11

Tag, You’re It

So, today we had our dress rehearsal for this weekend’s dance showcase. Last Sunday, a few of us went to Kohl’s to pick up belts/vests/shirts. We purchased 6 items for $146 (saving $181, but that’s beside the point) and when I got home, I just left my items (vest and tie) in the bag, in my car. Today, I grabbed the bag from my car in my rush to get to rehearsal at Memorial Union. As I was putting on the final piece of the costume – my vest – I noticed some weight against one of the sides.

Yep.

They forgot to take the security tag off.

For those of you who do not shop regularly at high-end stores (like Kohl’s), a security tag is a plastic/metal/magnet thing pinned into the fabric. Its purpose is to prevent said item of clothing from being stolen from the store. When the item is purchased, a little magnet at the register pops that security tag right off. If the average person tries to rip it off, it will explode ink everywhere, coating the item and the hands of the person who broke it; I kid you not. If it’s not removed from the garment, the store’s alarm goes off when you leave and all hell breaks loose and that’s when people actually start going ballistic.

Yet, for what it’s worth, I managed to get the vest out of the store with the security tag intact.

I couldn’t very well take it off myself, so I danced through the rehearsal today with it on, looking like some kind of tagged dancing fugitive. I kept having images of it beeping during the performance and some mall cops invading the dance floor and arresting me. Or that it would trigger the building to explode, or something.

But seriously?

You had one job, plastic security tag.

At least now I have an excuse to go back to Kohl’s tomorrow.

 

4

What Not To Wear, Retail Edition

It happened to me again today.

Well, not really, but something close.

Maybe it’s me, but it seems like it happens to me a lot more often than others.

Or maybe I just don’t see it happening to anyone else but me.

“Where are the bathrooms?”

“How much are these towels?”

“How does this attach to my computer?”

These are questions commonly asked when I wear certain items of clothing to certain stores. I found this out the hard way, failed to correct my mistakes, and it happened again and again. It also does not help that I am a young, white male; many older female shoppers (read: many shoppers) tend to gravitate towards someone of my stature and build rather than, say, an older male, a non-white male, or an older woman. Younger women often get similar treatment, especially at places like Abercrombie or the Gap. It also does not help when I wear my keys around my neck like a lanyard; that really throws people for a loop. But to most, it’s the clothes that meet the eye first, and the proliferation of consolidated American businesses mean that the consumer has gotten lazier about seeking help in stores. Behold…

That’s So Jacob Presents: What Not to Wear, Retail Edition

Target: A red polo and khakis. This has happened to me several times, even when just wearing a red t-shirt. To be on the safe side, just never ever wear red to Target. Ever. This includes pink, magenta, maroon, scarlet, and crimson. Don’t even wear red underwear to Target.

Best Buy: See above, but in blue. Also, avoid wearing glasses. Due to the extreme lack of employee care in a Best Buy, if you manage to  wear blue and escape the store without getting mobbed, consider yourself extremely lucky.

Apple Store: Similar to Best Buy, try to avoid blue and glasses. Bring a book to look super non-technological. Or even ::gasp:: a periodical.

Home Depot: If you left the house in plaid, go home, change, and spare yourself the incessant questioning on drill bits.

Starbucks: Avoid aprons. I am not sure why anyone would go to Starbucks in their apron unless they had just come in from the dairy, in which case, you better have a good explanation planned for your cows when you come back from your lunch break with a foreign-teated iced latte.

Any preppie mall shop: Don’t go dressed to impress. Who wants fashion tips from a chick in sweats?

Any pharmacy (CVS/Walgreens especially): If you work as a nurse, veterinarian, or dental hygienist, do yourself a favor and have a spare outfit in your car for that emergency Twix, lunchtime Fiji water, or picking up dryer sheets on the way home. If you have an ID badge, they might actually put you to work.

Dollar store: Leave the acrylic nails at home. One look at your hands and they’ll be asking you where the cosmetics are. However, if you do own acrylic nails and frequent the store, you could probably actually be of help to him/her.

Department store: Clinton and Stacy love blazers, but if you look too much like a perfume sprayer…you might be mistaken for one.

Airplane: Yeah, put the bomber jacket in your luggage unless you’re preparing to take over in the cockpit in case of emergency. This would probably also be a good place where should someone ask you what you are wearing, call it an aviator jacket. And if you have a coordinated pantsuit or skirt suit and a brightly-colored scarf, don’t be surprised if someone asks you when the in-flight beverage service is going to start.

Middle Eastern marketplace: Avoid caftans and turbans, unless you want to confuse the tourists and anger the locals. Thanks, Israel!

