by F.

Today’s big task—the one that was on my mind—was shopping, since I have to have my picture taken on Thursday for the firm’s website. The photographer comes into the office and shoots me there. Somewhere.

I think shopping is just about the dumbest thing. I mean physically shopping. Shopping is a search task, and physically going from store to store has got to be just about the worst way to approach it, because it takes so much time. I tried to fix this by shopping on the web first. I needed (a) a blazer or jacket of some sort, since I’d given away all my suits; (b) a shirt of some type; and (c) a tie. Generally, I don’t expect to wear a tie much, but I do need to look like everyone else in the photo on the website. And a blazer isn’t a bad thing to have anyway. But I wanted something fairly casual, so I could actually wear it, rather than just have it sit in the closet and collect cat hair.

So I looked at Banana Republic and J.Crew on-line, and they seemed to have some good basics. The price was right (< $300) and I figured their jackets wouldn’t need to be tailored—that’s another bag of bullshit, having to buy the suit, then go in and get measured, then wait for it to be altered, then pick it up, try it on, find out it doesn’t fit and you still look like Danny Devito, and then start over again. Yes, BR and J.Crew make cheap-o stuff. But whatever. It’s good enough, I thought.

Since my wife is so good at shopping for me, generally, I wanted her along. It’s just so much easier. We drove downtown and had lunch at the Nordstrom Cafe, which is actually quite good. But Nordstrom is funny. I haven’t shopped there for a long time. In fact, I haven’t shopped anywhere for a long time. But being in a store like that reminds me of my first wife. I can’t go into a department store without thinking about what is going on in the break-room, in the alley next to the store where the Chanel make-up girls are having a cigarette, behind the MAC counter where the gay guy with the pierced tongue is gossiping with a customer, and so on. All the petty intrigues and scheming—I heard enough about that stuff to last me a lifetime. I’m sure L.A. is worse than Seattle, but still—it’s probably about the same. People are people.

We browsed in Nordstrom a little, but the stuff was too nice. I didn’t want to get an Armani blazer. Why? Because clothes are a system. If you have a nice blazer, then you can’t wear your crappy pants from the Gap. You have to get some nice Ermenegildo Zegna worsteds. Then you have to get some Ferragamo loafers. And then some nice socks. Then some special underwear. An Hermes belt maybe, or at least a Gucci. Pretty soon you’re a pimp.

Which is fine and all, but it takes so much effort for so little payoff. (I do love Ferragamo shoes though. I used to have two pairs and both were killer. Now I’m wearing Dankso clogs. What’s that about?) More importantly, there are so many ways to go wrong with clothes. I feel like it’s a code. Like I’ll get the Armani blazer and pair them with something dumb, like Polo gabardines, which I’ll then pair with some dumb Cole Haan shoes—it just won’t compute.

I didn’t want to start working on that Rubik’s Cube, so we went on to Banana Republic. I read in the WSJ that BR is having trouble, kinda of like the Gap. The problem is summed up with the question, “Who shops at Banana Republic?” Well, uh, I do. And I actually sort of like the clothes, many times. But I like the Gap too. Clearly, something is wrong with me. My taste sensor has malfunctioned.

I found a jacket at BR, but it was weird. It was really cheap. I mean, really cheap. It was a “suit,” or so the guy helping me said. But it was more like pants and a jacket that happened to be cut from the same cloth. I’m a perfect 40 regular, which is nice. I don’t need my suits altered. And since I’m fairly slender in the shoulder, suits look good on me. That’s not me saying that—that’s what everyone says. Yes, the look gets ruined when you look at my huge face, Gallic nose, and gigantic skull. But from the neck down, things look pretty good. My wife grabbed me a shirt and a tie and I went into the dressing room.

Of course, when I took my shirt off, I looked at myself in the mirror and thought, “OH MY GOD I’M SO FAT!” Pretty much like everyone does. I was aghast. I’m like, “You know, I looked at myself in the mirror at home and I didn’t look like a shar pei.” But somehow, in that light…. Ugh. So put on my shirt and tie the tie and the shirt looks entirely stupid. It’s completely fitted, has these fake-ass french cuffs (I always wore french cuffs back in the day—I still love them, even though it’s a little much for this area, where everyone is so dumpy), and a truly strange collar.

Then my wife comes in and sort of sneers (or that’s my perception) and I think, “I know. I look like Forest Gump.” She jerks the collar of my shirt, and I’m like, “What are you doing?” I guess I was a little on edge, because I was a bit of a dick. Actually, a big dick. With a mole on it. Now, I’m sure we were only the 10,000th couple to have this experience in the dressing room that week, but still. Pretty stupid. We decided we needed to move on. So we put the jacket on hold and left for the Nordstrom rack.

Being the cheapskate that I am, I love the Rack. Yeah, it’s a zoo in there. But the deals! I mean, it’s amazing. I found a jacket within five minutes, got a nice Donna Karan tie, some pretty cool shoes (I’m won’t mention the brand, because (i) it’s totally embarrassing and (ii) you’d never know the brand if you looked at them—they’re quite nice). Then I grabbed a belt and some socks and the whole thing was <$400. Fine and dandy.

When we got home, I pulled out my ties. These are from ten years ago. But guess what? They’re still fine. I have a nice Gucci, a couple of decent Polos, and a Donna Karan, plus a bunch of other odds and ends. But a tie is a tie, pretty much. The shape, the fabric, the colors—I’m not seeing much difference. Which, of course, means that, again, something is very very wrong, because the ties of ten years ago must be different. Must. But how? I can’t figure it out. I’m sure I’ll find out Thursday when I wear my new outfit to work.