It was the same outfit John Travolta wore on the 1977 Saturday Night Fever album. At $50, the white, wide-lapel suitcoat, the black rayon shirt, and tight white trousers were a steal. But I am not one to part with money on impulse. Am I bold? Yes. Decisive? A neighborhood garage sale demands nothing less. But rash? I’m the ad man who just snared the big skin care account. I am the hunter.
The woman standing behind the table of hand-me-down clothes and picked-over tchotchkes looked weary. She lowered her offer to $40 when I asked for her “friendliest price.” (The implication is that asking for $50 was unfriendly. It’s an effective ploy with the feeble-minded.) Still, I was able to wring another $10 from the price, insisting I had only $30 on my person. It was awkward when the wad I pulled from my Diesel jeans pocket included a one hundred dollar bill. She sighed and took the $30. It was to her benefit. She had $30 she didn’t have before, with which she could buy Meow Mix or yarn or whatever widowed pensioners living with six cats in dilapidated Bungalows spend their money on. And I was ready to strut.
Of course, strutting in those clothes is not something done more than three decades past their time, and I don’t haggle with the elderly just for sport. Wearing the outfit would test my mettle against a more formidable opponent: me. I loathe to admit it, but on the rare occasion, I struggle with confidence. Confidence is a muscle that atrophies if not flexed. Lately, inexplicably, my confidence has ebbed. Thus it is time for a confidence work-out. That’s why I set a goal of wearing the outfit three different days in public within a year, in trials of escalating social risk. To succeed, I will need to emerge from each event even more confident, popular, and envied than I am now—a renewed alpha male, bad to the bone.
The first of the three trials—Halloween—will be a warm-up to fortify me for later tests. It takes no great courage to dress unusually when unusual dress is the day’s raison d’ etre. Would a man wearing a late-70s disco costume with his shirt unbuttoned to the abdomen be conspicuous on October 31? Yes, I will be the sole reveler with a hang-gliding collar and contoured pants among banal covens of witches and rubber-fanged Draculas, and my panache will be lauded.
The second trial, New Year’s Eve, will demand more nerve. It’s a night of party clothes, and Travolta’s suit certainly qualifies. But it’s also a night when contemporary style is an advantage in the evening’s mating dance. (I must note that the risk of atypical dress would be more than social ostracism; I have an active Streak of waking up next to six-second soulmates every January 1 on the line.) Enigmatic would have to be the play. “Is he being ironic or irreverent?” When you keep them guessing, you have their attention—and are in control. A hallmark of confidence is the will to be the master of other’s fate, not just one’s own.
When would the third trial be? The outfit that sweats charisma on December 31 is, on Thanksgiving, just a sugary morsel for kin whose stomachs growl for gossip as much as candied yams. Christmas and the pastel-clad Easter are candidates, but I’m surely on heavenly probation for opting for poker night last week instead of Aunt Charlotte’s wake. I have no desire to provoke Him further. April Fool’s Day may come to mind, but is it plausible that I would be somehow duped into wearing a white-hot tribute to the era of sequins and chest hair? It is not.
It would have to be an ordinary day. Not in the neighborhood, as I live across from a playground. The clothes that once defined masculine virility now insinuate “registered sex offender” in the vicinity of children. Candidly, I’m not relishing wearing it to the office. The thought of pitching ad campaigns to clients and senior partners amid raised eyebrows and tittering secretaries—sorry, administrative assistants—fills me with trepidation. But that, ultimately, is the point. Projecting confidence anytime, anyplace, anywhere is born of conquering fears, and I will. That’s why I will be hailed on Halloween, The Streak will continue on New Year’s Day, and the TV ad launch of the new anti-wrinkle cream for house pets will rock the skin care world. Confidence.