Clothes Maketh The Man

by M.J. Hearle

It was hot on Saturday.

The kind of sweltering, steamy heat that bakes Sydney during the warmer months. I spent most of the day wandering around the house in my underpants trying to keep cool. Unfortunately, I was forced to leave the house at one point to buy groceries. I would have avoided this, but a man cannot live on peanut butter crackers for long without risking scurvy.

Before leaving for the supermarket, I was faced with a quandary. Normally, I’m a jeans and t-shirt kind of guy but the heat was such that there was a distinct possibility of the denim fusing to my skin. This left me with two pants options: pink fluorescent boardies or skimpy black running shorts. Any other time of the year, I wouldn’t be caught dead in a pair of shorts. It’s nothing personal. My knobbly, pale, hairy gams simply weren’t designed for public viewing. Panicking, I picked the boardies figuring they covered more than the running shorts and found the loosest, tattered singlet I could to complete the ensemble. A strong gust of wind would have dissolved this piece of clothing but I didn’t care. Comfort trumped vanity.

Sure enough, I was grateful for my light attire the moment I stepped outside. The heat of the house had not prepared me for the thermonuclear hell haze beyond my front door. The road had liquified into a coursing river of molten tar and the air was full of tiny explosions. These were flies bursting into flames. I walked as quickly as the conditions would allow, craving air conditioning the way a hungry man craves pizza. When I finally reached the supermarket, a sodden, red mess, I nearly wept with joy at the blast of refrigerated air issuing from the entrance.

The heat had made my thoughts sluggish so it took me twice as long to shop as it should have. After filling my basket, I trudged to the self-checkout machine and started scanning the items. Now, I’m usually a bit of whiz at these things, treating each interaction as a game – can I scan through an item with a single swipe, flash the FlyBy’s card before the machine prompts me too – but because of my cooked brain I found myself making mistakes. Beep after angry beep the machine registered its irritation with me. So much so that one of the helpful supermarket staff members was forced to intercede.

It took me a few seconds to realise I’d never heard anyone speak in such patient and gentle tones before I remembered the way I was dressed. The supermarket girl’s gaze kept flicking from my livid shorts, to my tattered singlet and I could see the pity in her eyes. Poor, brave soul, she was thinking, it’s a miracle he’s allowed to shop unchaperoned. To make matters worse, I was too hot and bothered to dissuade her of this misconception, and could only manage inarticulate grunts punctuated by much head scratching and confused frowning. It was as though the clothes had infected me with their mentally deficient aura.

When I got home, I immediately threw the clothes in the bin and set fire to them. Like Sauron’s ring, I thought it better to destroy the offending articles rather than risk their foul influence again. There’s an idiom credited to Mark Twain – Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.  I’d amend that to – Clothes make the man. Unless you’re wearing fluoro boardies and a ripped singlet in which case you’re better off going nude.