As a professional slob in my spare time, I kind of like wearing suits to work. It gives me the daily opportunity to look in a mirror and say, “Damn, I look good,” and it affords me a feeling of superiority by out-dressing most of the guests at the restaurant. Although we are an expensive place, we still get some “casually” dressed guests (see previous posts about dress codes and their violators). Plus I have always maintained that you must present yourself as a professional if you want to feel professional.
Back when I was a waiter or bartender, and wore black and white to work, or khaki and white, or khaki and pink (I know, “Yikes!” right? Six years of it at Auberge du Soleil, and I still have 3 pink Brooks Brothers oxford shirts to prove it!) it was simply a matter of finding the cheapest most durable pair of pants and then hitting Ross for a $12 white dress shirt and a tie. Laundry was also a breeze, as the employer usually added a vest and/or apron as part of the uniform; so I only had to iron the collar and sleeves of my shirts, and the pants from the knees down. Now that I wear suits and dress shirts and nice ties, there’s dry cleaning, starching, pressing, etc.
Unfortunately, wearing nice clothes to work means I must also occasionally go shopping. Being a typical walking cliché of heterosexual maleness, I abhor shopping. So I don’t go to the mall to shop, I go there to buy something. I don’t go to browse or peruse. I know exactly what I want to buy and where I want to go to buy it. I go directly there from the car, and apart from the occasional latte or Mrs. Fields, there are no other stops.
Which is why I like the Men’s Wearhouse, in spite of their irritating spokesperson who says he “guarantees I’ll like the way I look.” His “guarantee” comes off as a bit vague and somewhat insincere: there is no risk in guaranteeing the feeling instead of the product. Whenever a spokesman in a TV commercial says they “guarantee” something, I get suspicious. I mean Bernie Madoff gave guarantees too, right? And their guarantees can be berating, like the guy who tells me I’m stupid for not shopping at Shoe Pavillion, so “joo pay too mush!” I prefer the approach to be bit more old-school. Cal Worthington used to make the vow that “if you can find a better deal, I’ll eat a bug!” Now that, my friends, is a guarantee.
The Men’s Wearhouse is the ultimate in no-BS, let’s-get-down-to-the-business-of-buying-clothes store. They have salesmen, not sales-persons (I have on occasion seen a woman working in a store, but she is either the seamstress or the manager; never on the floor with the customers). Many men’s clothing outlets have “sales people,” but The Men’s Wearhouse is reminisient of traditional haberdasheries, albeit in a 7-11, franchise kind of way. Even though they sell suits “off the rack” and until just recently, their selection of designers was limited to mostly “house brands”, they are still far preferable to me than Macy’s or Nordstrum’s or any other mall department store. And unless you are in a department store in a major urban area like San Francisco or New York or Atlanta, the department store help is going to be sorely lacking. At Men’s Wearhouse, there’s no one calling out “Let me know if I can help you find anything,” as you pass by the checkout counter, like at Mervyn’s. They meet you at the door. They can tell your size by looking at you, and take you directly to the place on the rack to find it.
Their guys are consummate salesmen and they have the “up-sell” down to a science. While you browse your rack, they take the suits as you select them and lay them out, putting dress shirts and ties inside them in a kind of a tabletop mannequin, with several other shirt and tie combos on the side. Then you go into the dressing room to take off your own dress shoes and pants, and try on the suits. As soon as you step out Myron, the sales guy, is there with some Bostonians saying, “Put these on so we can measure the pants for length.” Then the seamstress appears, and begins measuring and chalk-marking the trousers. You start to feel pampered and special, and your buying resistance is crumbling like the Berlin Wall. You’re looking over the six shirt and tie combos, the shoes feel and look great, and before you know it the “Buy 1, Get 1 Free” sale is costing you 800 bucks.
Even though this may sound a bit racist, there is also something reassuring about having one of “the brothers” help me put my look together. As a somewhat fashion-insecure, old white guy, I just have to think they have it all over me when it comes to the sartorial matters. Maybe I’m wrong; maybe Myron kicks it in his boxers and wife-beater when he gets home, but I just can’t see it. Plus the stuff he lays out looks so GOOD.
I don’t mind being “sold,” as long as it’s by a good salesman; but they have to be genuine and not immediately try to be my best friend. They have to know the product, and be efficient with the “nuts and bolts” of the deal, like payment and delivery. They say the easiest person to “sell” is a salesman. When I was in wine sales and I learned that a buyer at one of my accounts used to be on the sales side, it was like blood in the water. And I’m pretty sure ol’ Myron had me pegged.