Saturday, April 12, 2008

Gentlemen, your jackets, please...

The Dashing Host and I are childhood friends, people who have survived a million stages knowing always the truth in one another's souls. Tomorrow is Sunday morning. I will don a dress in Jacksonville, he will throw a blazer over his shoulders and with the handsome look of a gentleman departing, he will also be off to church and brunch.

You would like him. His Mother is pure genteel Southern, and so the host has a touch of an accent. He is quick with the long slow smile of a Southern gentleman. He is, naturally, blond and blue-eyed, and he is always perfectly on time, mannered, and pressed. Period. He is a gentleman of the best and finest school: The kind that never traverses the outer boundaries of gentlemanly rules but who does not take this responsibility too seriously, so that he can enjoy and be enjoyed in any conversation, among every walk of life.

He travels among you, navy blazer and all. His mark is that he never makes one feel out of place, and as someone once said of gentlemen in general, "The truest mark of a gentleman is their never having to say they are sorry." Perfect, every time, in every moment. Like now. Ladies. Gentleman. The Host has taken his seat in the sword chair to the left. it is lovely to see him. Isn't it? JWR, good evening to you. My, you look dashing.

There are certain truths in this universe. “Do on to others...”, “Judge not, lest ye be judged..”, “Alcohol may intensify this product”… all important and true. None however, is more so then the importance of the Navy Blazer.

I had apparently taken this for granted. Easter Sunday at Happy hour, I was talking with my friend John about the importance of owning a navy blazer. He was adamant that the iconic blazer’s time had passed. I stood there in disbelief as he rambled on until the ice melted in my cocktail. I politely excused myself to refresh my drink. I stood there in a daze, the world turning, how could this be?

When I returned I blurted out “But what do you wear to a funeral? A Wedding? A Show? The Club?”

The answer was a complicated list of shirt and sweater combinations, the odd sport coat and the occasional suit. I was devastated. How could the male version of the “little black dress” be so casually thrown to the wayside? I spent the rest of the night asking people whether or not they had a navy blazer. The results were disappointing.

I always had a navy blazer. It was mainly worn around the holidays or trotted out for any occasion where one was expected to dress up. In fact every year at Christmas, my father would stand me in front of the tree, gray flannel pants, pink shirt and navy blazer, and take a picture. If you were to take all those pictures and stack them in order by date, you could flip through them like an old cartoon book and watch me seamlessly grow older.

I remember in college getting a call from my father, as usual he was quick and to the point. “Do you have a blazer?” he said as I said hello.

“Uh, I think so.”

“What size are you now”

I attempted a response, he interrupted” I want you to find a store, have them measure you and then call me back and I’ll send you one.”

I went the next day and was measured, the thought crossed my mind to just buy one by having my father send me the money, but we both knew from the cabinets stocked with every flavor of ramen, that the money would find some other priority. The next night he called, I gave him the size and a week later the blazer arrived. I would get this call two more times in my life when the blazer stopped fitting – somehow he knew. While mothers worry of sons arriving home safe from nights out with friends, fathers worry about sons out on nights when not surrounded by friends.

Three gold buttons, single breasted, single vent. The blazer is a great leveler, whether bald or dreadlocked, red head or dark brown # 12, the blazer elevates all men to a common brotherhood of civility and style. Like a miracle ointment, it gives the portly a waist line, reduces the arm length of the gangly, gives shoulders to the pear-shaped, and to the athletic, it accentuates. Without, merely a drunkard but with a jacket, a bon vivant!

The world has changed, we cannot deny that. Somewhere along the way we traded civility for cell phones and taste for telecommuting. Towards the end of the night, I approached Tom, another child of Westchester, who dismissed the thought, “Of course I have a navy blazer!” he said, “It’s dry cleaned and ready. What if something happened? ”


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