Not too long ago, on a beach in Rhode Island, Tom Dibblee told a beautiful woman that he was a Club Monaco Man. They were talking about pants; the statement arose from a legitimate context; it was perfectly natural; talking about pants right then was a perfectly normal and expected activity; Tom had just bought the pair that had changed his life. Club Monaco, he was certain, was the clothing store he’d been waiting for forever, and what’s more, the store that had seen inside his soul and projected the best possible version of himself into a clothing line.
The beautiful woman responded, “Never say that out loud again.”
But Tom, though loyal and obedient to beauty in all its forms, had quite a bit to say about being a Club Monaco Man, for his life doesn’t change all at once all that often, and looking out at the crashing waves, the foamy surf, he thought about his new pair of pants, and how good he looked in them.
Roger Sollenberger, Trop Weather Editor, caught wind of this new life development and tapped Tom for a four-day, four-part interview.
How did you first come to discover or define yourself as a “Club Monaco Man”?
I feel like, at age thirty, some of my longstanding life crises have finally been solved. One of these longstanding life crises would be how to dress myself. After thirty years, I’m getting the hang of it.
Do you believe younger men face any particular challenges when it comes to proper vestment?
Young men face a wide range of challenges when it comes to proper vestment. There are first and foremost the temptations of passing fashions—for instance, in Marin County, where I grew up, just north of San Francisco, we had wide wale corduroys.
Kevin Pauls, one of the cooler kids in my middle school (blond hair, once dreadlocked; pre-stoner manner of speech; golf sweaters like in Billy Madison; soon to become a drop-out of the University of Nevada at Las Vegas) had a special affinity for these. Wide wales struck the balance between a fabric our parents could relate to and a certain NorCal skater/surfer look that gave us credibility with our friends. I bought black ones at Nordstrom, and when my mother insisted that I buy a pair that fit, I went home and unstitched the cuff so that they’d be longer and more ragged.
What was the legacy of those pants?
Well, sometime early on at boarding school in Massachusetts, I learned that blue and black don’t go together. I’d been wearing my ragged black wide wales with my blue blazer.
This, to me, was a slick, Californian improvement on stodgy New England. I was not trying to look ragged; I, miles away from home and suddenly aware of the opposite sex, was trying to look good. But then, in line at the dining hall, I said something obnoxious to Page Beacham about how her blue and purple J. Crew rugby shirt made her look like a bruise. She returned the compliment to me, in my blue and black, and later, I complained to a friend only to learn that, technically, she was right—in the encyclopedia of young men’s fashion, black pants and blue blazer are a full-blown hematoma.
The other lesson inscribed in my corduroys’ wales I didn’t master until recently, when I first discovered Club Monaco, my new favorite store. Founded in Toronto in 1985, Club Monaco offers clothing designs for the “creative consumer” who wants to “mix fashion must-haves with timeless classics.” This is exactly who I am, and exactly what I was trying to do with the corduroys.
Hm. What first struck you about Club Monaco?
I saw the chinos. I recognized that theirs was the shade of khaki I’d been looking for my whole life without even knowing it. Actually, fuck it—I liked their whole palate: every shade they had looked good to me, green to red to blue. I tried on a pair, and then I realized something still greater: These pants fit. I would not have to cinch my belt too tight anymore. I would not come home with belt indentations in my belly. I would not have to hike my pants up. Repositioning would no longer be manual. It would be unnecessary. This was a transcendent moment. “Proper fit,” I thought, “after all these years.”
“After all these years.” What took you so long?
I stopped growing when I was fifteen, but I don’t think I realized it until I was twenty-four. So for nine years years, at my current height, I erred on the side of too-big in the hopeless expectation that my youth wasn’t over, that I would still grow. This, we could call a slow response time. But next, I got a curveball: at age twenty-five, just as I was about to realize that my youth had vanished, I experienced sudden and dramatic weight loss. I went from 180 down to 145, for a health condition that requires me to carry around a portable blood machine.
What was the health condition? (If I may…)
Diabetes. I’m an invalid, but I want to assure the lady readers out there that, though some diabetics experience diminished sexual performance later in life (way, way later in life, and I think Viagra fixes things anyway), I’m nowhere close to that and I don’t ever expect to be: I’m an extremely responsible diabetic, and my equipment is extremely resilient.
Let’s get back to weight loss…
After dropping all that weight, I didn’t know what would happen next. Would I gain it back? Would I be gaunt forever? I didn’t know, and every shopping trip from here on in reflected my indecision: some of my purchases from the last five years were too tight, some were too baggy, with the most indecent manifestation of this being a sort of feminine, 1980s combination of tight gray jeans with billowy dress shirts. Not cool!
Why did you let this happen?
I don’t know. I’m done with it now though. I’ve found Club Monaco. I’ve weighed 160 for two years now. No more telling myself that my thirty-one inch waist might magically become thirty-three again. The old days are gone, and I say good riddance.
Part Two of our Club Monaco Man interview will run next week in The Weather.
Tom Dibblee is Trop’s editor. His fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train and his nonfiction has appeared in Pacific Standard, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the Point. He lives in Los Angeles.
Roger is a composition teacher at Georgia College in Milledgeville, Georgia. He's working on his first novel, and would like to tell you all about it.