On the other hand, maybe I should dress like an employee and just pick up a paycheck. For being awesome.

0

Dress to Obsess

My initial title for this post was “What (Not) To Wear Today,” but then I realized that made me sound like I was contemplating being a nudist. Excuse me…naturist. And based on a guy I saw in a park the other day with his junk hanging out…I’m never going down that route.

So, I have a certain way of dressing myself. I don’t just roll out of bed in the morning and throw on whatever doesn’t smell bad, like one of my classmates did once because she overslept (actually, she came to class in her pajama top and jeans…and she was giving a presentation). I usually walk out of the house looking like a million bucks. Actually, not really, I probably look really terrible most of the time. No one usually ever comments on what I wear, so it must not be too spectacular, or too tragic, for that matter.

As I was picking out clothes to wear this morning, I had a flashback from Pop Culture class, junior year of high school, when we talked about what clothes we felt comfortable in and why we wore them. Everyone else kinda gave a lame, noncommittal answer, but when it was my turn, I started talking about “dressing for my emotions,” which is probably one of the reasons I never had any friends in high school.

But anyway. I have certain unwritten rules about what I dress myself in each day. Well, actually after today they’ll be written rules, but here goes:

That’s So Jacob’s Rules of Fashion, Part I: General Rules

1. No wearing of the same color two days in a row. I have no idea why I do this. Maybe it’s so I’ll confuse potential attackers who are looking for the same guy in the same color shirt. Exceptions to this are on same-outfit days, which usually occur on weekends where I’ll spend so little time in real clothes on Saturday that I will deem them wearable on Sunday.

2. TSJ Tznius: cover those arms and legs. I have never owned nor worn a tank top or wife beater in my life, so why start now? Also, who really wants to see that? T-shirts have worked fine for me so far. With shorts, the secondary reason I don’t wear them is because I don’t feel the world needs to see my legs, even if it is a hot day, unless I am going swimming or doing some sort of water activity. The primary reason is because I don’t like the way my legs look, and shorts lengths change yearly, meaning my shorts are always too long or too short.

3. Casual at all times, except when doing something academic-y. I am not the guy who dresses up for class every day in a suit and tie. I don’t even wear nice sweaters or anything. I’m always in a t-shirt, usually a fun one because I only wear awesome fun clothes, and sometimes a polo, and that’s usually when I’m meeting with a professor or have a presentation to do. Otherwise, I’m in the classroom in my stained UMass hoodie and jeans, looking completely out of place. And I like it that way. Well, not always, but fortunately I now live in a place where dressing for comfort rather than style is perfectly acceptable. My dislike of collared shirts comes from high school, when we were forced to wear them for reasons unknown – so what, you can see a tiny bit less of my neck? So my itching will keep me awake in class? So I can look preppy even when I’m not feeling it?

4. Matchy-matchy? That’s me. Okay, this is where it gets weird. I blame my mother, but I’ll get to that in a minute. I love to match my clothing with my day. For example, I wore a blue shirt today, and I had a mini-crisis when I couldn’t find either of my blue jackets to leave the house in. Red hoodie + blue shirt = bad news bears. I must match all my layers with similar or opposite colors. And though all-black is OK, blue shirts never go with blue jeans. Also, my accessories must match: in the winter, if I wear my green jacket or anything red, I must wear my red scarf. If I wear my blue fleece, my blue jacket, or my alpaca jacket, I must wear my blue scarf. Same goes for hats: green hat goes with green coat, black hat goes with the others. And no conflicting patterns, ever. When my mom picked out my clothes as a child, she had no concept of color: if you gave her a bright red shirt with a tiny blue dot in the middle and a pair of blue shorts, she’d hold them up and say “see, they match.” I also accessorize: I have canvas bags in just about every color, so I always match my bag with my attire. I need a hobby.

That’s So Jacob’s Rules of Fashion, Part II: Types of Clothing

1. Shirts. I am a t-shirt person. I think I will always be a t-shirt person simply because I have so many, and they’re all awesome. The one I’m wearing right now, my blue Film Fest t-shirt, is not the best example of this, but at least it’ll go in the hamper. Polo shirts, as stated above, on special occasions. I will, from time to time, do the Jared Leto in My So-Called Life and wear a patterned short-sleeve Oxford over a t-shirt. But NO HATS with that combo, or else I’ll look like either a crazy rainforest explorer or someone’s dad at the beach. Also, as stated above, some sort of sleeve. I have a few v-neck shirts, but I don’t usually wear them, because who wants to see that? Being a hipster is inner, not outer.

