For guys, it’s still more ‘schleppy’ than preppy
Though Lake Forest's Barry Carroll had just dropped $1,200 in a men's store when this photo was taken, he remained confident that the most fashionable thing he owned was his restored 1960 Cadillac. | Irv Leavitt ~ Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 16, 2012 2:12PM
Jim Foster didn’t know what kind of pants he had on.
“What are they? Chinos? Khakis?” he asked, trying to find a label.
But he knew how much he paid for them.
“These pants here cost me a dollar,” he said. “Pretty good for a dollar, aren’t they?”
Foster lives in Glencoe, adjudged recently by an outfit named Bundle as being the second most fashionable town in America.
In terms of spending dough for duds, Foster is not doing his part.
He said he got his dollar Dockers at Carson’s in Wilmette, where he shops with his wife. While she enjoys the full shopping experience, he peels off to see if anything in the men’s department is, by chance, drastically reduced.
“My wife loves clothes,” he said. “She still buys stuff she can’t wear anymore.
“She enjoys the chase,” he said with affection.
He does not.
He buys Carson’s markdowns on last year’s fashions.
“Men’s clothes don’t go out of style,” he maintained, peering out from under a baseball cap with a little polo player on it. The brim cast a shadow on his jacket, which had another little polo player on it.
“I like Ralph Lauren,” he said.
In talking with a dozen or so relatively randomly-chosen gents around some of Bundle’s most fashionable suburbs, Foster was one of only two men who mentioned the name of a clothing designer.
The other was retired Lake Forest developer Barry Carroll, who May 10 bought a $1,200 “top-of-the-line” suit in the Lake Forest Joseph A. Bank store.
That gives the impression that he spends big dough on his clothes.
That would be an incorrect conclusion.
He pointed out that the chain had a “Buy 1, Get 2 Free Sale” underway.
But that’s still an average of $400 per ensemble, right?
“I bought my last three suits at Von Maur,” he said, “at least 12 years ago.”
When I buy suits, he said, “I wear ‘em out.”
He grinned and added, “My father was buried in a Hickey Freeman suit,” referring to a top brand for more than 110 years.
“I begrudge him that. We were the same size.”
If you do the math, Carroll is spending about $100 per annum on suits. He buys wash-and-wear shirts from Brooks Brothers by the box when he needs them.
Carroll spends a ridiculously small amount of money on clothes, by the lights of Glenview’s Glen R. Sondag, a Northbrook investment banker and the author of “Anything Other than Naked: A guide for men on how to dress properly for every occasion.” He likes to chat about $4,000 suits and traveling tailors from Hong Kong.
He said if a man is required to wear a suit to work, the seat of the pants had better not be worn and shiny.
“If a guy comes into my office, I have to look professional when I’m handling his money,” he said.
He admitted, however, as a man who has 47 suits in his closets, he’s a bit “over the top” on all this.
“Our investment business, June 1, goes to business casual the entire summer,” he added. “I wish we wouldn’t. It ends up looking like half the office is going bowling.”
Ed “Haystacks” Ross, a sometime-pro wrestler who’s a legend around Wilmette — number 32 on the fashiony-town list — has over the years held a variety of jobs more conventional than grappling. His work attire tends more to Hawaiian shirts than suits.
He’s about six-foot-seven, and major-appliance thick. His shopping is mostly done over the Internet, at sites like kingsizedirect.com.
“I’m an 8X,” he said. “Hard to find.
“I try to look good,” he added. “But I’m not a slave to fashion.”
Neither is Peter Picchietti, of Highland Park, number nine on the Bundle.
Neverthless, fair heads swiveled May 10 as he strolled along Central Street in tight jeans and a perfect-fit short-sleeved knit shirt.
You could tell he cared about the way he looked because he was carrying his wallet in his hand.
“I don’t want to ruin the line,” he said, smiling a little sheepishly.
Here is a guy who must pay some attention to fashion. Where do you buy your clothes, Mr. Picchietti?
“I don’t buy clothes,” he said. “To be honest, I’m not interested in clothes.”
But you obviously have clothes on.
“I let my girlfriend buy my clothes. She likes doing it.
“I’ll tell her, for instance, what kind of shoes I want — what purpose I want them for — and she’ll buy them.”
This guy’s got it all figured out.
“I appreciate women who are well-dressed, but men can look schleppy,” he added.
As he spoke, there were about 100 men milling around downtown Highland Park and almost all of them looked pretty schleppy.
Baggy shorts and jeans. T-shirts. Sweatpants.
The only man with a crease in his pants was a fellow on his way home from work at Highland Park Hospital who identified himself as Bhaskar.
Under pressure, he said his last name was Rao, “but nobody calls me that.”
He was informed that when interviewed, he needed two names, unless one of them was Beyonce.
Rao had on a button-down shirt and a sweater-vest, which he said he probably bought at J.Crew, because that’s where he buys most of his clothes.
He said that men he knew didn’t dress up much at work.
“Scrubs, mostly,” he said.
Suits seem less common in the suburbs than the Loop. “If you look at what’s hanging out in the Starbuck’s, I think it’s more fashionable to dress down than to dress up,” said Ed Woodbury, former village president of Winnetka, number four on Bundle’s hit parade.
The importance of dressing up for work, he said, seems a little muted after Mark Zuckerberg wooed Wall Street fat cats for facebook’s initial public offering in a hoodie.
“If wearing hoodies can get you $96 billion, I’m for hoodies,” Woodbury said.