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Jon Mark Beilue column - Posted January 27, 2017 noon
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Artwork by Andy Chase Cundiff

The sweater: God’s gift to the fashionably lazy

We are in the grip of winter here as we enter February with still a month or more of the coldest season, the shortest days, the slickest streets. So be it. As Mark Twain once said, “Everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it.”

Maybe it’s better to look at positives however and wherever you can find them. One of the virtues of winter – maybe the only one – is the winter wardrobe. More specifically, the sweater, which along with jeans may be the two greatest fashion accessories invented by man for man.

I come to praise the sweater, not to bury it. It is one of the most overlooked, disregarded articles of clothing in any closet, yet so valuable, so versatile, so wonderfully lazy to wear.

If it were up to me, I’d wear a sweater every day from the first of November until sometime in March. And on the rare days I didn’t wear a sweater, I’d select among my fashionable line of hoodies to wear, but that’s a story for another day.

There are currently 17 sweaters in the top of my closet that are in various stages of half-folded, balled up or draped over a suitcase. To put that in perspective, I don’t have 17 of anything else. Not underwear, not socks, not shoes, not knit shirts, not ties.

I got crew neck, V-neck, half-zips, sweater vests, argyle, wool, cotton, blended, you name it. I have everything but a Mr. Rogers cardigan, and I’d proudly rock that if I had one and start smoking a pipe if need be.

My collection began during those awkward years of Christmas gift-giving, from around ages 25 to 50. Soap-on-a-rope and Old Spice gift sets had played out, and stumped family members kinda threw up their hands and settled in to the default idea of just-get-him-a-sweater that went from the 1980s until – well, it’s still going on.

Which is fine, the more the merrier. Why the sweater? Is it fashionable? Well, that’s part of it. I give you something called “The Gentlemanual,” and the top 10 things that women like about men’s fashions:

6. We love the V-neck sweater on a guy. The V-neck is indicative of studiousness and is worn by men who are put together and who know how to take care of themselves. A V-neck is just the right balance between casual and done up.

I’m not the studiousness, put together or take care of myself parts, but that last sentence speaks volumes. I will wear a sweater to church, and since this is being written in late December, I’ll probably wear one to go outside and take down the Christmas lights in just a bit.

And it just might be the very same sweater.

That’s the beauty of the sweater. It’s welcome at any cool-weather occasion, but what sets this Wonderment of Wool apart is it’s for the fashionably lazy at heart. “Just put a sweater over it” might be the sweetest six words in men’s clothing.

Bob Knight gets it. The Hall of Fame basketball coach back in the 1980s essentially said the heck with it, and dropped wearing his loud plaid sports jacket and tie and honed in on the sweater for the next 20 years.

At Texas Tech, he wore a black sweater with an O’Reilly Auto Parts insignia on it. For all I know, it may have been the same black sweater for the eight years he was Tech’s coach. To which I say, so what?

Much of the time he wore that sweater over a knit shirt, which is kind of a faux pas among the fashion elite – like he remotely cared. You know that shirt he wore had that day’s lunch over the front, but the sweater hides all that.

I can wear a wrinkled shirt under a sweater. I can wear one with a spot on it under a sweater. I can have a button-down with a hole on it, and my wife will say, “Don’t throw that away. You can put it under a sweater.” To which I say, “Amen, sister.” I can wear a T-shirt from the 1984 Amarillo National Bank 10K under a sweater.

A sweater is often warm enough that a bulky coat is not needed, but cool enough inside that’s it’s no different than a sports jacket or a long-sleeve shirt. And since you can hide the same shirt under a multitude of sweaters, laundry doesn’t pile up as much.

Granted, a sweater does conform to the body, so it will not hide certain enlarged belly parts, but maybe that’s just the motivation to drop a few pounds to wear the versatile Swiss Pocket Knife of Clothing.

God bless the sweater. Long may it wear.


by Jon Mark Beilue

Jon Mark Beilue is an award-winning columnist for AGN Media. He can be reached at jon.beilue@amarillo.com or (806) 345-3318.
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