o Karen at the Credit Union sees me stroll in, crooks a finger, beckoning me over. (Oh, cripes – did a cheque bounce?)
No. Karen wishes to address my state of dress.
“Suspenders AND a belt, Arthur? That’s a sign of a seriously insecure man.”
Not guilty, Karen. Wearing suspenders and a belt is a sign of a man whose butt has dropped off.
It happens, you know. Cowboys and long-distance truckers have no butts. They hammer them flat with all the bouncing and jouncing their chosen professions entail.
And old guys? We lose our butts too. Collateral damage, along with head hair, high arches and the desire to stay up past 10 p.m..
Calvin Trillin, an old guy who writes for The New Yorker, has given a name to the phenomenon. He calls it DST – Disappearing Tush Syndrome. The condition, says Trillin, which “could cause an otherwise respectable senior citizen to walk right out of his pants”.
Enter suspenders. An over-the-shoulder weight-bearing device that can hold up a pair of pants regardless of the presence or absence of a fleshy caboose.
The principle of suspenders has been around ever since some saggy-bummed Neanderthal discovered that a shoulder strap knotted to the front and back of his sabre-tooth tiger jockey shorts kept his dangly bits warm and cosy. Suspenders proper didn’t show up for another few hundred thousand years – in the mid-nineteenth century, when changes to men’s trouser style made belts impractical.
Since then, suspenders have had an up and down ride. They became less popular after World War I when men got accustomed to uniform belts. Over the years, they swung in and out of fashion; but more out than in. Somewhere along the line they became labelled as underwear, fit only to be seen on lumberjacks, sledge-hammering railroad navvies or tycoons caught with their suit jackets off.
But suspenders fill a need. As all old guys learn when gravity beckons and your butt falls off, belts just won’t do the job anymore. Indeed, some health advisors consider reliance on belts to be positively unhealthy.
“There are more (bulging) stomachs caused by the wearing of a belt” wrote one Chicago doctor, “than any other one thing that I know of.” His advice for achieving that flat-as-a-table abdominal profile? Posture, exercise “and wearing suspenders”.
So who took his advice? Well, Annie Hall, in the movie of the same name; Alex, the head hooligan in A Clockwork Orange, greedhead Gordon Gekko in the movie Wall Street and Larry King, the owl like celebrity interviewer on television.
And me. But I am not trying to make a fashion statement, break into the movies or host my own TV show.
I wear a belt because it gives me a place to hang the pouch of my Swiss Army knife; I wear suspenders to keep my pants up.
My advice to my fellow buttless colleagues: be not afraid. Hang in there.
And for those who don’t like my advice: belt up.