Saturday, July 24, 2004

Select the right clothes

Mark M. Hancock / © The Dallas Morning News

Bert Byerley, president and CEO of Bibbentuckers, laughs as he poses for a portrait at one of his stores in Dallas. Byerley has captured the attention and loyalty of customers by innovating the industry with his full-service dry cleaning service, which includes drive-through service and refreshments - even for children and pets.

This summer, I got a half dozen pairs of cutoff jeans. I had a closet full of jeans with holes in the right knee (I call them my "religious jeans" because they are so holey). In other words, they're useless for work.

Part of a PJ's budget goes toward clothes. We destroy everything we wear. Pants, shirts, shoes, hats, leather jackets – nothing can handle this job. There are two approaches to buying clothes for a PJ (pay attentions moms): 1) buy lots of cheap, durable clothes 2) buy the best, most rugged clothes. I'm not a clothes freak, so I take the first option. However, I try to buy American-made clothes whenever possible (and affordable).

As a general rule, we aren't allowed to wear shorts to work (there are always exceptions), so we wear jeans or casual trousers. Khaki and black jeans are the coolest because they're rugged and don't initially look like jeans. Black is the best choice because it helps camouflage the PJ. In the old (darkroom) days, PJs typically wore black and brown clothes to hide the Dektol stains (it's brown and nothing removes it). It also absorbs light, so there was no additional fogging of printing paper.

Shirts are easy. A polo shirt with a collar and pocket is good most days.

Shoes are really important. Leather, leather, leather. For the animal activists out there... leather, leather, leather anyway (it's OK, I already ate the cow. Please be eco-friendly and keep the leftover part out of a landfill). I stuck with leather boots and sneakers after I was in the Army and saw the scars and burns I left on my boots, which otherwise would have been stitches and skin grafts.

The most bizarre side effect of this job is how our shoes wear out. I typically wear out the top and toe of my shoes before I wear out the sole. This is explained by the number of knees I rip out of my jeans. So, choose shoes wisely if you are on a tight budget.

This year, I've been running a lot. I'm wearing out the soles faster for a change. I was really proud of my "American-made" cross trainers – until I was covering a fire and my shoes immediately started squishing. Whatever is designed to let air in to the shoe also lets water in – except leather (it does too, but it takes longer).

For general-purpose shoes, get some with tread for traction in the mud, ice, oil and raw sewage spills (trust me on this one). Make sure it's flexible (PJs bend their feet a lot). Black and brown colors are best, but you know your own style best. Make absolutely sure it's non-marking (doesn't leave marks on gym floors).

Padded hightop sneaker/boots give extra protection to the ankles as well as keep water out better than low top sneakers. Padded hightops may also save a hospital visit after a snake gets a little too friendly. Avoid steel-toed shoes because it's easier to fix broken toes than to find and reattach severed toes – plus they'll set off every metal detector in town.

Jackets and coats are again better in leather. I already answered why. Make sure it has inside pockets to keep dit batteries and/or film warm (to increase dit battery charge and avoid static discharges on the film).

Gloves are tricky. I have different pairs depending on the weather. Normally, sports test the quality of any pair of gloves. Think of the worst February day and remember that you'll hold onto an aluminum pole with a chunk of titanium at the top. Then pick the warmest and most flexible glove.

Some PJs like to use silk glove liners. I prefer trigger mittens (a mitten with an additional index finger compartment). They can be found at Army / Navy surplus stores. There are regular trigger mittens with wool liners. These work for most people. Sometime the wool liner alone will do. There's also an arctic version, which is probably overkill unless PJs are outside overnight in sub-zero environments.

If a PJ has the cash, go for the arctic trigger mittens with faux fur backs and quilted nylon liners. They rock because they have long sleeves with elastic to fit over jacket sleeves and keep water out.

I'll do an entry about rain gear some other day since this post is a little long.

Enough for now,

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