Like all great romances it started slowly. First it was underwear; later I graduated to socks and ties, little wardrobe resuscitators for a single guy on a budget. I found myself returning, a little shy, but intrigued, wondering if this was the way out of my J. Crew-Gap-Thrift Shop-Army-Navy fashion esthetic. After all I’d become a grownup—wasn’t it time for me to be brave, to take a risk?
The moment I fell in love was prophetic—my friend Leslie, who’d endured countless sojourns to Today’s Man (remember them?) and Macys in quests for suits had counseled, “You need an Italian.” And so it was destiny that when I walked into Daffy’s one evening, a steel blue suit made of viscose called to me. Everything about it was perfect—the two button jacket, the inch-long seam on the pants front where an American designer would have put a pleat-or two, the surprising satiny feel of its matte surface, the number of hidden pockets enclosed like little secrets. Which meant it probably wouldn’t fit, would have to be re-cut, as had a million suits that had come before. I sighed, but headed to the dressing room anyway.
But it did, so well I almost cried. Even the pants—trust me, that never happens (to me, or most men).
Few articles of clothing have made me feel as good as I felt with that suit on my back. I wore it for almost five years, despite the insults of someone I’d dated, a lawyer, briefly during that period: “It’s not a serious suit.” Possibly quite a few of my friends tired of seeing me wear it as well. Maybe no one got that the suit worked like a portal after a time in my life that had felt in-between (relationship, career, purpose, the list was long). In the suit I saw a possibility, a future—me as my best self. Dress it and do it, an acting teacher once said. In that suit I thought I could dress it and be it—anything except the guy I was at the time.
If it had been made of wool, I’d be wearing it still, but sadly, viscose has a way of losing its shape, though it probably had more to do with the fact that I wore it constantly—as a suit, but sometimes just the pants, sometimes only the coat. Anyway, the waist began to sag—I had them taken in, but the pants didn’t look, or fit the same. When, finally, the jacket lapel refused to lie down without safety pins, I had to end it.
You could say that my obsession with Daffy’s has really been all about that suit. I was one of the faithful who made it my store of choice whenever there was time to kill. That was how it worked. You didn’t go for a specific need (unless it was underwear, socks or ties, items that there, never disappointed, either in price point or style). You went and browsed in hopes of finding the perfect pair of shoes, an original man-purse, a shirt no one else had, or, my bête-noire, pants that actually fit. Nine times out of ten, I’d leave disappointed, but the tenth…well, there was no better feeling on earth. And the price point didn’t hurt.
There’s a strange irony that the Daffy’s franchise is closing hot on the heels of New York’s Fashion Week. I can’t imagine that I’m the only guy that store propelled into a world of fashion alternatives never before considered. Maybe the reconsideration of my personal style was coincidental. All I know is, that suit cost me $199.00—but it made me feel like a million bucks. I suspect it’ll take another lifetime—and a new store chain—to feel that way again. RIP.