2. Pants. For awhile, I only wore khakis. Mostly because jeans were against school dress code, but also because I was never wearing the right pair at the right time. I got teased in elementary school for wearing skinny jeans; this was the 90s, when the “sagging look” was in. My mom refused to buy me too-big jeans, and I didn’t have any interest in showing the world my underwear, anyway. Jeans and I made up during college, when I realized that I was beyond that high school crap. Black dress pants are nice for fancy occasions like Shabbat or the theatre. For the gym, black track pants are my only option. I also own one pair of black non-dress pants which hang at the back of the closet and I always say I’ll wear them the next time I wear a black shirt but I don’t because they are stupid and itchy.

3. Shorts. No thanks. Especially not patterned shorts or anything in pastel.

4. Socks. Shamefully, I wear white ankle socks almost every day. Granted, I wear them with real shoes, not anything open-toed like that horrible picture of Adam Sandler walking through LA, and also, it’s too cold in Wisconsin for dress socks every day. Some of those are practically pantyhose; let’s hope I never have to wait outside for something in them.

5. Shoes. Tennis shoes, same pair, everywhere, until they’re falling apart. Some people have gym tennis shoes and regular tennis shoes; I should probably be one of them. Dress shoes are for dinner and dancing. I own sandals, but unless I am going to the beach, they don’t leave the closet. Feeling like I needed a pair of “grown up” shoes, I bought a pair of black loafers, which haven’t left the box, because “I’m not ready to grow up yet,” says me. I used to hate boots because they are messy and hard to get on/off, but now that I live in Snow-Land, I see their usefulness. My boots are brown and pretty and I got them at Marshalls. I salute you, boots; you kept my feet from freezing through many a storm. I still hate getting my feet in and out of you though. Rain boots? No, because I have never tried macarons, used Burt’s Bees, or done anything in Claire’s other than fetch my sister so that Mom could take us home from the mall.

6. Hats. I think hats are cool. Not baseball caps though; I already look like a twelve-year-old. In fact, when I played a dad character in a play (that I wrote) during my senior year of undergrad, I put the cap on backwards, to which my castmates said that I looked like I was going down to the video arcade. I’m no John Goodman. Even when I wear it forward, I still look like I’m on my way to day camp. I like winter hats, they are fluffy and wonderful. Ever since I’ve had my green winter hat with the puff-ball on top, my dad has called it silly, but accedes to the fact that it keeps the head warm during frigid times. I was heartbroken when the puff-ball fell off; I think he was secretly pleased.

7. Scarves. I really, really like scarves, though I only have two at the moment. Maybe that’s what I’ll do tomorrow, buy some scarves. No. Bad idea, Jacob. I wish that the “warm weather scarf” was more socially acceptable because I’d totally do that. Unfortunately, it’s in the same pretentious family as sweaters tied around the neck (what’s wrong with that?!) so in conclusion, I do not wear them in warm weather. At least not without a jacket.

'We're indoors, lose the scarf!'

8. Sweaters/sweatshirts. Hoodies are like a gift to the freezing. They are so functional and wonderful, and warm the hands and head too. I own five, though I keep only about four in my rotation (the black one is a little too depressing; sorry, black hoodie). And before you ask, the white stains on my UMass hoodie are from paint, specifically when I painted the walls of the community arts center I worked on with DAT in Quilotoa, Ecuador, so those are badges of honor. It’s nice that sweaters came back into fashion recently, and have been looking nice on the shelves at Kohl’s, especially patterned ones. I actually own two sweaters, and neither have Christmas trees or cats playing with balls of yarn.

That’s So Jacob’s Rules of Fashion, Part III: Colors

1. White. I’m way too messy to wear white. Sad but true fact. Every time I get a nice white shirt, I try so hard to keep it clean. When the moment something stains it occurs, I’m like…aww, man. Seriously. It’s like God does not want me to wear white. When I wear white, I can usually even remember the type of stain: pizza grease, peanut butter, lying on a dirty floor. Also, I wouldn’t be caught dead in a white Oxford, aka the Chabad penguin suit. I would totally be Chabad if I didn’t have to wear white every day of my life. I’d be like, that one Chabad guy who wears funky colors and patterns. Somehow, I don’t think that would go over that well.

2. Grey. The only good time to wear a grey t-shirt is at the gym, because in public, it gives the impression of either a) I really messed up my white shirt, or b) I’m so bad at laundry I faded my black shirt. Exception: gray Oxford shirt. Surprisingly elegant addition to a suit.

