I recently heard that Target is doing away with gender distinctions in the boys and girls (now simply kids) departments, as well as in some areas such as toys and bedding. Clothes for boys will still be grouped with traditional boys clothes, and the same with clothes for girls, but the colors of the in-store department decorating will no longer be gender-specific. You know, pink for girls and blue for boys. Naturally, the Internet exploded with comments so severe, it was as if Target announced that it will be using its stores to breed and house locusts, and was planning on setting them loose during crop season.
Target will also do away with signage that says things such as, “building sets,” and “girls building sets.” I have no idea what the differences are between the two. Maybe I should go shopping more often.
I was born in 1954 in an era when dolls were for girls, and toy cars and trucks were for boys. In 1964, G.I. Joe blurred that line forever, and who says girls can’t play with toy cars and trucks? I think most parents will figure out which toys go with which kid, and what their kid will be wearing to school this year without signs in Target announcing such exacting specificity. Call me naïve, but I have faith in human nature. I also have faith in pockets.
As with all males, I need pockets. Lots of them. I recently bought a pair of cargo shants—which in itself is probably a cry for sartorial help—which have eleven distinct pockets, and I have managed to fill almost all of them. I don’t wish to be accused of gender stereotyping but there’s no way around this—women and girls carry some sort of purse whereas men and boys shove everything in their pockets. I’ve seen my wife’s jeans, and they have as many pockets as mine do, but hers may as well be sewn shut. Maybe that’s why so many women wear pocket-free yoga pants even though they’ve never been within fifty miles of a yoga studio.
I need pockets to carry my essential everyday stuff, and each morning I go through a ritual of restocking my pocket necessities, right after I thin out the stuff I collected the previous day. Here’s an actual example of a day’s worth of my pocket flotsam: An egg shaped rock, receipts, little foil chocolate wrappers, a paper towel, random nuts, random bolts that don’t fit the random nuts, a pocket knife, dog biscuits, a lens cap, loose change, eye drops, notes, a notebook, a business card case, a USB thumb drive, a wallet, stray keys, an iPhone, and an essay that needed editing. I winnowed all that down to the basics, and put the change in a jar in my dresser. I’ll do a variation of the same thing tomorrow, and the next day, and so on.
I swapped Kleenex for a paper towel a while ago, because I tend to forget these when I empty out my pockets before my pants go in the hamper. A Kleenex will break down in the washer into a million popcorn-sized bits that will then become charged with nuclear lever static electricity in the dryer and stick to everything. This perturbs Mrs. G., who would prefer not to go through her day with specks of my old Kleenex stuck to her clothes. A paper towel goes through in one piece, which can then be peeled off and reused by the truly frugal pocket-stuffer.
Shirt pockets are nice too, but more and more manufacturers are eliminating the front pocket. I’m not sure why. Men carry pens, and some carry packs of cigarettes. Old guys often carry glasses in these pockets. These items need to be placed somewhere handy and safe. Want to know what they call a men’s shirt without a front pocket? A blouse. Just not in Target. The Internet should be on fire over this, not paint colors.
Most of my button-up shirts are flannel or twill, and those always come with two pockets—many of them with button down security flaps. Well, with two exceptions.
I was with Mrs. G. in Banana Republic a few years ago, and they had a sale that amounted to somewhere around ninety-five percent off. It was a ridiculous, too good to pass up percentage, so I saw some flannel shirts in a nice plaid, grabbed two in my size, and bought them. When I got them home, I unpinned the first one, took out the plastic ring from inside the collar, removed the little plastic clips on the shoulders, removed the plastic butterfly tab that was wedged over the top collar button, removed more pins, took out the tissue liner, and three days later, I had a shirt.
I never wear either one of them. Wait—I wore one once, but that was it. Why? Because I never noticed that there was no front pocket when I bought them. Forget two pockets, there wasn’t even one. I felt naked. I kept swiping pens into a void. If this wasn’t bad enough, there are fancy shirt, removable collar stays in the collar. Collar stays … in a flannel shirt collar! Who am I? The Lord of Downton Abbey? “Mr. Bates, please brush off my flannel. I’m feeling woodsy today.” They’re both hanging off in a corner of the closet, all set for the day when I want to wear a tailored plaid flannel shirt with a suit and tie.
With autumn on the horizon, this means jackets, and jackets of course mean more pockets. Inside, outside, up, down pockets. Between jackets, shirts and pants, I’ll likely have more places to put stuff than I have stuff to carry. That particular litmus test has never been fully tested though, because there is a lot of stuff out there, good stuff, great stuff even, which needs to be pocketed and saved. That’s why Mr. Levi Strauss put rivets on those jeans way back in 1871, and that’s the genius of cargo pants. Boys will be boys, and we need our pockets to be big, plentiful and strong, because if there’s one thing I know about us menfolk, it’s that there’s no such thing as an empty pocket.