People have been watching Perry Mason for decades. I’m sure they’ve felt many things as they watched. Probably most common was admiration for a legal system that doesn’t exist. A brief stint in law school cured me of any delusion that Perry Mason represented actual lawyering.
But it doesn’t really matter. I was too busy envying Perry and the rest of them to rhapsodize about the legal system. All the men were decked out in suits. They weren’t particularly handsome. None of them would be mistaken for Don Draper. Some were taller, some were shorter. Some thinner, others heavier. But they all wore suits. They had shirts with double cuffs and links. They all had neckties. They all wore a handkerchief in their breast pocket.
I was green with envy. I can do all of those things. I do all of those things. I have several suits. I have shirts with french cuffs; I have cuff links. I have handkerchiefs. I have white cotton that can be had for less than a dollar apiece. I have silk in burgundy and navy with white polka dots. And other patterns and colors. I have dozens, if not hundreds, of ties. I can wear any of these any time I want.
But I can’t do what Perry Mason, and all the men on his show, did. And I envy the bastards. Every one of them in a suit. As a matter of course. No one saying how well they dress. No one even noticing, really. They just go about their business, fanciful though it was, in a suit and tie.
And I can’t do the same. Not any more. Wearing a suit is a conspicuous act. Which doesn’t deter me. I don’t mind if I stand out. Because I’m not a twentysomething Maoist in denim and flip-flops. I’m not a crusader for khaki mediocrity who treats every day as Casual Friday and looks like a middle-aged adolescent in cargo shorts and running shoes once work is over. So I stand out.
I can live with that. But I can never look like Perry and his compatriots. Look over their suits. Nothing fancy. Sometimes slightly rumpled. You wouldn’t dream of calling any of them a dandy. No affectation. Just the way men dressed. Not just dressed. Lived. I can wear a suit or tie or any other item of clothing. I can’t live in it.