3. Black. Ahh, black. The go-to for the artsy or the ones who are too messy for colors. In middle/high school, I totally went through a black phase. It didn’t have anything to do with my depression; I just thought it looked nice. Of course, my sister called me a goth and made me change into a colored shirt for school, but I didn’t have painted nails, a dog collar, or a constant cloud of metal music around me, so you owe me an apology. Nowadays, I still like black but use it sparingly. Wearing black all the time is boring. Also – fun fact – remember Platinum, from like six months ago? One year he was quoted in the yearbook, about whether we should have school uniforms, he said “No, I like freedom of choice.” This coming from the kid who came to school in a black turtleneck and chinos every single day because that’s what rich people wear.

4. Pink. I currently don’t own anything pink. I used to have tons of pink in my closet as a kid, but then elementary school happened and it didn’t go over well on the playground. I find it amusing that it’s coming back into style for men now. One day I will try it, but today is not that day.

5. Brown. Brown and tan are two color that are way underused in fashion, in my opinion. They look great with jeans and khakis. I own a few brown t-shirts and a tan sweater, but nothing that’s the exact tone of my skin nor a UPS uniform.

6. Purple. Growing up with a sister who loved all things purple (never pink), I wanted to be like her. Eventually it evaporated from my wardrobe. Before it did though, I remember wearing this purple t-shirt all the time that said “New York Deli Potato Chips.” I guess I always thought that shirts with cool words or brand names made you sophisticated. I have a purple Oxford that I wear all the time, but no purple t-shirts…yet.

7. Blue. Usually a safe bet. Navy was super popular in the 1990s, so you couldn’t go wrong there. For some reason, I have no blue hoodies but 2 blue jackets (three if you count my alpaca jacket) and no red jackets but 2 red hoodies and 2 red sweaters. Blue presents a problem with some jeans, as you don’t want to have contrasting shades of blue or else you’ll risk looking like Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake at some teen awards show.

8. Green. Another relatively safe color. Neon green = No go for me…that color makes my skin crawl. Dark or light, please. I currently don’t have a lot of green items in my closet at the moment. Maybe that should be my next color choice when offered a free t-shirt from somewhere.

9. Yellow. Yellow was my favorite color, until one day when I wore a yellow shirt to school and someone told me I looked like Big Bird. Kids are mean. No offense to Mr. Bird, but you’re not exactly a fashion icon. Maybe for Lady Gaga, but not for me. I have been noticing yellow making a comeback on the streets though. Wear with caution, though, it has been known to cause stares in the chest area, especially when paired with dark pants.

10. Orange. Huh? I think I have only ever owned one orange shirt, and that was a polo I wore sometimes in middle school. Orange died a slow death in my wardrobe and in fashion in general, and I don’t see it coming back anytime soon, at least for men.

11. Finally, there’s Red. Red is my go-to color. I started liking red in high school after my green-yellow-black phrase, and must’ve reallly liked it, because all the colleges I’ve attended for more than one semester have some variation of red in their logos/school colors. Maybe that’s why I didn’t get into NYU (undergrad) or Northwestern (grad); I should probably write them a thank-you note for not accepting me and subsequently becoming a Purple People Eater. But back to red, you really can’t go wrong with red. Fire engine red, blood red, red apple red, light red, dark red, maroon, crimson, scarlet, primrose, poinsettia: they’re all great. When I redid my room upon becoming a Real Person (aka my bar mitzvah), I ditched the baby blue paint with the soccer ball print border and painstakingly selected a very pale yellow with a red-and-brown Chinese symbol border wallpaper, which I thought looked awesome at the time (and I actually kinda still do…for a teenager’s color choices, it’s not awful) and found a matching bed set with a dark red duvet printed with bamboo in brown and gold. It went rather nicely with my light brown furniture and dark-brown carpeting, formerly an ugly swamp under a bright blue sky, but now transformed into an unobtrusive carpet that was still kind of ugly, but was at least less noticeable in a room of red, yellow, and brown things. The whole room has kind of a 1970s vibe to it. I should totally market that concept to hotel chains.

In completely unrelated news, when I when crossing the street, I walked past a woman who was doing the same thing, only she was knitting and walking at the same time. Is that like, future-cat-lady material? Or did I manage to time-slip into medieval Denmark?

 

10

A Modest Proposal

With the way people are dressing these days, they could use a little tzniut.

No, tzniut (if you’re in a more Yiddishized circle, tznius)is not the latest Swiss fashion accessory, but the Jewish concept of modesty for men and women that dates back to the Talmudic era. It literally translates to “modesty” or “privacy” and refers mostly to clothing, but also the way people lead their lives.

