June 22nd, 2006

Steinberg

Suits You

I met my dad for lunch in Bryant Park since he was buying summer suits at the original Brooks Brothers store which is right near my job. My father has been wearing the same Brooks Brothers suits since before I was born. He walks into the store and politely utters the words "navy, poplin, 1/4 inch cuff," and some other mumbo jumbo about pants to the first person who seems interested and well-dressed. Despite their having 4 floors of suits, he is in and out in 15 minutes.

And his suits are not outrageously expensive, as good suits go-- a couple hundred dollars per suit, but he will wear them until they are literally ragged, which was a lot of fun when we were kids and he knew one was about to be trashed since it fell into one of two categories.

1.) Suits we wore on halloween when we couldn't think of anything else to be and wound up being car salesmen.

2.) Suits we tore to pieces.

The second one was euphoric for my sisters and I as children because we loved to destroy things that we knew we were otherwise not allowed to destroy. Our father's Brooks Brothers suits? Not to be destroyed. So when he had one old enough and raggedy enough from wear that the wear was noticeable, he would put it on and (for the jacket at least) would allow us to literally rip it off. Sleeves would be torn off brutally and then split on the seam as lining and pockets were torn out. Anything that it was possible for us to rip without the aid of a chainsaw, we tore, until the suit jacket was nothing more than a pile of previously expensive fabric, its fibers floating around us in a cloud.

The pants we would have to do separately, since otherwise the exercise would have been less fun and more disturbing. But just the ripping and destroying something that we weren't really allowed to touch otherwise was wonderful. I miss doing it. The only thing better might've been letting us take pieces of lead pipe to our aging Volvo before it finally kicked the bucket, but having three children under the age of 12 swinging lengths of pipe within inches of each other's heads may have proved problematic in certain regards, so I guess I can see why he limited us to the suit jackets.

He asked me once, recently, "Did you think that was weird, looking back? Was it some sort of subliminal hatred for lawyers or suits or for me, maybe?"

"I don't think so," I said. "I think we just liked ripping things up."

"That's what I thought," he said, nodding. "I liked ripping them too. I liked the sound it made."

And while it wasn't subliminal hatred toward my father-- maybe we did harbor ill feelings toward suits or lawyers or whoever it was that took our father away from us for 10 hours each day. And maybe we thought that, through the ripping of his business clothes, he'd be unable to go to work and would have to stay home with us and play in the driveway and run around the yard for the rest of the summer. Maybe, even then, we thought that we could destroy the establishment through the destruction of its uniform.

Although really, I think it was just the noise it made. It's a really great noise.