Dressing Up is Hard to Do

Just because the comic is on hiatus this week doesn’t mean we still can’t hang out. I mean, we are friends, right? Right?

Moving on.

If there’s one question I get regularly that will lead to a difficult shopping experience, it’s “Do you have pilot uniforms?” There is no long answer to this question, and anyone who has spent more than thirty seconds inside my tiny shop will know that the answer is “yes.”

I really don’t feel that I’m being too harsh here. (We are, after all, talking about people who want to fly you around inside a hollow tube at 30,000 feet and 500 miles per hour, so I tend to set the bar a tiny bit higher than us normal folk.) Aside from that is the fact that there are literally only TWO aisles in the entire shop, and both of them have pilot uniform items on display (and both of them have pilot uniform shirts).

Still, as persistent as a pimple that will just never go away, regardless of what remedies you try, this question arises constantly. A two-minute walk around the shop would yield this answer quite easily, and in that time, one would find pilot shirts, sweaters, epaulets, wings, ties, identification badge holders, and much more. The other question I get, which too falls into the category of “Why didn’t you just look around for two damn minutes first?”, as well as the category of “Why the hell would I hide perfectly good merchandise in the back when I could actually sell it to you?”, is “Do you sell pants?” Again, a quick look around would yield no pants and answer that question. Go to Kohl’s instead.

So, it’s completely baffling to me as to why these questions keep hanging around. I have a number of theories. Laziness, for one. Well, that’s really the only one that keeps making sense. What follows, though, is the most compelling aspect of these interactions: explaining male dress shirt sizing. Oh, yes, what fun.

I get it; it’s different. It’s not like you pull the collar of the t-shirt you’re wearing and crane your neck to the snapping point to that you wear a medium and then go to the shelf that has shirts that say “medium” on them and take them up to the register to purchase them. That would be too easy and take away from the good things about dress shirts. Dress shirts are made to make you look your very best. They’re for more formal occasions, like business meetings and balls and regattas. (I’ve never been to a regatta, but I assume you have to look at least halfway decent.) A fitted shirt helps you put your best foot forward.

If you’ve never bought a dress shirt before, they go by neck size, usually by the half inch. The rest of the shirt will fit proportionally. That way, you can ensure that you will have a good look that fits your body properly. They come in normal cut and tapered, which is more form-fitting, and in short sleeve and long. We also can order them in tall varieties for you lanky fellows.

So, the first thing I do is ask them what size they wear. Usually, this is met with a blank stare and maybe an “umm…”. Obviously, if you’ve never purchased a shirt in this manner before, you won’t know what size you wear. If i had a proper measuring tape, I could expedite this process, but if I tried to list the items I needed around this shop, the list would go on until Christmas. Anyway, what I mean is their normal size (small, medium, large, etc.) so that I can at least narrow down our choices and home in on correct size for them.

The best indicator of a good fit is how the collar fits when it is buttoned. This requires repeated prompting from me. Ideally, you should be able to just slide your index finger between your neck and the buttoned collar; it should be snug or too loose against your finger. That’s the sweet spot. But it takes my customers a little extra time to get from point A to point B, and I still have no idea why.

That’s why I go back to laziness. All of the information sits before them; they just choose not to gather and analyze it for themselves. I mean, why do it yourself and be a self-sufficient person when you can have someone do it for you? It’s not like this is, oh, I don’t know, flying a jet airliner, or anything like that.

This is my world. This is what I deal with on a daily basis. I’m not above helping someone find something. I can’t tell you how lost I was my first few months tossed into the aviation deep end. I could barely tell you the difference between IFR and VFR products. And searching for specific books was impossible. But if you can’t be bothered to use the tools nature gave you and, instead, hide behind a veil of excuses, especially the language excuse, I die a little bit inside.

I’ll talk more about the language barrier, or lack thereof, in another post, but suffice it to say, it’s rarely anything of consequence. They just use it as a convenient scapegoat.

The bottom line is this: When you go shopping, it’s okay to ask questions; it’s okay to not be able to find something. That’s what they pay us to do: help. We just ask that you take a moment to try for yourself, and if after you’ve looked around and come up empty, we will be more than happy to help you find it. I still get a little chuckle out of hearing, “If it had been a snake, it would have bitten me.” I don’t know why, but I do. And when you do ask us a question, please, for the love of all that is holy in this world, listen to our answers, and process that information. Making us repeat explanations does nothing to endear yourself to us; quite the opposite, in fact. Just try to use that beautiful head on your shoulders.

-The Retail Explorer

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