“. . . there was no apparel good enough to be gotten in London. . .”

Oliver Cromwell, by Robert Walker, 1650

Oliver Cromwell, by Robert Walker, 1650

The wise man is girt with a loin cloth,
the fool is clad in a scarlet cloak

My problem in finding the right style to wear for any given occasion is that I don’t own any loincloths. No, the problem is that I am never invited to any given occasion, so it doesn’t matter what I wear.

Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), as everyone who can read Wikipedia knows (2), was the Puritan’s Puritan. He signed the warrant to behead King Charles I in 1649. He was quintessentially self-righteous and believed he was the instrument of God in ridding Great Britain of the double scourge of royalty and the Church of England (2).

He died while the country was still in the hands of the Puritans, and he was buried in Westminster Abbey. However, when Charles II was restored to his rightful place in the divine right of kings, the Royalists dug up Cromwell’s body and beheaded him and buried him in an unmarked pauper’s grave somewhere.

Perhaps a proper loin cloth would have saved Cromwell. It was his lavish life-style that did him in, I think. (3) [For a description of the clothing style of his associates.] He lived in places like Warwick Castle, and he stripped the ancient English churches of their art work and took the loot home to enjoy. But his real weakness was his wardrobe. Check out that yellow frock.

On the other hand, Charles I might not have been beheaded in the first place had he been a little lass flamboyant in his choice of wardrobe.

The old men of Cromwell’s time, as you might guess, didn’t give in to high fashion. They left that to the younger men. As it should be.

I’m not much concerned about high fashion. I never have been. Contrary to some image of me I don’t recognize that seems to cling to the minds of some of my family and long-time friends, I have never been interested in wearing fashionable clothes. Even as a young man, one of the joys of college life in Southern California was going barefoot nine months a year (yes, even to classes).

King Charles I, Van Dyck

King Charles I, Van Dyck

The only time I wished I had expensive clothes came when a classmate invited me to a sorority “do” up in the hills at the lavish home ofone of the sisters. Her real sister was a member of the sorority, and Marjorie was rushing. She had to prove she had the social graces to find a man-student who would fit in their high society crowd and invite him to an o-so-“um-tut-sut” (if you know, you know) gathering by the pool. She was the daughter of the owner of the largest supermarket chain in Southern California, and these were her people. She didn’t invite me to another party, I think because the only sport coat I owned was deep burgundy and designed to be worn in Nebraska winters, not Lake Arrowhead in the spring.

See the Babylonian proverb above.

So now I’m the old man in Dobson’s An Elderly Man and a Younger Man (1640). I’d be pleased if my clothes were anywhere nearly as elegant as his.

I’m really in sartorial trouble these days for several reasons.

First, I usually don’t give a damn what my clothes look like. That is, I don’t give a damn until I’m headed toward some event where I know I need to have a certain appearance to fit in. That doesn’t mean I care what I wear. It means I don’t want anyone to notice me, and that begins by looking like I belong.

But I have other issues with clothes. I’ve lost a lot of weight, and every pair of pants (pants, from the Italian Saint Pantaleone, who was a foolish old man in the Commedia dell’arte, and wore tight trousers that looked ridiculous over his skinny legs; incongruous because Saint “Pantaleone” is from the Greek, “all-compassionate”) I own is too big, and I can shuck my pants to the floor even if I wear a belt. This in addition to the fact that old men lose body mass in their butts, and the problem of falling pants is somewhat natural when you get to be my age. (You know the look—the gut gets bigger and the butt gets smaller; that’s why gay men get butt implants.)

Old Man and Younger Man

Old Man and Younger Man,William Dobson (1640s)

The main problem with my now-getting-skinny-butt is that I’m too cheap to keep buying new pants as I get smaller. No, I’m too poor. And I’m getting smaller also because I have both a physical therapist and a trainer, and I exercise in the therapy pool at least three times a week.

I wish loin cloths were in style. They’d be much cheaper to maintain. And you could wrap them as tightly or as loosely as necessary.

My chief stylistic problem today, however, is my beard. I like it. I like it gray. It makes me look old and wise. But getting it trimmed and shaped just right is a pain in the guzica (it means what you imagine, but it sounds o-so-much-nicer; I learned it from an old Croatian woman when I worked at the Kaiser steel mill). I can cut (all-but shave) my head with a trimmer from Target. But a beard is a different story. If I want it long enough to see the distinguished gray, I have to pay someone $20 to trim and shape it. I could almost buy a new pair of jeans that won’t slip over my guzica for that amount.

So my only solution at this point is either to use the trimmer and go back to almost shaving my beard, or to rearrange my budget to include $20 a week to look venerable.

But whatever I do, I’m not going shopping at the new Traffic LA store in the new fashionable night-life center of Dallas, the Joule Hotel on Main Street.  No shirttail hanging out for me.
(1) Lambert, W. G. 1975. Babylonian Wisdom Literature. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. Quoted in Batten, Alicia J. “Clothing And ???????????????????????????????Adornment.” Biblical Theology Bulletin 40.3 (2010): 148-159.
(2) “Oliver Cromwell.” Wikipedia. (Modified November 4, 2013). Web. 5 Nov. 2013. (For Rand Paul’s information, that’s a proper Wikipedia citation for those who have to find facts quickly.)
(3) Little, Patrick. “Cromwell’s ‘Gay Attire’.” History Today 58.9 (2008): 45-51:

Hostile witnesses were quick lo link the flamboyance of Cromwell’s family with the corrupt nature of the regime. For the disaffected Colonel Matthew Alured, writing in 1659. “there was no apparel good enough to he gotten in London for the Lord Richard and Lord Henry (meaning Cromwell’s two sons) to wear’, and he added that they ‘did keep courts higher (meaning more chargeable) than ever the prince … did.’ Another critic. Lucy Hutchinson. remarked that Cromwell’s son, Henry. and his son-in-law, John Claypool, “were two debauched, ungodly Cavaliers.’ The royalist, Anthony Wood, was specific in his criticism of the clothes favored by Cromwell’s chaplain and vice-chancellor of Oxford. Dr. John Owen, and lambasted him for ‘going quirpo |cloakless] like a young scholar, with powdered hair. … lawn band [or linen collar], a large set of ribbons pointed at his knees, and Spanish leather hoots with large lawn tops, and his hat mostly cocked’. Another source notes Owen’s velvet jacket ‘and breeches set round at knee with ribbons’ and ‘as much powder in his hair that would discharge eight cannons.’

Shirttails. Let's not be silly!

Shirttails. Let’s not be silly!


5 Responses to “. . . there was no apparel good enough to be gotten in London. . .”

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