RECENTLY -- I BET THIS HAS Happened to you -- I ran out of clean underwear in Los Angeles. So I wandered into the men's clothing department of an upscale department store, the kind of store where the salesclerks all have sharp haircuts and perfectly tailored suits that are far nicer than anything YOU own, and, although they act very deferential, you know they're secretly watching to see which clothes you touch so they can have them burned later as a precaution against vermin.
So I was skulking around, looking for the underwear section, and I came across the Ralph Lauren Exhibit, which, in addition to clothes, featured an old saddle, croquet mallets and various other props associated with rich people. Ralph uses these to create a fashion look that has made him several zillion dollars, a look that I would describe as "Wealthy Constipated WASP." His magazine adver- tisements feature Lauren-clad people with their hair slicked back, standing around in large, old, antique-infested houses, looking grim, as if they have just received the tragic news that one of their key polo ponies had injured it- self trampling a servant to death and would be unavailable for an important match.
I myself am of WASP heritage, and although my family was not even close to wealthy, we knew WASPs who were, and I frankly cannot understand why any fun-oriented person would want to imitate their lifestyle. Wealthy WASPs have less fun in their entire lifetimes than members of other ethnic groups have at a single wedding reception. Trust me. I have been to both WASP and non-WASP weddings, and your WASP couple can get married, go on their honeymoon, come home, pursue careers, have children and get divorced in less time than it takes for a non-WASP couple to get to the part of their reception where everybody drinks champagne from the maid of honor's brassiere.
Nevertheless, the WASP look has been very good to Ralph Lauren. So has an- other clothing line of his that I would describe as "Pretend Cowboy," which is advertised via photographs of rugged male models wearing designer cowboy outfits and authentic Wild West male fragrances, fixin' to ride their taste- fully color-coordinated horses down to the Old Tradin' Post to purchase a heap o' stylin' gel.
So anyway, I was looking at the Lauren Exhibit, and I came across this T-shirt. It was a regular white T-shirt such as you might use to mow the lawn in or mop up spilled Yoo-Hoo with, except for two things:
1. On the front, in large letters, it had the words "RALPH LAUREN STATE FAIR SEPT. 26-OCT. 1" and a large picture of a cowboy on a horse that was bucking wildly (perhaps because the cowboy was wearing too much male fragrance).
2. The price was $57.50.
Yup. Fifty-seven dollars and 50 cents. I once bought an entire SUIT for less than that. I admit that it was not an elegant suit. It was made from what appeared to be the same material they use to cover mattresses. I think it actually had a tag on the lapel that could not be removed under Penalty of Law. I was afraid to wear this suit late at night for fear that tired people would try to lie down on me. But at least it was a whole suit, for less than Ralph charges for a T-SHIRT.
Not that I mean to be critical. Hey, people are BUYING these things, just as they are paying top dollar for jeans that appear to have been ripped to shreds by crazed wolverines. You know why? Because garments like these make a STATEMENT. You wear a Lauren State Fair T-shirt, and you are telling the world: "I paid $57.50 for this T-shirt. God alone knows what I would pay for an official Ralph Lauren jockstrap."
So I am all in favor of the designer T-shirt concept, and I am only sorry that the Lauren Exhibit didn't feature any men's briefs for $38.95 per leg hole, or whatever Ralph would charge. I wound up having to go elsewhere and purchase another famous designer underwear brand. A French one. Le Mart du K.