You have them, don’t you?

Those articles of clothing that are old, beat up, and beyond being seen by the public eye. They’re ratty around the edges with hems that are frayed, cuffs that have a rip or two, and maybe a button is missing, replaced with a tiny gold safety pin. Still you keep them. You slip into that particular garment after a hard day and think, gosh, that feels good.

Aside from the chambray shirt I wish I’d been relentless about holding onto, for me, it was a pair of sweat pants, purchased circa 2001. I bought them in the junior department at J.C. Penney’s back when I still easily fit junior-sized clothes. By 2013, they were the faded blue of often-washed denim with the small gold football and number seven on one hip crinkled and missing strips of color. The wide elastic waist band had stretched to the point that they rode low on my hips, which made them two inches too long for my short legs. When I began tripping over the excess fabric, I realized it was time to let them go. 

I may have wept.

Over the twelve years that I owned those pants, I secretly carried on flings with other sweats. When I was frequently traveling to Europe with Alex for his work, I bought a nice pair. You know, in case I ever had to dash out of our Milan hotel room at midnight. They looked as nice as any jersey pant possibly can. They never quite conformed to my body, never quite fit well enough to have me look forward to putting them on in the evening after a day of sight seeing. Somewhere along the way they disappeared … perhaps I left them behind in Florence. I no longer remember much about them, so forgettable they were.

When Jackie and I took our famous trip to Italy in 2007 and our luggage was lost (US Airways debacle), I indulged in a pair of Italian sweats from Terra Nova. They’re a sky blue with two white narrow stripes running down the outside of each leg. The material is soft, the waistband fits right, the length is good, and while they aren’t as cozy as the other blue pair, I simply cannot seem to give them up.

That pair from Penney’s haunts me … there was something about them that I still miss. Unlike Mary Chapin Carpenter’s great song, This Shirt, I don’t have any particular memories attached to these sweats. I couldn’t point to them and say, I was wearing these when such and such occurred. It was never that. It was, simply, that when I put them on, I instantly relaxed and thought, Oh, okay, the work day is over, my chores are done, it’s time to take it easy, curl up with a good book, or watch a favorite TV show. It’s time to wind down and maybe get my brain to stop going in 90 directions at the same time.

It was the kind of comfort you feel when your favorite grandparent or great aunt hugs you. In those moments when their aged arms surround your body—at age ten or age forty—you feel love seep from them to you. It’s a warm embrace that can bolster your spirit for days.

Yes, those favorite, frayed fabrics you slide into and think, life is pretty good.

What are your favorite duds?

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post updated & expanded