Saturday, April 18, 2009

Magical Dry Cleaning Every Guy Should Know About

When I graduated from college, my business attire consisted of a hand-me-down navy blazer, a few pairs of khakis in various shades and brown leather shoes that didn't even match the color of my tattered belt. I had no versatility in my dressier wardrobe. I'd look the same on the day a family member died as I would if a friend was getting married or if I was going for a job interview.

Somehow, I guess because special occasions are also usually one-time occurrences, I was able to stretch the utility of this default get-up. Rarely would I see extended family frequently enough for them to recall that I wore the same outfit on the previous occasion. And job interviews and graduations were different arenas entirely. They were short, and the bit players and settings always changed.

Because I wasn't in a fraternity or business association and participated in few extracurricular activities (besides video games, intramural sports, leading Bible studies and playing my guitar), in the fashion category I had little need for more than a pair of flip-flops and a staggering array of t-shirts and jeans during my time at university.

But all that changed on the day I wore my trusty job interview/funeral/wedding/graduation outfit to meet with my first prospective full-time employer. With my safety-pinned gold buttons holding my polyester blazer in place and khakis furtively covering the white tube socks coming out of my coffee-colored suede shoes, I sat before the woman I'd replace and the man who'd become my boss. A few weeks later they hired me as an international business reporter.

The thing about being a business reporter is that you have to go to events and venues where international business is being conducted. Often, that includes lunches and dinners at swanky restaurants or hotels where safety-pinned clothes are frowned upon, to say the least. Another thing is that you often meet with sharp-looking businesspeople and diplomats who might not give the time of day to someone who looks like they've just shuffled in from off the street.

My problem was deeper still, compounded by the fact that as a reporter, you're expected to build a community, a network of sources and friends that help you feel the pulse of what's going on in your area of coverage. If I wore the same thing to event after event, certainly people would begin to notice.

To make a long story short, I'll tell you that I had to buy suits, more suits than I ever wanted to waste - I mean, spend - money on. I have a black suit, a brown suit, a gray suit, a navy suit, another gray suit and a seersucker suit. I got extremely good deals on all these, but it was still an expense I hadn't foreseen. Graduating college, I thought I was finally going to begin making real money. That part was true, but it turns out that life seems to demand a lot more from you if you're married with a relatively nice apartment and a car payment (at least more than when you were living with five other guys and drove a busted-up, but paid-off, Volvo station wagon).

Aside from the fact that I'd rather see life lived solely in t-shirts, what really annoys me about suits, or just dressing up in general, is that I can't use the washing machine to clean my nice clothes. So on top of all I spent to buy clothes made of high-quality fabrics, I keep pouring money into them just to keep them looking presentable. You'd think that the relationship between price and convenience would be correlative, not inverse, like with microwaves.

I've never liked dry cleaning. I went to the drive-thru cleaners quite often with my mom when I was young. She'd always pull the massive load through her window and employ my help in draping a huge bundle of wire hangers over those tiny hooks that hang down from the ceiling above the back seat. We'd get the clothes home and store them in closets until the next special occasion, when I'd pull them out to discover, to my horror, that the shirts had been starched. I'd soon be walking around like I was stuffed in a shirt-shaped cardboard box.

This childhood aversion hasn't gone away, and it's worse now because I'm the one that's footing the bill for the madness and having to waste time during my day to go to shady, drab dry cleaning establishments, where prices are obscured and aesthetics are totally sacrificed on the altar of cruel efficiency.

So imagine my delight and surprise when, as we were rushing to get ready for a funeral visitation, Katy revealed to me that there was a product that could totally eliminate this hassle. It's called Dryel. It comes with this magical bag, in which you place up to four of your suit jackets or pants, skirts or other non-machine-washable articles of clothing. Along with the clothing, you throw in the secret ingredient, an equally magical "ULTRA cleaning cloth." Toss the sack in the dryer and let it tumble around for a half hour, and voila, the clothes come out looking just as good as if you'd lugged a massive laundry basket a few miles and dropped it off with your favorite reclusive dry cleaner, who would hide the clothes for a period of two to four days, at which point you'd return to pay the ransom and set them free.

For totally eliminating this process and doing so at a fraction of the cost of normal dry cleaning, Dryel is my new best friend. It's one thing that all guys should know about but I assume very few do.

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