You are thirty-three years old and don’t own a suit, not because you’ve been attending weddings and funerals in cutoffs and flip-flops but because you live in California, where rules about formal dress are bendy like yoga and palm trees. Should the need for formal dress arise, you have been cobbling together Frankenstein suits from old slacks and blazers you’ve accumulated over the years, from your dead grandfather and from the dead grandfathers of others, and so far this has been enough.
This, however, will not be enough for your college roommate’s wedding. Despite the fact that he wore cutoffs and flip-flops when you first met in the dorms, he has made the improbable decision to marry a woman of fashion, who actually even works in fashion and who has big ideas about clothes and the way we should wear them. As such, you have been told that you must acquire a suit — like, an actual suit, one that is comprised of especially garment-pieces that, when united, add up to more than the sum of their parts, and yes that’s a fantastic wedding metaphor.
In short, your college roommate’s bride will drag you kicking and screaming into a new phase of adulthood, the color scheme for which is apparently tonal gray — and yes, that’s another great metaphor.
This is how you get your first suit (by which I mean how I got my first suit, but I assume the process works identically for everyone).
One: Pout. The suit will cost money that you could spend on other things that would be more fun — for example, several T-shirt cannons with which you could enliven your college roommate’s wedding ceremony. “What, Nathan? You said she likes fashion,” is what you’d tell him after he wrestles you to the ground and while his family attempts to restore some semblance of order.
Two: Throw up your hands in despair. You are gay but not, like, suit gay, and the process of just going out and buying an appropriate suit is a task on the level of, say, building a working automobile out of sticks and tape. This is a subject to which you have literally given no thought over the course of your life, and your friends (who are also not suit guys but are closer to that than you are, perhaps) ask, “Well, what kind of suit do you want?” you can only say, “I don’t know. A wedding suit? A nice one that doesn’t cost that much money.”
Three: Get lost in all eleven pages of the bride’s PDFed suiting guide. (Yes, eleven. Yes PDFed.) This document lays out all suit-related possibilities. You are overwhelmed and cannot imagine how you could make tonal gray work for you without looking like a lower-tier member of the Power Rangers who specializes in legal affairs.
Four: Recall that you have friends who actually own a tailor shop specializing in bespoke suits. Recall that they live in New York. Recall that New York is not in California. Contemplate writing them a note in crayon that reads “U MAKE SUIT?” with a recent picture of yourself stapled to it. Decide against it.
Five: After much procrastination, go to Macy’s and find the men’s suit department to be a windblown shanty town without hope or light.
Six: During a visit home, you begrudgingly go to the Men’s Wearhouse, the place your parents recommended as having given your brother great deals on several suits that you imagine coming stuffed in some sort of KFC-style suit bucket. You regret being so judgmental when the salesclerk turns out to be well-versed in suitology and able to explain it to a dolt such as yourself. He measures you. He tells you that your shoulders are wider apart than they would normally be on a man of your height, and that your hips are unusually narrow. Even though this would be a compliment in a different context, it comes across as something you apologize for. You stand in front of the triple-mirror and compare your shoulders to your hips. “No, I think this is normal. This is okay, right?” you think. You decide to purchase a formal suit from a mall chain whose name is a pun.
Seven: You take the suit back to L.A. and find a tailor. He takes your measurements, checks your crannies. He gets all up in there like a T.S.A. agent trying to get a promotion. You wonder if the pants are being restitched based on a relief map of your balls. He asks what you want, and you say “It feels baggy. I’d like it a little more fitted.” He assures you this can be done, regardless of the spacious nature of Men’s Wearhouse garments. “We can do whatever you want,” he tells you. “I want T-shirt cannons,” you think but do not say aloud.
Eight: Days later, you try on the altered suit. “How do you like it?” the tailor asks eagerly. You can’t tell. It’s different, yes, but it’s nowhere near the fit to which you’re accustomed with jeans and T-shirts that have been tumbled and re-tumbled in the dryer over the span of years and maybe a decade. “Yeah, I’m not sure,” you say, remembering the comparison to the automobile made out of sticks and tape. You realize you have no idea what a properly fitted suit feels like. “It’s supposed to do this where my butt is?” you ask. The tailor seems annoyed. “It’s a suit. It’s not going to fit like jeans,” he explains. You can’t actually protest. You really couldn’t be any less out of your league here, and though you remember him saying that “whatever you want” part, you can’t think of a way to voice your concerns without implying that you understand suits — which, again, you do not.
Nine: You see the suit hanging in your closet every time you open it to retrieve one of the garments you do understand. You fear the suit. You may hate the suit. You think back to your brother’s wedding, when a tailor took your measurements for a rented suit and then delivered you a formless, baggy thing that you hated silently and then, after drinks, not so silently. It was chocolate brown. You looked like a zoot suiter in a Hershey’s commercial.
Ten: Finally, you try the suit on again. Your roommate is unable to advise if it’s doing what it’s supposed to do. You suppose that you just own this thing now. Maybe you should wear it to the grocery store and see what happens?
And this is how you’ve come to acquire your first suit.
Am I doing it right? Is this how tonal gray works? Am I an adult now? Is this what adulthood looks like?
(And yes, by the way, this is in fact the same college roommate who declined my awesome suggestion for a song to walk down the aisle to.)