COLUMN: "Where’s my jump suit?"

This is my weekly column for the Sunday, March 21, 2010 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune.

Where’s my jump suit?
By Aaron J. Brown

The year is 2010. I can’t be more clear than this. I was promised a jump suit by now and I haven’t received one.

In the not-so-distant past science fiction writers inferred that the year 2000 (or 2001, for true believers) was “the future” and than the year 2010 was “the sequel to the future.” In any event, the hard reality of the ‘90s, with its baggy clothing and lingering 1980s hair product was supposed to fade by now. Instead what we see on commercials, in catalogues, and on the racks of our local clothing stores is, in fact, a greatest hits celebration of the last 50 years of fashion. 1970s avocado greens collide with 1960s design and 1950s hair and we’re suppose to buy it all, quite literally purchase a modern version of the past and pretend that it is current. Indeed, our economy depends upon as much.

I say again, where is my jump suit?

Of course, I know the answer. And you do, too. If I were to wear a jump suit to work, to civic occasions and social engagements I would appear much like a Dr. Seuss or “Far Side” figure; an irregularly proportioned creature not from the future but from the funny pages. I am shaped like a modern human, which is to say that my middle exceeds my bottom and top and that I sure do enjoy the cheese and related products. This is not true of all humans, just most Americans and certainly the ones who write newspaper columns in the Midwest.

The concept of a jump suit is simple. Everyone is the same. Everyone looks good in a shiny, universal garment that never needs to be washed because IT’S THE FUTURE! In the future, concerns such as moisture wicking, body odor and BMI shall not inhibit the human race from its claim on the sort of uncomplicated clothing that thousands of years of human sacrifice presupposed.

Even 15 years ago, the idea of a jump suit seemed plausible. A variety of “Star Trek” spinoffs were still functioning, selling us the myth of the uniform-for-life. But a cold reality set in. Kentucky Fried Chicken changed its name to KFC to appear healthy and then released a sandwich last year that replaced bread with slabs of fried chicken: a paradox that appealed to the base nature of our times. We want to eat fat and be skinny. That’s the premise we’re sold, and our clothes tell the tale.

In the old days pants had a button and a zipper. Every day you’d fasten your button, ascend your zipper and enjoy the promise that one day there would be no buttons and zippers, just the everlasting glory of a form fitting jump suit around your taut figure. As I write this I am wearing new pants: trousers from the present, which is to say that they are the pants of the past’s future. These pants have a zipper, a button, and a catchy-thing that serves as a backup in case my waistline exerts too much pressure on this whole mechanism. Is this a personal affront on my body type by the pants-masters of our times? I doubt it. Rather, my pants speak not just for me, but for a multitude of consumers who are not yet ready for the jump suit era.

This past week I began a new project. The jump suit era won’t begin until I take action. I’m going to shed enough weight to plausibly appear in a jump suit. No, I don’t think I’ll ever appear like a young Captain Kirk. Rather, I merely hope to appear like the visiting officers from Star Fleet. These men are not sex symbols, but they can pull off a jump suit, by gum. Because this is the future and that’s what people do.

Aaron J. Brown is a columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune. Read more at his blog or in his book “Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range.”

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