In my previous conversation with “Benedetto” — that’s the codename for my mailman — we learned that “Old Lady” is a common term of affection, even if I don’t think it is; but one thing I forgot to mention was how that conversation started. Benedetto struck up our dialogue with a fascinating claim: “The North Face are Ghetto Clothes.”
We started talking about clothes because Benedetto was wearing a new pair of gloves that he’d taken out of the trash. They were brand-new “liner” gloves that he planned on using inside his regular “post office” gloves for his daily deliveries.
I asked him how much money he gets a year for his Post Office uniform, and he told me he gets a yearly voucher of $320.00USD. His shoes “with the green tag” are $190. His standard-issue wool pants are $70.00USD. His shirt is $40.00USD. He buys three things a year and he’s already over his voucher.
Then our conversation took on a strange angle as we turned the corner together — he complimented me on my new water-repellant Carhartt jacket and told me he has a similar one in denim at home — and then he told me how great the quality of the Carhartt stuff is for so little money. I fully agreed with him: You can’t beat Carhartt for the value.
“You seen the North Face stuff, Dave?”
I told him I had seen it around, but that I’d never checked out the prices or purchased any of the gear.
“Stay away from The North Face, Dave.”
I nodded with a peculiar look on my face.
Benedetto continued, “Be careful because The North Face is ‘Ghetto Wear’ and it sends a bad message.”
“Ghetto wear?” I asked.
“Yeah, you know. What the poor people in the Ghetto wear every day.”
“I thought The North Face is expensive stuff?”
“Oh, it is.” he said, “The North Face coats cost $400, $600 even a $1,000! I’ve been working for the Post Office for 30 years and I can’t afford to buy a North Face coat.”
“That’s a lot of money for a coat!” I exclaimed.
“It is a ton of money. That’s why I call it ‘Ghetto Clothes.’ All these kids. Not in school. No job. No heat. No paint on the walls. No parent that works a real job on a timecard. But they’re all wearing these thousand dollar jackets in the ‘hood. How do you think that happens, Dave? How do you think kids with no jobs and zero prospects can afford The North Face?”
“Umm…” I muttered, while thinking “drug dealing” in my head, but I didn’t want to take away his thunder.
“The answer is ‘drug dealing,’ Dave. They’re pushers and I don’t like it. And I don’t want them in my neighborhood, but how do you deal with a thousand dollar coat? What do I tell my son, who’s in school and doing good, that he doesn’t need a thousand dollar coat, even though everyone around him is wearing 100% North Face stuff? How do you teach a kid to value an education over a piece of sewn material?”
“I don’t know, Benedetto. That’s a tough one.”
“When you get it figured out, Dave, let me know.”