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Excuse me: Where can I find a belt sander?

A long time ago I posted about feeling like a fraud at lumber yards, hardware stores, and big-box home improvement stores. I always felt I was sending invisible signals that I really didn't belong among men and women who use power tools, their hands and their brains to make a living. You see, it's a major occasion when I break out my circular saw—an occasion that always is fraught with the possibilities of mayhem and serious injury.

But I've figured out how to stride confidently down the aisles. It's all a matter of how to dress. Let's take it from the top:

Baseball cap.In a hardware store, a baseball cap is a must. The one I wear now is from a classy country club in Florida that my brother used to belong to. It's not manly enough, but it'll do for now. I need to get one from NASCAR, a power tool company, or a beer brand. Then I have to rub some garage floor grit on it to make it look authentically used.

Grooming. Do not shave before going into a hardware store. If you can manage two or three days' worth of stubble, so much the better.

Shirt. This fall I have been wearing an old flannel shirt in a big-block plaid pattern of red, reddish-gray and black squares. It's got some denim trim on it—not much, but the shirt is so old the denim has faded. In fact, the entire shirt is so old that its big-box store cred can't be challenged.

Pants. The most important garment. Mine are a dark, drab olive green, and I go as long as I can without washing them. As a result, they have dirt, grease, oil, paint, caulk, wood glue and all kinds of other home-improvement products smeared on them. I wear them low on my hips (but not butt-crack low) for a good sag. This also makes the legs wrinkle up in big folds.

Footwear. Also important. Today I wore a pair of all-black New Balance sneakers that are my yard work shoes in warm weather. They look suitable crummy, like I don't give a rip what they look like—and I don't. They've got snow dirt and salt on them this time of year. When there's snow on the ground, I wear a pair of what used to be dress boots with a zipper up the side. I say "used to be dress boots" because I haven't polished or cleaned them in probably 10 years. They were black, but the polish has worn away so much that the natural tan of the leather is the dominant color. They're so creased that they cry "old!"

So there you have it: style tips for lumber yards, hardware stores, or big-box home improvement stores. Dress like this when you're buying a circular saw, and no one ever will question if you know how to use it without cutting off a finger.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 22nd, 2013 06:51 pm (UTC)
Denim trim on a plaid shirt? No! No trim at all. The plaid shirt can only be worn over a white t-shirt, untucked, and preferably with at least one rip. Bonus points if the sleeves are rolled partway up.

Boots with a zipper? Those are girly boots.
Dec. 22nd, 2013 08:49 pm (UTC)
The collar is denim, and it's faded. The rest of the shirt is very manly. Rolling up the sleeves is a seasonal thing.

As for the boots, I suppose I could buy a pair of work boots from Timberland or Red Wing, but that's too much money for shoes I won't wear. And then there's the problem of trying to make them look like they're new boots.

I had a friend in high school who, whenever he bought a pair of new jeans, would find a big mud puddle someplace, throw the jeans into the puddle and then stomp on them to break them in.

Dec. 22nd, 2013 07:19 pm (UTC)
Does your shirt have a pocket for a pencil - not an engineer pencil but one of those flat red ones you sharpen with a pocket knife. That is a nice accessory touch to the look. Thought of another nice touch - have some blue chalk smeared on you somewhere from your plumb line.

Edited at 2013-12-22 07:20 pm (UTC)
Dec. 22nd, 2013 08:54 pm (UTC)
Blue chalk? Great idea.

I use tiny pencils from the golf course, the kind that is about as long as a pinky finger, and I have a little pencil sharpener for them in my toolbox. (Don't tell anyone.)

When I got a cordless drill last year, I took a pair of pliers and ground the chuck up with them so that the drill would look beat up. It worked great.
Dec. 22nd, 2013 09:51 pm (UTC)
I can't stop wondering how the person in the photo sits down. It gives new meaning to the phrase, "Getting hammered..."

I actually think I would tend to trust a person wearing pants smeared with paint, grime, and other such pantly decor to know a thing or two about hardware.
Dec. 23rd, 2013 12:51 am (UTC)
I didn't even think about the hammer. Ouch!
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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