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Skip the fashion advice and give this guy a coupon

By Bella English Bella English
Globe Staff / April 22, 2012
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When I first met my husband, I was impressed by what he wore. Clearly, this was a man who did not care about clothes.

As some of you wives and girlfriends out there undoubtedly know, some men cannot and will not go clothes shopping. In my husband’s words: “I’d rather have a root canal without anesthesia.’’

Speaking of dentists, I recently picked up the latest issue of Men’s Journal at the dental office. The cover story was “50 Things Every Man Should Own.’’ I was pretty sure my husband owns none of them, but wanted to confirm.

He doesn’t.

But I was especially interested in the clothes that were listed. A “waxed cotton’’ jacket for $1,125. A pair of shoes for $375. An “updated navy blazer’’ for $595. And an Oxford shirt, a steal at $125.

My husband buys his clothes at two places: Costco in Avon, or Bob’s in Randolph. He spends less - a lot less - than $100 a year. Mostly, it’s socks, T-shirts, and underwear.

“I occasionally buy a white shirt for work, or when I wear out my khakis and jeans, I buy a new pair,’’ he says. Let the record show that he has not worn out a pair in a long, long time.

A nonprofit board he serves on sometimes sends him a shirt bearing its logo, and his windbreaker is from them, too. His winter hat is Air Alaska, which I brought home from a reporting trip in 1983.

My husband is literally a card-carrying member of Bob’s, which means he earns free “Bob’s Bucks.’’ Each week, he scans the newspaper for coupons. “And for my birthday, they send me $10 for store stuff,’’ he says, happily.

At Christmas, I suffered a bout of temporary insanity and gave my husband a gift certificate to Banana Republic. We went to the store at South Shore Plaza. He desperately needed to “update’’ his dad jeans, the kind with the hammer loop on one side, the low pockets on the other.

He pawed through the jeans, most of them of the cool and “distressed’’ variety.

“Why on earth would I want to spend that kind of money on someone else’s worn jeans?’’ he groused. “Are you kidding me?’’

I saw a couple of young clerks exchange a look.

We moved on to winter scarves, some beautiful ones at two-thirds off. “I don’t need a scarf,’’ my husband said. “I have two that I don’t even wear.’’

I spied some fingerless gloves on clearance.

“Where’s the rest of them?’’ my husband demanded.

They’re hip, I told him.

“Oh, come on,’’ he said. “What’s the point of having gloves if they don’t keep your hands warm?’’

“But you told George you liked his,’’ I said.

“George is cool. I’m not.’’

He had a point.

The other man in my life can relate. Charlie Hardesty is the guy I’ve worked out with, once a week, for a dozen years. I’ve only ever seen him in athletic pants and a sweatshirt. Since he lives in sweats, he doesn’t know - or care - how to shop for clothes.

In fact, he wouldn’t be caught dead shopping and rarely enters a store.

“When I do, I feel like I’m being profiled,’’ says Charlie, who owns Totally Natural Training in Quincy. “It’s like I don’t belong there and everybody knows it.’’

When’s the last time he was in a clothing store?

“Two days before my father’s funeral, in November 2007. I had to get a pair of black dress pants and a belt.’’

Charlie buys what he needs online.,’’ he says. “You can get anything there. They’ve got good prices, next-day delivery, and free shipping. If you don’t like it, you can return it with free shipping. It saves gas, it saves time.’’ And best of all, in his opinion, no one sees him out shopping.

At Banana Republic, I talked my husband into the least distressed pair of denims they had. He wasn’t happy with the $80 price tag. He also bought a shirt, a pair of dress pants, and a sweater, all on sale.

At the cash register, the saleswoman rang him up and commented on his great “eggplant’’ sweater.

“Eggplant?’’ asked my husband.

“That’s a deep purple,’’ I whispered.

“Purple? I thought it was black.’’ My husband is color blind.

Too late. He was already rung up, having spent the entire $200 gift certificate.

Outside, he thanked me, but added: “I could have gotten all this at Bob’s for 50 bucks.’’

The other day he came home, elated, with six pairs of socks from Bob’s. “They cost me 50 cents,’’ he exclaimed.

How’s that? I asked. The only thing you can get for 50 cents these days is a few pieces of penny candy.

His explanation: “I got a 30 percent off all apparel coupon out of the newspaper. I also had a $10 credit coupon sent to me because of my birthday. A pack of socks sells for $15. Take 30 percent off and you get to $10.50. Then apply the $10 credit and you get to a net cost of 50 cents!’’ He could barely keep the thrill out of his voice.

It has been a couple of months since he’s had his new jeans, and he doesn’t wear them very often. Why not? They’re spiffy, and a good fit.

“They’re just not as comfortable as my old man jeans,’’ said my old man.

Bella English lives in Milton. She can be reached at

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