perfect outfit to grab the attention of the flavour of the month at the school? Yeah, that NEVER happened with me.

Let me tell you what I wore in high school. My shirt size was 2XL. My waist was a 42. In most cases, shopping for clothes in high school was a hassle for me because most of the time, I could never find anything that was my size. It was absolutely heartbreaking seeing a shirt that I thought I would look absolutely handsome in only to find that the biggest size that they had in it was a medium. But, of course, my parents always insisted on making sure I had new clothes every school year, so I was forced to grab whatever clothes had the 2XL label in them. 

Most of the time, they were some of the ugliest looking clothes there. They were either covered in logos of sports teams that I never watched or cared for, or they were in bland colours like ecru, tapioca, tree bark brown, and puke green. Sometimes, they were both. A real double whammy of ugliness. I should note though that I always chose clothes that covered everything. I didn't believe in wearing shorts, or sleeveless tops. I mean, those would just show off the fact that I was overweight even more, and I really just wanted to hide behind it.

At the time, there was also no such thing as a "Big & Tall Men's Wear" shop in town, so that also added to my frustration about fashion. I was always made fun of for how I looked, and was actually told by a few people that I was out of style, or that I wore T-shirts advertising hockey and basketball teams that sucked. If only those thoughtless brats I went to school with realized how little choice I had in my clothing selections, perhaps they may have been a little more understanding. Not that I wanted to dress just like them, because I found some of their fashion choices a bit bewildering at best description. But, the prospect of finding my own personal style was more or less a dream.

And, it remained an impossible dream until 2009.

As you all know, 2009 was the year I began to change myself physically. At first, I didn't see it as a big deal...but as the months passed, I realized that I needed to update my entire wardrobe. My work clothes just hung on me, and the belt I wore basically had to loop around twice for it to keep my pants up. 

And, yes, I know that for some kids, the showing off the boxer shorts thing is the way they wear their pants these days...but I've never really understood current trends anyway.

What I did need was new clothes. And, around the six-month mark of the whole transformation process, I discovered something wonderful. Suddenly, I was the one who was searching through all the racks, finding things I liked. The difference? Everything fit!

Now I was the one wearing nice looking jeans. The trendy looking dress shirts. The flat-front trousers in size 36. 

It was a bloody miracle.

Here's a confession. During my weight loss transition period, I was inside the Walmart men's wear department trying to replace my work uniforms (in Canadian Walmarts, particularly in the supercentres, we have to wear black and white), and I happened to grab a pair of size 40 pants to try on, thinking that I had slimmed down enough for me to attempt to wear them. I asked the fitting room associate to open up the room so I could try them on, and when I did...a 40 was TOO big! So, I rushed right out of the fitting room, and grabbed the next size down (of course, I remembered to put on the pants I wore into the room, because let's face it, running around Walmart in my undies would get a person arrested), and found that THEY were even too big.

It was there that I exclaimed "Holy crap, I'm a skinny bitch!"

Well, okay, I didn't exactly say that. But, let's just took a long time for me to stop smiling.

It's now been about...oh, three years since that Walmart fitting room encounter. I've now completely renovated my whole closet. My closet is filled with all the clothes that I feel the best in...comfortable, cozy, and most important, make me look good. And, no, there's no fleece pants, sports tees or anything in oatmeal or puke green. And, taking a page from my parents book, most of my wardrobe is very cost-efficient and affordable, though I did take my own trip to Old Navy to do some shopping there, since I can actually wear most of what they have there now.

Oh yeah...all my fat clothes? They've all been donated to the Salvation Army. But, I do still have one pair of pajama pants that I used to wear back in 2008. They have the Coca-Cola logo all over them and they're a size 2XL. There are two reasons why I have kept them. One, they are so baggy and roomy that they're perfect loungewear for around the house. But, two, they're a reminder of the person I used to be. I always want to have that reminder just to remind myself not to get to that point ever again. I'm a new man now with a new sense of style that works for me. There's no way that I will ever go back to that old slobby me. 

Of course, these feelings that I have about fashion are brand new, and admittedly, I wouldn't have these feelings without losing all of that weight. The truth is that there are a lot of people in this world who are going through the same feelings of frustration now about clothes-shopping that I did just a few years ago. I think that is a commentary on the whole attitude of the fashion business. Just because a person is a little more chunky or overweight than the average person doesn't mean that they don't want to look their best. I would have loved to have been able to have found this new appreciation for fashion that I have now back then, and it would have been a lot easier had more options for plus-sized people been available. It does make me happy to see more department stores incorporate a plus-sized section in their stores, and I am noticing that a lot of the stuff in those sections seem a lot more fashionable than the slim pickings I had to choose from at the age of sixteen.

I used to watch the Biggest Loser on television and one of the favourite episodes of that series was the makeover shows. Where the people who have dropped all the weight now get to try on clothes that are smaller and more stylish, and how happy they look after showing themselves off after all of the hard work they did to get to that point.

Well, every time I look in the mirror, I tell myself that this is MY Biggest Loser moment. And, luckily, I can feel that way every day, knowing that I took the steps to change who I am for a much better model.

The clothes though are just the pretty wrapping paper on the outside though. But, it's funny how the way you look on the outside can impact how you are on the inside. Right now, I feel both are in check.

Now I don't even mind getting clothes for gifts. I love it now.

Of course...I still hate shoe shopping. I don't think that will EVER change.

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