"For Pete’s sake, men, put yourselves together..." - JJ Francais Associate Publisher
"For Pete’s sake, men, put yourselves together..." - JJ Francais Associate Publisher

“Be well dressed, behave like a gentleman, and keep your shoes shined.”

— Joseph Abboud, fashion designer

I’m addressing the male of our species today. In so doing, I mean absolutely no disrespect toward women. I would that all would heed my advice. But in all candor, I know very little about women’s fashion. Therefore, on the advice of the inimitable Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), I’m writing what I know.

Dear men,

When was the last time you wore a clip-on tie? What about socks? When was the last time you wore white ankle socks with a suit? What’s this you say? Really? You don’t wear white socks with your navy suit? Then why accessorize an $800 tailored suit with a fifty cent face mask? Have we forgotten all we know about color palettes? Has the era of masks overtaken our ability to put ourselves together?

Like it or not, love it or hate it, masks will be a part of our wardrobe for the foreseeable future. Some of us voluntarily wear them for our protection and to protect others. Some of us wear them because we are required to obey the law. Still others wear them simply because they have become a sort of social norm. Whatever the reason, shouldn’t we, as businessmen, wear them with the same pride and dignity with which we otherwise accessorize? If not out of respect for the mask itself, then for ourselves?

For the cost of less than a dozen blues you can pick up a stylish Johnston & Murphy mask at Edward’s Men’s Wear in Lawton. They are durable, washable and, for love of a few hundred years of fashion sense, they can be complementary to our outfit.

‘Put yourself together’

For me, this is about more than colors, fab- rics and trends. It’s a matter of respect.

As a child, my mother would tell me, “You have to put yourself together.”

Long before the rise of Mark Cuban — who, after selling his first business, swore off suits — my mother would speak of people like J.J. Gibson — a man who made my mom comfortable with initials as a name. Gibson was one of the best ranch managers to ever work this God-given rock called we so affectionately call Earth. He was always “put together,” even if he was only drinking coffee at the Lena’ Country Kitchen in Paducah, Texas.

My mother would often spin yarns about her grandfather, about how he didn’t consider himself dressed if he didn’t have a pocket watch in

his right front pocket. She knew those days were long gone, but she wasn’t about to raise a son who was happy being a slouch. When the saggy pants trend, where folks began letting their pants hang lazily off their hips, swept through the small town of Dibble, America, my mother would say, “If you want to be taken seriously, you have to wear a belt.” She would tell me, “If it has loops, you have to put something through them.”

Now, I love my mother. After all, she found a way to raise me without, “Killing me and telling God I died.” But, she’s no fashionista. She did, after all, allow me to wear M.C. Hammer pants and a hideous shirt with “skate” emblazoned across it. She insists that I really wanted to wear that shirt. We won’t even get into my skater and “fly wheel” phase.

Those fashion missteps aside, she did insist I dress the part — from the church pew to courthouse steps, I was expected to look presentable.

My parents were bail agents. From the years preceding kindergarten until I was in my teens I often found myself sitting in a courtroom as my mom tried to anticipate which of her clients would fail to show for their day in court.

I wasn’t the only one subjected to the, “Put yourself together,” lectures. My mother often subjected her clients to the same spiel, reminding them that a little respect for the courtroom would go a long way. For those who either missed her speech or simply failed to heed her words, she would often remark to me, “Don’t you ever dress like that if you are going to court!” That commandment would quickly be followed by, “Don’t end up here!”

My mother was full of wisdom, much of which I wouldn’t heed until much later in life. She always encouraged me to find success — understand it, emulate it, replicate it and ultimately, make it mine. She wanted her kids, and others, to define their own success. She would always say, “Whether you’re a preacher or an electrician, you have to ‘put yourself together.’”

From church on Sun- days to court on Tuesdays, from Mrs. Phillips’ first-grade classroom to District Judge Henshaw’s chambers, from a gaggle of attorneys to a plethora of pimps, drug dealers and even a forger — those who were the most successful among their peers were the ones who “put themselves together.”

———o———

This may seem like a short trip down a rabbit hole but follow me while I make one last point.

I once asked my mother how one of her clients could walk into a big-box store and essentially steal their entire jewelry display. Her response? “Because they looked like they belonged there.” No, it didn’t motivate me to dress the part and become Ocean’s 26 (he seems to recruit more folks with each sequel). But it did reinforce the idea that if you want to fit in, you need to look the part.

There were times when my mother’s good sense prevailed. I still remember begging and pleading with her to let me wear (an absolutely hideous) tie to my first day of kindergarten. Like many other arguments, I didn’t win that one. That particular loss turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It was some kind of tacky polyester blend, brown, clip-on tie that would have clashed with anything and everything.

It has been 20 years since I accompanied either of my parents into a courtroom, but that life lesson — “Put yourself together” — prepared me for the road ahead. Whether fundraising for non-profits, attending a trial on behalf of a newspaper or representing my employer on Capitol Hill, dressing the part has always made the task at hand easier.

Here in Southwest Oklahoma my favorite haberdashery is Edward’s Men’s Wear in Lawton. They didn’t pay me to drop their name here, but they are an advertiser in the Southwest Ledger. They’re also my sole source when it comes to masks.

Whether you’re a businessman or a tradesman, a plebeian or a elder statesman, have pride in what you wear! I implore you, please stop wearing those dirty blue face napkins. Go see Eddie. Tell him that opinionated news jerk said you need a mask designed for businessmen. He’ll fix you up in no time. For Pete’s sake, men, put yourselves together...

Contact JJ Francais at jj.francais@hillcom.net.