Coat and Tie Required

By Marc Dion

March 27, 2017 4 min read

I'm a newspaper columnist. I write this column, but I'm also the columnist for The Herald News, a midsized daily in Massachusetts. I write two columns a week for The Herald News, sometimes three, and I've been doing that work for 25 years.

I work in a 130-year-old brick building, on the second floor, in a brutally lit, sparsely furnished newsroom where I am 20 years older than nearly everyone.

And I like to dress up for work, even though most of the other men don't. It's a vanity that harms me, since really nice clothes cost more than I can afford. In addition, the desire for a $300 pair of shoes sometimes causes me to volunteer for overtime shifts.

Today one of our photographers, a guy about my age, took a long look at me and said I'm a "dandy." I did not object.

I was wearing a pair of Ted Baker ankle boots with a black leather foot and a gray tweed upper. My socks were gray with tiny white dots. I was wearing a pair of gray dress pants from venerable men's clothier Brooks Brothers. My $92 dress shirt, also from Brooks Brothers, was light blue with a white collar. I was wearing a dark blue tie with very subtle white polka dots and a gray wool vest with four pockets and notched lapels. I carry an antique gold pocket watch, and the fob dangling from it was a 1914 British penny. When I arrived in the office, I was also wearing a gray tweed sport coat and a light gray, vintage fedora hat, tilted just a little over one eye.

To say it much more quickly, I either looked like a 1920s newspaperman, or I looked like a full-of-himself fool. I tend toward the first because I lie to myself as much as anyone.

I own a lot of tweed jackets, most of them imported from Britain. I've probably got a dozen high-quality dress shirts in my rotation at any given time; I have six fedora hats, and maybe 40 ties. I own two overcoats. One of them is a trench coat. The other is a 1950s vintage heavy brown tweed.

Right now, I'm considering a couple of dress shirts from British shirt maker T.M. Lewin. If I keep a close eye on their website, they'll eventually have a sale, and I'll get one for maybe $65, plus the cost of shipping it from London.

There is a school of thought which says that a real reporter should look "rumpled," which is to say he should wear clothes that are cheap and wrinkled, his tie should be loose at all times and he should roll up his sleeves to work. I don't even unbutton my vest to work.

When I first started in the newspaper business, some 35 years ago, if you wore a tie to work, and you weren't management, one of the other reporters would approach you.

"Why you dressed up?" he'd say. "Nothing bad I hope."

What he meant was he hoped you weren't wearing a tie because you were going to your uncle's funeral on your lunch hour.

There were only two acceptable responses to this question.

"Yeah, my Uncle Frank," was the first, and the second was, "I'm covering a trial."

When I was in college, I used to see pictures of famous New York City columnist Jimmy Breslin, who died last weekend.

His thick Irish hair would need cutting, and his big belly would be sticking out. He'd be wearing khakis and a wrinkled shirt with a button-down collar, and his tie would be loose, and he'd have on a blue blazer that you just knew was going white at the elbows due to its great age. He looked like he was coming back from his Uncle Frank's funeral.

I dress better than Jimmy Breslin. I have to because I never wrote anything that could beat him.

To find out more about Marc Munroe Dion, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers visit Dion's latest book, "Marc Dion Vol. I," is available for Nook and Kindle.

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