Have you read Carson Kressley's book "Off the Cuff," where the flamboyant one-fifth of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" personally tells you in his trademark style all you need to know about fashion, style, and couture?
I did. It didn't help, even with pictures.
Not that I didn't pay attention, mind you. I'm a big fan of the show. And his book is just as over the top as he is, with tips and tricks, simple, useful advice, and constant use of the declaration "people." He provides fast and funny advice with lots of examples for advanced fashion artiste and couture-blind beginner alike. It's not rocket science, people!
But, despite his best efforts, fashion simply has no effect on me. It's like putting cross-trainers on a fish. You wouldn't say, "Hey, that fish is wild! I'll bet he's fun and cool and hip, and has that back-court mobility he needs!"
No, you'd say something like, "Get those things off that poor fish, quickly! He'll die!"
Which is exactly the response I get when I attempt to dress up, even to the point where well meaning people try to keep me moist while they push me back into the ocean.
My clothing has exactly two functions: to keep most of me covered for the public good and to give me somewhere to put stuff. Warmth isn't much of an issue in Florida. One merely adds more layers of clothes until the optimum temperature is achieved or until you can't reach your buttons anymore. The only other consideration is sex appeal, and we'll wait a moment until everyone's stomach settles again.
Instead I stick with my own personal style, which is that of a slightly impoverished college student with a severe neurological disorder. There's no real decision-making necessary. Everything I own matches — for a given value of "match" — so I can grab my clothes with my eyes closed and still achieve the same result. Many would suspect that's exactly how I do it, in fact.
Here, then, is the Bridges Guide to Low Fashion.
First: jeans. Carson advises paying a bit extra for good quality jeans that will last. You'll definitely need them; jeans are the quintessential American pants, good for everything from septic tank work to fancy dinners, often in the same evening. However, I know that as the seasons pass my waist size will change by several inches in either direction, so buying jeans that last longer than two or three months is just throwing money away.
Shirts should not advertise anything unless I personally am getting paid for it. Otherwise, I prefer shirts that go well with jeans, which is any shirt that doesn't actually require batteries.
I have two belts: one brown, one black. The brown one is for everyday wear and for sliding down high-tension power cables during emergency spy situations. The black one is for special occasions, like weddings, funerals, and presidential inaugurations, when I wear my dress jeans.
No UGG boots, no Hugo Boss calf leather lace-ups, no athletic shoes that require a balloon mortgage and three forms of ID. I walk into Wal-Mart, find the $15 specials, try one on, and I'm out of there in five minutes. Maybe a little more if I had to lace the shoe first. That same pair will serve me well as work shoes, jogging shoes, shower shoes, cross-trainers, bedroom slippers, pest control, and emergency hammer.
Accessories include vintage underwear, about a hundred socks of not-quite-matching styles and colors, jogging pants I wear to pretend that wandering around the house holding a Mountain Dew is really "working out," and a cowboy outfit that I save for those special nights. That's standard, I'm sure Carson has one too.
I know I won't be winning any beauty contests, but I don't have to. I've got a job that keeps me out of the public eye and I married my wife before she knew any better. And instead of wasting all those precious hours with shopping and obsessive clothing buying, I've regained that valuable time and used it wisely and well by… well, mostly by wandering around the house holding a Mountain Dew.
But at least everything matches.