Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Sans Sans-A-Belt: A Blogumentary in 3 Parts

[Cue the Frank Sinatra music to go with the home movie footage of hip white guys hanging at the Sands or the Pink Flamingo or Caesar's, ca. 1971.]

[Imagine a black and white photograph] This is my dad, Frank, a first-generation American born in Colorado of all places, in the mid 1920s. Here he is walking the Vegas Strip with his friends, a bunch of other "goombas" that he's known practically since birth. Although they're of all shapes, sizes, and incomes, they pretty much all have one thing in common besides their Italian-American heritage: Their pants.

[Pan down] Note the multi-colored offering of polyester pants, which by the way, are a real bitch to crease down the front like that. (I ironed my dad's pants once a week from 1991-1993.) They aren't just any polyester pants, however. First off, as my friend and fashion guru, Suzy Ten Bears says, "They're not even really pants. I find myself wanting to call them 'slacks.'" And she's right, they are more like slacks than anything else. They're Sans-a-belt slacks.

Thirty years later, you could still see my dad, and most of his friends, wearing the same pants, by which I mean the exact same pants. Not a new pair of the same style of pants, but the very pants they'd been wearing all along. (For those of you who rage against the half-life of plastic grocery bags, please add Sans-a-Belt pants to your list of Things That Last Four Thousand Years in a Landfill.)

They wear them to the bocce courts, and to lunch, and to card games. They wear them to do all the same stuff they've always done, like stand around telling stories and gambling on...everything. Dad's got grungy pairs he puts aside for doing things like disassembling the sprinkler system in his yard, and digging up the flower beds. Shoveling snow, and what have you. He's probably got nicer pairs that he wears to tournaments and Olive Garden, and in-between pairs that he wears for watching Antiques Roadshow. He's an older guy now, my dad, which means that his favorite slacks are getting old, too.

And here we are: No matter how well you take care of a garment, it's bound to forsake you. It's going to wear out at some point. I think Shakespeare may have been hanging out with my dad and talking about slacks the day he walked home from Ye Olde Olive Garden and wrote, "therein lies the rub."

Dad's been troubled by all this, I hear. I can relate. The expiration of my favorite things is often cause for reflection, and reflection isn't always comfortable. There's the nostalgia. The stories. The history. I imagine dad patting one leg of his trousers and saying, "Before deciding that blankets were more appealing, the government approached me about using these pants to introduce smallpox to the Native Americans, but I would have no part of it."

Mom says that San-a-Belt pants slacks are hard to come by these days, and so Dad is hoarding them, as I probably would. They probably still make them, but unless you're a referee or clergyman, you probably can't get your arthritic, spotted hands on a pair anymore. Not one to make assumptions, though, (you know what happens when you ass u me, right?) I took a look for Sans-a-Belt slacks. Sure enough, there's a "dealer locator" page at the Web site, which is interesting. I've never thought of clothing as being something that required a dealer, but, well, we are talking about an American institution here, an iconic brand that is perhaps made of petroleum products and sheet metal.

My mom, a woman who still has the red hounds tooth polyester pantsuit uniform she wore every day of her career as a reservations agent for Western Airlines (from 1865 until I graduated high school), had finally had enough. She thinks it's time to move on. I kind of agree, although this probably means that Dad's only alternatives are jogging suits or Dockers separates, or cheap jeans from COSTCO. Really, it doesn't matter. Whatever's comfy enough to watch Matlock in while you openly discuss your bowels.

But take heart from physics, friends, because matter is neither created nor destroyed. There is, somewhere in the cosmos, little pieces of Sans-a-Belt pants swirling and mingling with other materials, becoming reincarnated--with divine guidance, no doubt--into something new. Something wonderful. And for those of us who fear change, who deny death its right to a speedy trial, for those of us who would forget that the world is an impermanent place, I say simply this: Dillards. I called, and while the news is not great, "I have only a very few pieces of them," they do exist in the here and now. For now.

So go on, take an opportunity to grab a piece of history. You can someday set a pair next to your piece of the Berlin Wall, your autographed picture taken with the drummer from Def Leppard back when he had both arms. Put them in your time capsule. And wait for it, the dawning of a new age.


Dawn said...

I checked out your zwaggle thingy. Did a search for "firearms". Nothing.

Jody Reale said...

Ah, yes. My "Zwaggle thingy" is a mystery to many.

Megan (FriedOkra) said...

You know, I see a very lucrative eBay business in this post, which made me laugh outloud and want to cry, too. Your dad sounds like a character - I hope he finds just the Sans a Belts he wants, color, size and everything, and wears them in good health for many many long and happy years.

Matlock! Hee hee hee. You're a funny one.

Laura said...

I worked in a men's store for about five minutes between marriages a hundred years ago. I was amazed by the Sans-a-belt phenomenon. I wonder, though, if Sans-a-belt ever made a suit?

You know we're going to be discussing our bowels over Monk reruns, don't you?

Your Dad sounds awesome!

Anonymous said...

Ok a have your solution to your dad finding sansabelt pants. Go to I am Larrain the internet mananger there . Nice blog !

Anonymous said...

Well now Dillard's is a wonderful choice for the Sansabelt, try finding it for the father that is of larger size and not computer savey to order them over the web...Yes, I'm still stuck looking for them...Thanks for the blog, it sounds as if our father's should meet up...maybe they will one day while shopping for their new sansabelt.

Linda said...

Okay, I have to admit I was a little surprised there was still so much interest in Sans-a-belt pants. My husband has worn them for years - and I still have a picture of him in front of the Sands Hotel in Vegas too! Local store in KC still sells them - Michael's Store for Men. Lots of old school clothing - same sales people have been there for 40 years probably. There's nothing like a pair of sans-a-belt pants, that's for sure!