I’m contending for the No-Belt Prize

About 16 years ago my wife and I started vacationing at Hatteras. They have always been big on hoodies down there.

Whether you’re a fisherman, banker, grocery store clerk, or tourist, the hoodie is your friend in Hatteras. I doubt a more perfect garment for that area of the world could be found.

So I began collecting hoodies from Hatteras and as long as it suits the weather, chances are that’s what you’ll see me wearing unless the dress code dictates otherwise.

I researched it and learned that the hooded pullover was first seen worn by warehouse workers in New York in the 1930s. The garment was marketed with success to laborers who worked in the freezing temperatures of upstate New York, according to the New York Times.

With such a humble and noble beginning, it’s a shame the hoodie today has such a bad reputation. Often associated with trouble-makers, some establishments refuse service to people who have on a hoodie.

People are also reading…

Until a few weeks ago, I had never encountered so much as a comment about my common wearing of one of my Hatteras hoodies.

I had entered Council Chambers for a regular meeting and was getting my laptop and camera out of my bag when a longtime friend of mine a few rows from me caught my eye.

“Why are you wearing that hoodie again? he asked.

“It’s clean,” I said. “I just put it on an hour ago.”

“You are always wearing that hoodie,” he said as the people on either side of him began to laugh at my hoodie.

“It’s my uniform, man,” I said. “It’s the perfect top for the weather, makes for a fast raincoat or a windbreaker if you need one, and has a pouch in the front for my camera when I’m working.”

“Humph,” he grunted, and with a few more chuckles from the people around him the meeting began.

At the next meeting, I made a point to wear a shirt with a collar and a V-neck sweater.

My friend wasn’t at the meeting, but he emailed me the next day asking me a question about the meeting he had missed.

“Where were you?” I asked. “I purposely didn’t wear my hoodie because of you.”

He typed a “lol” and that was the end of it.

I’ve also gotten really keen on wearing slip-on shoes. No more laces to tie. The shoes are generally more comfortable and they are much easier to put on and take off. You don’t even have to bend over.

The next evolution in my wardrobe is to get rid of the belt around my waist and go for a good pair of suspenders.

I did some more research and found out that Albert Thurston, a London businessman who traded in men’s accessories, is credited with inventing suspenders around 1820.

Metal clasps and elastic had not yet been invented, so Thurston made his suspenders out of material that did not stretch and fastened them with button loops.

By 1870, when metal clasps and elastic had become available, Samuel Clemens, better known as the novelist Mark Twain, perfected Thurston’s suspenders, and even though Thurston’s originals can still be had, the Clemens version remains the popular choice for the men who have managed to free themselves from the waist belt.

Back in 2015, Time Magazine did a story about what they considered “the most profound cultural changes of the 20th century: the rise of the casual dress.”

I’m like many people my age who aren’t big fans of change anymore, but I’m really big on the acceptance of wearing practical clothes.

I always get bothered watching movies about times a century ago when the men wore suits to do manual labor and the women wore dresses while tending the garden.

How ridiculous and impractical!

I am at a point in my life when the goal of impressing others is no longer important to me. I’m perfectly content with who I am and that includes being comfortable.

I’ll keep my shirt with collars and V-neck sweaters in the closet, but don’t be surprised if the next time you see me it will be with a hoodie over suspenders and a nice pair of slip-on shoes.

I may not win any fashion awards, but I bet I’ll be on the shortlist for the next No-Belt Prize.

Keeping our communications decent

Bill Wyatt is a reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. He can be reached at 276-591-7543. Follow him @billdwyatt.

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