Most guys I know have formal wear that resembles a petri dish. I don’t know if women’s formal wear gets this nasty (something tells me it doesn’t). Men seem to be able to tolerate a high degree of funkitude before deciding to finally take their formal clothes into the cleaners.
Perhaps it’s the fact that we only wear our outfits for a short period of time on performance days that makes us less likely to keep them spic and span. The problem is that we are usually working up a sweat under hot lights while in our outfits–not a good thing for keeping clothing stink-free! Throw in some coffee stains and ketchup from late-night drive-through joints and you’ve got a real mess on your hands, wardrobe-wise.
I’ve got a white vest so nasty that I shudder when I see it in broad daylight, yet I wore this grimy thing for years before finally breaking down and getting a new one. The same is true for my pants, jacket, and white shirts. I stretch their life significantly further than I would for my regular duds, and just when I’m about to chuck that skanky coat or those nightmarishly nasty dress shirts, I reconsider and wear them for another year or two.
One evening, as I was puttering around and getting ready for a gig, I happened to drape my pants over a hot lamp. The lamp ended up burning a big hole in one of the pant legs, and I frantically tried to think of a suitable way to patch this big charred opening in my polyester pants.
I tried using electrical tape, which didn’t work at all, then got out the needle and thread and tried to stitch it back together. After ending up only making the hole bigger and uglier, I realized that I’d have to wear these things with the hole for that concert and hunt for new tux pants in the morning. I tried to tape the hole closed as best I could, wadding a big clump of tape up and jamming it in my pants. It held for a little while, but as I played the concert I happened to look down at the floor, noticing that it had fallen off and was laying by my foot. At that point, trying to tape it back together would only make it more obvious, so I resigned myself finishing up the concert with a big hole in my pants. Just what the audience paid to see, I imagine…
There used to be a yearly used formalwear sale at the Gingiss wearhouse in suburban Chicago, and classical musicians would descend like vultures, picking up old white shirts for a few bucks, tails for $15, and used pants for a real bargain. Musicians around town were radiant with joy (and perhaps from stinky baked-in rental sweat as well!) as they showed off their ill-fitting and slightly stained but super cheap bargain duds. This magical day of used clothing acquisition ended a few years ago–who knows where musicians in Chicagoland are trolling for formalwear these days?