published Sunday, December 1st, 2013

Kennedy: Shirt-tucking baby boomers listen up

I don't fear getting old. I do, however, fear forgetting how to dress myself.

It appears that men stop noticing clothing trends in their 50s. So, as they get older, they begin to look stupid.

Think of the guys in their 70s you see at the mall wearing Members Only jackets, acid-washed jeans and Velcro walking shoes. Bless their hearts, they don't mean to look funny, they just haven't seen the inside of a Gap since 1985.

C'mon, guys. A little less "old school" and a little more Old Navy, please.

My wife thinks I'm slipping into this style senility, and she's fighting back. I think she's secretly throwing away all my pleated pants.

She is certainly not shy about giving me advice. The other day, I had some clothes laid out for myself on the bed.

"You're not going to wear THAT with THAT, are you?" she asked, pointing to my ensemble for the day, slacks and a sweater in two contrasting tones of light brown. It was the rare, but deadly, tan-on-taupe faux pas.

"I most certainly am not," I said, lying. "I realize there's a problem there, um, with those two items."

"You think?" she said.

"Stand up," I said, going on the offensive. "Do you realize that your pants are too long? I'd be embarrassed if my pants were that long. In fact I wouldn't go out the door with long-looking pants like that."

"Here. Let me put my shoes on," she said, slipping on her Chakos. "Now, how do they look?"


I have just enough brain cells left to know one thing for sure: the days of the tucked-in shirttail are numbered.

The other day, I was watching "House Hunters" on HGTV. This Army officer and his wife were looking at condos in Washington, D.C. Dude had his shirttail out, fully cognizant of the fact that he was on national television. When even Army guys start wearing their shirttails out in public, it's a sign of the apocalypse.

Now, everywhere I go I see men with their shirttails flapping in the breeze. I'm not talking about T-shirts, I mean the kind of shirts you take to the cleaners to have starched and pressed.

I asked my Facebook friends whether they are "tails in" or "tails out" guys.

Tom said: "I'm pretty much a shirttail-in guy. I get annoyed at golf shirts that are getting shorter so they pull out all the time while I'm playing."

Mark said: "I wear my shirttail out when I wear pants I can no longer button."

John said: "I favor tucking shirts in, unless guitars are involved. A shirt will protect the back of a guitar from belt-buckle scratches."

Men of the Greatest Generation will be known for creaming the Nazis and surviving the Great Depression. Meanwhile, we baby boomer guys will be known for steadfastly maintaining shirttail etiquette -- unless it's impractical.

I keep imagining, 20 years from now, kids pointing and staring at us old guys at the mall with our T-shirts tucked in.

"Mommy, why does that old man have his shirt pushed down inside his pants?" I imagine them asking. "That's nasty."

"Shhh. Don't stare. He's just old and doesn't know better," the mom might reply.

Guys, let me suggest a little sing-song rhyme. Consider it a sticky-note for your brain.

All together now: Shirttail in, safe or sin? When in doubt, leave it out.

Contact Mark Kennedy at or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at

about Mark Kennedy...

Mark Kennedy is a Times Free Press columnist and editor. He writes the "LIfe Stories" human interest column for the City section and the "Family Life" column for the Life section. He also writes an automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for ...

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