Finding the (im)perfect match for chameleon sports coat

Sometimes I think I’m nothing more than a walking, breathing magnet for weird clothing – not avant-garde, not outrageous, just weird.

My propensity for such apparel was reinforced a few days ago when I found myself in the men’s clothing section of a large department store and was inexorably drawn toward a colorful banner that offered “Sport Coats! 20 Percent Off!”

This appeared to be a great deal not only due to what appeared to be a substantial price reduction, but also because all the aforementioned sport coats appeared to be intact. It seems like every time I purchase an article of clothing that’s advertised at 20 percent off, it means the sleeves or pockets are missing.

These corduroy blazers had not only both sleeves, but were priced under 40 bucks. Even better, they were painstakingly tailored in Vietnam, the recognized fashion capital of, er, Vietnam…

Best of all, they were offered in a conservative charcoal gray color, perfect for lurking about dimly lit courthouse hallways where I ply my journalistic trade.

Alas, it was that conservative gray color that eventually proved to be my undoing, because the coat wasn’t always gray.

When I stepped out from under the department store’s fluorescent lights and into the bright sunlight, the coat appeared to turn black. When I later stepped into incandescent light, the coat turned a distinctive brown. In my car it looked to be a brownish-maroon.

At first, I thought I might be suffering from some rare ocular malady. When I glanced around my office, however, I realized the only thing that was changing color was my coat. My chair remained a goofy aquamarine color, my desk stayed an uninspiring gray and the county reporter’s hair was still dark brown.

“Hey, what color is my coat?” I asked passing co-workers.

“Gray,” said one decisively.

“Brown,” said another, just as decisively.

A third then weighed in with a cheerful “Peat moss – definitely peat moss. But not that stuff like in a peat bog. More like, you know, a coastal mountain range with a lot of rotting oak trees. You know, earthy but dependable …”.

She later summed the whole thing up with “That’s really kind of weird …” and sauntered off to calculate retail sales tax revenues.

Not only is it weird, it’s a potential workday apparel disaster.

Hey, I’m no fashion model – you figured that out, right? – but I do try, every so often, to coordinate my business wear.

So exactly how do I coordinate an earthy peat moss coat with shirt, shoes and trousers when the aforementioned color may change to brown or charcoal gray in the blink of an eye?

Sure, I could simply give up and deliver the reality-challenged sport coat to the Salvation Army, but 40 bucks is 40 bucks and I’d only worn the damned thing twice.

On the other hand, I now run the risk of showing up in court and being greeted by an impeccably dressed attorney or judge who’ll cheerfully observe “Nice outfit – planning on joining the carnival?”

It’s a complicated world, amigos …

Originally published February 25, 2007