“Well, now. That’s as handy as a pocket on a shirt!” My friend was looking at some gadget which promised to make his life simpler, as well as establishing him as the brightest and the best in his peer group. I listened in amusement and thought, as I saw the object of his comparison, “No, it isn’t.” I have come to the conclusion that not much in life is as handy as the shirt pocket.
Have a cough, but still need to speak in public? Drop a lozenge or two in the pocket and you’re set. Need to write a paragraph or two; or even just to sign a credit card receipt? The handy ball-point pen fits cozily along the edge, still allowing plenty of room for the lozenges. Or, like E.T., I might need to call home sometime, so the cell phone slides into the remaining space, just as niftily as one could wish. We won’t discuss the profusion of necessities already swelling my pants pockets to the point of overflowing, since they are not at issue in this discussion.
Why do I praise the shirt pocket and acclaim its handiness tonight? To answer that question, you would need to go back a week or so. The Lovely Lady had acquired a coupon which was going to save a significant percentage off of a purchase she needed to make at the local dry goods store. I’m confident that no one has called this particular shop that in its existence, but I like the sound of it. When you shop in a dry goods store, you may be confident that no one will be shouting over the intercom, “Clean up in Aisle Six, please.” But once again, I have lost the thread that was holding us to the path. Where was I? Oh, yes. The Lovely Lady was at the dry goods store, curiously enough, to buy a smaller purse, intended to replace the suitcase she had been lugging around. While there, she purchased a few new shirts for me. “So I could save more money,” was the reasoning, but since I needed the shirts, I wasn’t going to argue.
The first two shirts I tried on fit well, so they all went into the closet. After wearing those two shirts in the first week after her shopping trip, I picked up the third one morning before church. “’Modern fit’…What’s that mean, ‘modern fit’?” She yelled back up the stairs, “I wondered when I bought it, but it was on sale, so I bought it anyway. Try it on.” I did. The label said “large”. It wasn’t. Well, at least, it didn’t fit me the way the other large shirts do. I put it back on the hanger and into the closet. Until yesterday.
I decided that I would give the shirt another chance. Realizing that the “modern fit” didn’t conform perfectly to my definitively non-modern body shape, I sucked in my stomach a bit and determined to tough it out. As I finished dressing, I stuffed my pants pockets with keys and wallet and handkerchief, leaving the slim items mentioned above until last to slip into the shirt pocket. Imagine my surprise when I found that there was none! No shirt pocket? How in the world does one go anywhere without a shirt pocket? I didn’t have time to change before leaving the house, so I determined that I would live with the inconvenience. What a frustrating day! Suffice it to say that I won’t be wearing that shirt again anytime soon. Modern fit! No shirt pocket! Phooey!
Can we talk for just a moment about the philosophy of functionality? Okay, perhaps just about this one thought. I am a firm believer in the idea which surfaced in the nineteenth century, especially in the field of design. It’s a simply idea. “Form follows function.” Make the design fit the use. In architecture, it meant that you didn’t build huge airy spaces with columns and gingerbread when what you wanted was an effective workplace. You designed the space which would make it simple to do the job you had in mind. Well, that’s also my theory about clothes. Don’t take pockets off, simply because they interrupt the line of the garment. The line of my body is not exactly sleek to start with, so an extra bump here and a little sag there won’t be out of place. Put the pocket on the shirt!
You are expecting me to illustrate some bigger point, are you not? There is one, you know. It has nothing to do with clothes. Well, not in the sense I have expanded, tongue-in-cheek, upon today. I have a new shirt sitting in my closet, which I will not wear. Well, not often anyway. I wonder sometimes, if we are not more like that new designer shirt than the old comfortable one I have on today. We believe that we have better things to do, and a better way of doing it, deciding that there are other functions to be fulfilled besides the primary one for which we were intended. Like the branches the Teacher told of, we decide that our purpose is to grow full and beautiful, covered lushly with leaves, but we produce no fruit whatsoever to benefit the grower. Just like my shirt, those branches will be cast aside to make room for ones which will fulfill their purpose, which will produce fruit.
I will never, I fear, be a clothes horse, a dandy—dressing to impress. Give me a comfortable shirt (with a pocket), and a pair of comfortable pants, with some sensible shoes on my feet. My clothes do not make me; they are not the focus of attention. Rather, they serve a purpose, which is to enable me to work and live effectively and modestly. I hope that my life, and yours, like our clothes, will show the same results.
Somehow, I knew that whole modern fit thing wasn’t going to work out. I’m really not that disappointed.
“Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
“Once I planned to write a book of poems entirely about the things in my pocket. But, I found it would be too long; and the age of the great epics is past.”
(G.K.Chesterson—English born novelist and poet—1874-1936)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2012. All Rights Reserved.