The Linen Suit

In a phone conversation last week my mom told me she’d been out shopping and had come across a men’s white linen suit for an unbelievable price and wanted to know what my size was. I told her I wasn’t sure. The heftier last year’s me was threatening to push into the realm of a size-48 jacket but nowadays I was firmly back in the 46 bracket… 44 even on occasion, depending on the cut of the coat.

With that info she went back out and called the next night telling me she’d picked it up  and wanted me to come over sometime during the weekend and try the stuff on and also because she had a belated birthday present for Susan. So we went over Sunday afternoon and after a trip to the tailor to cuff the pants and take in the waiste a scosh, I’m soon to be the proud wearer of an early birthday present in the form of a spiffy white linen suit that she got at Marshall’s for undie a hundie. Pants and jacket. Nice.

Veeeeery nice considering the latest J. Peterman catalog was delivered yesterday and on page 25 is a linen suit for sale to the tune of $298 for the jackets and $128 for the pants.

But I’m not here to cluck over the price differential or comparison gloat. Instead what got me mentioning Peterman was the sometimes priceless and insightful and always unique and engaging copy that accompanied the illustration of the suit:

This is what Howard Hughes wore the day he bought a restaurant and returned to fire a waiter who had been rude.

A linen suit is a different message on different days. But it is always in the same accent.

You know how a man born big, say 231 lbs. and 6’6″, goes through life fairly calmly; doesn’t need to raise his voice much to get his point across. That’s how linen suits stack up against the other kinds.

In a linen suit you can be murder, but quiet about it. You can be firm, and gentle about it. You can be devastating, while whispering.

Didn’t your father ever tell you about this stuff?

Last sentence notwithstanding (some of us never knew our deadbeat dads, Peterman), the copywriter touches on something interesting. By pretty much all accounts at 215 pounds and 6’2″, I’m one of those that was “born big” (and quite literally I came out the c-section incision almost two-feet tall and 9.5 pounds). Or if you prefer modesty I’ll say that I’m at least above-average in frame and bearing.

Yet rarely am I guilty of comporting myself with the restraint described by Peterman’s mythical 6’6″ man. Gary Cooper I am not. Whether happy go lucky or madder than hell, I tend to go big and enthusiastic in my movements and speech volume, and a case in point where I got called on it recently was during the storytellers workshop back in February at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion when I was paired up with another participant and one-on-one we took turns telling each other memories of the region, sitting facing each other in two rows with other pairs of players on either side of us. He’d just told me about a trip to Clifton’s on Broadway, and I was in the midst of recalling a visit to MOCA’s Alameda Avenue space a few years back for an exhibit of the nouveau art movement and how flabbergasted I was at one of the installations being nothing more than a 35-year-old flattened piece of cardboard sitting on the concrete floor and cordoned off by a little wire boundary. Oh yeah, that’s art for sure!

In the middle of my tale being told amidst the cacaphony of 40 people shoulder-to-shoulder telling 40 other people their tales, the lady to my immediate right commented to her partner that the volume of my voice was distracting her and preventing her from concentrating, which, upon my hearing her, effectively derailed my train of thought as I felt guilty about being so noisy and clammed up not only verbally but creatively as well. Ultimately I managed to recover and finish the story, but I did so attempting to monitor my output levels, which is hard for me to do.

What’s the point of all that? Hell I dunno, other than being that maybe my personality isn’t suited to such a wardrobe choice. But to hell with that. Even if I’m not an overtly understated guy I’m planning to step out in the underly overstated suit in a couple weeks while somewhere in the Mediterannean upon the decks of the cruise ship Susan and I will be on. Or maybe in Venice beforehand. And/or Paris afterward.

Can’t think of a more perfect place. Or places.

I even went over to and splurged me  the perfect kicks to complement the get-up: a pair of  Johnston & Murphy white bucks— and yeah I’m a guy and talking shoes — so what!? It doesn’t happen very often so get over it.

And on the shirt tip I’m back over at the J. Peterman website thinking either this (in blue) or this in yellow or blue (maybe both). Feedback from any fashionistas out there would be most appreciated.