Is it worth it? Let me work it.

Just about every Orthodox Jewish girl (and definitely every Hassidic Jewish girl) covers themselves up with long-sleeved shirts, long skirts, and closed toed shoes. When she gets married, she might cover her hair with a hat, a scarf, or a full-on wig. It doesn’t end there, though. Included in the umbrella is negiah, or rules of touching, which are followed by avoiding physical contact with unrelated members of the opposite sex, and kol isha, or female voice, which mandates that hearing a woman’s singing can distract a man and lead him to impure thoughts. This rule does not apply for prayer, singing z’mirot at a dinner table, or a choir of mixed voices. Some even say that even a recorded female singer violates these laws.

Men do not have as many restrictions; just refrain from touching women and wear clothes that cover your body.

Growing up in Orthodox-Jew-Land, I was well aware of all of this. At my school, girls and women had freedom of choice to wear long pants if they wanted to; some did, but most stayed within the guidelines above. Touching was not explicitly forbidden, but it was generally frowned upon, and I don’t really think we ever had any huge singing issues; if you didn’t want to hear a girl sing, you wouldn’t come to any school musicals, or if you did, you went elsewhere whenever a woman was singing alone. Kind of hard, given that we were a high school and did musicals with plenty of parts for girls, no 1776 here.

I started noticing it more as I went to college and started seeing the stark differences between how people dressed in such mixed environments. As a male, it’s pretty easy for 99% of what you wear to be acceptable every day, and if you make the choice to become more religious, you probably won’t have to go to much trouble to buy new clothes. Girls have it a bit rougher; making the tznius choice means goodbye to bare shoulders, t-shirts, short skirts, and any type of pants, so usually a significant wardrobe overhaul is necessary.

Today, I feel that modesty is something our society is definitely lacking, promoted by corporate trends and celebrity couture. Sometimes a strapless or mini version of an outfit is tasteful, and then you have Miley Cyrus (sorry Miley, but I needed an extreme comparison). This might sound a little pander-y, but I think that women should be able to choose what they wear, and while most women pull off this look effortlessly, maybe tznius should be reexamined in our times. For example, long sleeves and long skirts are probably quite uncomfortable, even thin/airy fabrics, in hot summers and for Jewish women in tropical countries or Houston. While yes, it’s argued in the Talmud, a lot is based off of what women wore in the shtetls of wintry Russia or Poland where the wind chill made these outfits practical. Furthermore, I don’t see a huge problem with pants, either. Not all pants are skinny jeans, and many tznius girls have a tight denim skirt or two. A pair of slacks or trousers can even make an outfit look sleeker and more elegant, and it would make riding a bike or climbing a ladder a lot easier. I don’t see tznius clothes as being restrictive in any way or out of fashion, but give girls a break. As long as they’re dressed appropriately for the weather, occasion, and activity, you’re good to go right there.

This leads me to talk about my own personal tzniut appearance and behavior. I made the decision awhile back to stop wearing shorts of any kind; not just because I don’t like my legs, but I just don’t see any reason why they need to be exposed – and also a bit of solidarity with my Orthodox Jewish sistas. With tank tops/wife beaters/muscle shirts, I didn’t grow up wearing them, and they certainly weren’t allowed in my school, so they never really joined my wardrobe. I love t-shirts, but since I live in Wisconsin now, I’ve been layering them over long sleeve shirts, which isn’t the worst thing in the world. The only time you’ll probably ever see me in shorts is when I am in going swimming, and even then, I’m underwater, so ha ha you can’t see me.

Probably the most surprising thing about my personal style is that this applies even at the gym. I’m always the guy in the long pants (the stretchy kind, not sweatpants, who does that?) and a shirt that covers most of the top half of me.

Orthodox Jewish girls know what’s up…and I stand with them (but not in a skirt) when I call on all my menfolk to display some tznius and look like a gentleman.

I mean, do you see what most guys wear to the gym these days?

Also – if anyone knows why my stats are skyrocketing, (1000 views today, thank you very much!), please tell me, because I’ve spent most of the past forty-eight hours bewilderingly watching people (mostly across America) click on my site, yet I only have about 120 followers, and 67 comments, most of which are my own. This blog is kinda lame most days, so either I’m doing something right or the Internet is going bonkers. So, if you’re reading, please leave a comment about what you think and how you got here (so I can get a sense of what’s going on, did someone put me on BuzzFeed or something? – I’m not that amazing of a writer), or a like, or an idea of something you want me to write about. Oh, and keep visiting, Americans. You too, other countries.