September 7, 2014

Fancy duds for fancy prices

AN OBSERVANT READER in San Diego, California, asks why the latest West Marine catalog (“Prices good September 4-21”) concentrates so much on clothing, rather than on bits for boats.  “The main sidehead on the front page says: ‘New Fall Apparel,’ ” he reports. “Is West Marine turning into a clothing store?”

Well now, I’m not getting into this. I recently promised to be nicer to West Marine. I asked God to fill my soul with kinder thoughts for the giant marine superstore, so that I could cut down on the criticism.

On the other hand, and upon more mature reflection, it occurs to me now that my promise doesn’t bind me not to repeat anything I have written on this subject before. So here is a column that was published more than two years ago. It still seems to be very appropriate, except that the prices have probably gone up in the interim:  

WHAT IS THE well-dressed sailor wearing these days? It's a question that doesn't normally occur to me, but it just so happens that West Marine has sent me a brochure listing all the wonderful boating things they have for sale, including what it pleases them to call "yachting apparel."

I must admit I have never owned any “yachting apparel.”  My sailing duds normally come from the thrift store and usually cost $1 for the top and $3 for the pants. This enables me to take off my tee-shirt and use it to mop up spilled engine oil without experiencing a twinge of conscience or a significant diminishment of my personal fortune. My granddaughter also informs me that the holes in my jeans are absolutely haute couture. She says the holes are  actually supposed to coincide with tattoos on my thighs and calves, so people can see them, but as I'm too old to have tattoos she thinks my hairy legs will do instead.

However, we stray. What I was saying is that I have West Marine's list of what you should be wearing if you wish to be admired and respected at the yacht club and on the racing circuit. Here is what they recommend:

Ø Tech sailing hat, $19.99.  It looks like any other baseball cap and has a West Marine logo on it, so they should be paying you to wear it because you are advertising West Marine.

Ø Sailing gloves, $26.99. They look like $5 gardening gloves without the pimples and I dare say you could use them to pull weeds when you're not sailing.

Ø Shoes. Apparently you need SeaRacer+ Sailing Shoes with GripX3, $119.99 They have an "exoskeleton" that "improves grip and protection for the top of your foot." Huh? The top? Go figure.

Ø Boots, $79.95. Not your ordinary boots, of course. These are Gills, and "worn by many of the world's top sailors." If you want to look smart, win races, feel like a top-world sailor, and go bankrupt, buy Gills.

Ø Shirt, $29.99. This short-sleeved, simply styled, classic camp shirt comes in bluestone, ivory, seafoam, and black. Such sweet colors. But it regains macho status from its name: Men's Anchor Shirt. (Not an anchor anywhere to be seen, though.)

Ø Shorts, $39.99. Real sailors wear jeans, but if you must match the rest of your outfit then you need Men's Admiral Shorts in Driftwood Khaki or Oyster Khaki.  There's a 9-inch inseam from your oysters to your driftwood, which should be long enough for most.

Ø Offshore jacket and bib, $409.00. Alaskan crab fishermen face the toughest working conditions in the fishing industry. They wear yellow PVC slickers that cost about one-tenth of West Marine's Musto duds. But what do they know?  Musto will keep you looking smarter and smelling fresher than those dumb crabbers.

So if you add it all up it comes to $725.90. Not bad, really, if you're a 1 percenter.  Or pretending to be.

Today's Thought
Fond pride of dress is sure a very curse;
Ere fancy you consult, consult your purse.
— Benjamin Franklin.

"How do you like your new beard?" "I didn't like it at first. Then it grew on me."

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)


biglilwave said...

I'm always reminded when I see dock jockeys in their fancy duds that how good one looks is inversely proportional to how much one sails.
Also, it can be said about boats too. I had one skipper, that I helped deliver his yacht from Vancouver B.C. to San Francisco, tell me he like his boats dirty dark and cramped. And how true that is when your offshore. When I'm down below I want to be snug as a bug in my dark bunk and I'm usually too tired to care how clean it is.

57 degrees North said...

Heh heh, for the ultimate in northern hemisphere yachting fashion, One only needs:

X-tra Tuff rubber boots (brown)

Helly Hanson or Grundens PVC bibs and jacket, (dark green is traditional, but blaze orange has been making inroads among the safety conscious)

Woolrich "halibut jacket" (frayed cuffs and missing buttons mandatory)

(On the rare sunny days, one may wish to dispense with the halibut jacket and "Helly" top, and lounge in the cockpit modeling a manky old sweatshirt with the sleeves cut off at the elbow.)

Altas brand PVC gloves with capilene liners (in classic orange)

Sporty and functional Woolrich rag wool "watch cap" (in classic black)

Please note: sporting top-siders, white shorts and a nifty pastel ball cap dockside anywhere north of 50 degrees latitude constitutes a health risk for others. (They may well die a-laughing)