Joco Opinion

Matt Keenan — In the world of fashion, the son also rises

Updated: 2013-08-06T22:49:14Z


Special to The Star

When I was a freshman at KU I joined a fraternity — the DU house — and got a quick education on things not taught at Hoch Auditorium.

One of those was the term “brotherize.” It’s similar to someone borrowing something you own, except for that returning part. Shirts, socks, shoes and other things — baseball caps and jackets, for instance, would go on loan and turn up three years later at graduation weekend on the back of your ex-roommate. It never bothered me much, for two reasons. I didn’t own anything that the style mavens (read: Shawnee Mission East boys) valued. Topsiders, for instance, were not in my wardrobe and neither were Izod shirts. Both were red hot in the days when Jimmy Carter was president. And the other reason — I had real brothers — Tim and Marty — with whom all my possessions were community property. They called it sharing.

And so maybe 10 years ago my own three sons learned the ways of the frat boy, brotherizing my clothes. My Chuck Taylors would evaporate, as would my belts, watches and razors. Eventually I began to buy them what they wanted from me — dress shirts, ties and sport coats. And when we moved into a rental house in transition, all the clothes became intermingled. Like 52 card pickup except your boxers are in a Martin City storage unit.

As my sons’ inseam caught up with their shoes size, the clothes exchange continued but now I was wearing some of their stuff — mainly ties. And last week when I packed for an important meeting in Boston I grabbed a dress shirt and put all my other clothes in a small carry-on bag and headed off to the airport. On Tuesday morning, while dressing for the meeting, I pulled out the Nordstrom white dress shirt. The only one I brought with me. I began to put it on and it was clear something was wrong.

The shirt was tight. Imagine a hot-air balloon inflated inside a chain link fence. It was like a Spanx undershirt with holes to allow the adipose tissue to duck out, to experience life outside a pressure chamber. In 10 seconds I went from Don Draper to Dom Deluise. I looked at the label — and there it was: “Trim fit.” The shirt was not mine. It belonged to the Keenan boys. This stunned me because I had checked the sleeve length and collar size.

As the sweat began to form, and my blood pressure rose, a hundred questions passed through my mind. Those that involved my own culpability I deflected and rested on these: Who came up with a trim shirt? Some French guy who weighs 90 pounds and eats croissants all day? Why do they need to sell shirts that fit .00001 percent of the population? Whose idea is it? Just give me a name. I can take it from there.

Thankfully, I had a sport coat. It was buttoned, comfortably, and concealed a thousand pounds of pressure below the surface. Everything was fine so long as I didn’t breathe. In the meeting, I borrowed a page from Lori’s Lamaze classes — I tried to fixate on a spot on the wall, an idea, a concept, like killing that designer— anything to keep my mind off, well, you know. But it failed. I returned to the topic. Who is the French guy? Where are my shirts? Where is my life? How did this happen?

When I got back to my hotel I told the story to Lori. She laughed hysterically. “I think Tommy was wearing your shirt today.” Of course.

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Freelancer Matt Keenan writes every other week. His book, “Call me Dad, Not Dude. The Sequel,” is available at local bookstores. Follow him on Twitter: @Mdkeenan2.

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