The New York Times in its “Laugh Lines” feature in the July 19 Week in Review section reported white comedian Jimmy Kimmel’s comments on President Barack Obama’s outfit he wore to throw out the first pitch at the All-Star game. Kimmel reportedly said, “And I know the president is busy; but he really needs a personal shopper. Once again, Obama appeared in public in a pair of heavily starched, stone washed jeans with a big crease down the front of them, as if his mom has ironed them or something.”
Now admittedly, I don’t watch Kimmel’s show, but I am sure it got a big laugh from his audience. The problem is, Jimmy apparently doesn’t know black folk don’t come in one size fits all when it comes to making a sartorial statement.
If he did, he would know that unlike with the 1-20, Lil’ Johns and TIs of hip hop fame and generation that favor too big and too long jeans that settle around the ankle above the athletic shoe de rigueur like crumpled smokestacks, pressed jeans with knife sharp creases jeans are considered “clean” among a lot of black folk.
I was reminded of this fact last summer when I met my 60-something uncle, a longtime resident of New York City, for lunch not far from Columbia University where I was attending a workshop. Unlike his rumpled niece and upper West Siders and students clad in jeans and tee shirt ironed by the heat of the clothes dryer, he was clean in his pressed jeans, buttoned down oxford shirt and shined shoes. And he was dressing down.
I know for a fact that he can wield an iron with the best of them (a necessity in maintaining the clean look) because, as my grandmother taught him and his two brothers as black men, “People judge you and treat you accordingly by the way you dress.”
So back off Jimmy, to folk in the know, the president was dressing down and he was clean.