Farm fashions

Farm Forum

“Clothes make the man,” Mark Twain once observed. “Naked people have little or no influence on society.”

This is true, especially in this part of the world at this time of the year. Anyone running around unclothed in the midst of a Midwestern winter is going to have zero influence on society, mainly because they will be unable to move due to having become a humanoid icicle. This is why there are so few clothing-optional beaches in our neck of the woods.

At the risk of rousing the ire of the gender police, I am going to go out on a limb and say that females tend to think more about clothing than do males. Men are likely to spend more time ruminating about the implications of the infield fly rule than the contents of their wardrobes.

Guys generally put as little effort as possible into making themselves presentable. I know some men who, were it acceptable, would dress themselves for going out by applying post-it notes to their bodies.

There will certainly be exceptions to any generalization regarding men and their clothing. Some guys are downright impulsive about their outward appearances. Every button has to be matched up to the proper butthole, their shoes must be polished to the point where they are more reflective than chrome and their hair impeccably coifed and locked into place with “product.” And that’s just so that they feel presentable enough to walk from the living room to the kitchen.

But for the most part, guys are more likely to be slobs than females. This conclusion is based on the comparison between my wife and me.

When I was a young dairy farmer, I saw clothing as nothing more than a tool. Clothes were what kept the sun and the bugs off me in the summertime and prevented me from freezing to death in the winter. I didn’t care how my clothing might look, just so long as it served its intended function.

For instance, in the wintertime I would customarily wear a set of heavy-duty insulated coveralls when I milked cows and did chores. These coveralls had zippers where a guy needed them and plenty of pockets to hold such essentials as a jackknife, a pair of pliers and an emergency supply of M&M’s with which I could bribe/ reward dogs and kids.

Keeping my coveralls clean was an exercise in futility. As soon as I entered our dairy barn while wearing freshly laundered coveralls, some cow would gallop past and bespatter me with flying fountains of bovine digestive system byproducts. It was as if the cows saw the clean coveralls as a challenge to their primacy. The bossies, overcome by jealousy, felt that they needed to re-mark their territory.

But the manure showers didn’t really bother me as the coveralls were thick and resistant to such assaults. I could have even worn my Sunday duds under my coveralls and might have thus greatly shortened the amount of time it would have taken to get ready to attend a cousin’s wedding. Not that I actually ever did such a thing, mind you.

My wife was always disgusted by the disgusting state of my barn attire.

“You need to wash those icky coveralls!” she declared one day. “They’re so dirty, they could stand up by themselves!”

I pointed out that this was a benefit since the coveralls didn’t need a clothing hook to be hung upon.

She whacked me upside the head with a box of Tide. “Just put the coveralls in the wash!” she exclaimed. “They make you look like a gingerbread version of the Pillsbury Doughboy!”

Reinforcing my gender-based clothing stereotyping is the fact that the garment industry tends to advertise to females much more than to males. There is no masculine equivalent to Victoria’s Secret. If there were, it would likely be called I’ll Tell You A Secret If You Come Over Here And Pull My Finger.

The postal service regularly brings us a generous supply of clothing advertising materials. I would estimate that the number of clothing magazines we receive could fill the Library of Congress in a matter of weeks.

One evening as I was thumbing through the latest crop of clothing publications I crowed to my wife, “Look at this! Finally, a clothing magazine that has something for us guys! Get a load of those comfy coveralls and these stylish barn boots. And this house of fashion also sells tractor engine oil filters!”

My wife glanced at the publication and muttered, “You goof! That’s a circular for a farm supply store.”

Aha! I knew there was a reason why the guys modeling those coveralls seemed especially influential.

If you’d like to contact Jerry to do some public speaking, or just to register your comments, you can e-mail him at: