I got the new "Guitar Hero: Metallica" this weekend. That meant a new flurry of songs that I can pretend to play on a plastic Fender, and a closed door to the bedroom where my wife retreated for her own sanity. It also meant that I needed to create a new avatar for the shows I would be virtually performing with the masters of speed metal. My son was disappointed to see that I had faithfully recreated the same character I had from previous versions: bald guy with glasses wearing jeans, sweatshirt, and Converse hi-tops. But it didn't have to be that way.
For just a few moments I considered going with the sleeveless T-shirt look. Then I remembered that I can't really pull off that look. The little patches of hair that adorn my biceps like furry insignias make me just self-conscious enough to keep from showing them off. My shoulders remain a mystery to all but my closest relations.
That wasn't the case for my roommate in college. There was a ritual of sorts that attended the purchase of each new concert souvenir. The sleeves came off as a matter of course. There were plenty of times when he had to take an extra moment or two to find something to cover his arms when the occasion or the cool mountain air demanded it. He even had a sweatshirt in the same manicured condition that became the object of several girls' adoration. Even when they were finished with him, they lusted after that sweatshirt.
And still I remained steadfast in my sleeves. I have drawers full of shirts from this show and that experience, and only one of them has been cropped. One night, in a fit of pique shortly before my thirtieth birthday, I tore the sleeves off my Iggy Pop shirt. What better artist to reflect this kind of fashionista anarchy than the godfather of punk? For a short time, this was my uniform at the local Goth/Industrial club, Ground Zero, where I used to thrash about wildly as I tried to exorcise the demons of my quickly fading youth.
When I moved to California, that shirt made the trip with me. On a stop in Phoenix to visit a friend, we decided to go out dancing, and I chose to break out my "Raw Power" shirt. We weren't allowed into the club, partly because of the expletive between "Raw" and "Power," but also because the dress code wouldn't allow me in without sleeves. I took my punk attitude and slunk off into the night.
I shared some of these reflections with a friend of mine, who was able to reflect on her husband's own collection of sleeve-free wardrobe. I wondered if she had considered making a quilt from all the cast off material he had amassed over the years. She assured me that they had all become useful allies in the fight against dirt and grime in the rag bucket. I admired her support of her husband's aesthetic as it nicely dovetailed with her own enthusiasm to keep her kitchen clean.
Instead of sending those sleeves to some landfill, maybe they could be kept around for occasional use as "sleeve dickies," or maybe sent to some sleeve-deprived-third-world-nation. And finally, it made me remember one of my favorite jokes: Where does the general keep his armies?
Up his sleevies.