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Making Do With Fewer Belt Loops

One day not long ago, a friend and I met at a restaurant for lunch. As I removed my coat, he remarked that I had missed a belt loop on my trousers. Missing belt loops is one of those things that happen with increasing frequency as one ages. While we were looking over the menu, I remembered my father’s advice how to tell quality in trousers. He said that the cheaper ones had fewer belt loops. I have found this to be true in most, but not all, cases. For instance, my so-called “dress jeans” have five belt loops, while some of my less expensive work jeans have seven.

The pair I was wearing at the time had seven, six of which I had utilized. I know I should have excused myself and gone to the restroom to complete my attire, but I didn’t because missing a belt loop didn’t bother me. Not letting small things bother one gets easier with age.

I recalled an incident that occurred before I retired from teaching. I was talking to my students when a couple of girls sitting up front began giving each other surreptitious looks and giggling. Then a glance toward me, followed by more giggling. I thought I’d better check to see if I was completely dressed, beginning with a furtive move to see if my fly was fully zipped. It was, but the giggling went on. Finally, I said, “All right, girls. What’s so funny?” One answered with a smirk, “Oh, Mr. Avery, your socks are different colors.” And with that, they laughed out loud.

Naturally, I raised my cuffs to check. The left was light grey; the right was a medium grey. The difference was slight, but it was enough to relieve the boredom of a lecture on the poetry of John Donne, so the girls had grabbed at it. Since I got dressed each morning in a dimly lit room, it was an easy mistake to make. I brought out the old chestnut about having another pair just like them at home, then went on with my lecture.

I suppose clothing has always been as much about adornment as about comfort and warmth. Henry David Thoreau, philosopher, naturalist and the author of “Walden,” asserted that it was foolish to abandon old clothing because it went out of style. It’s only after it’s worn for a time that it really begins to fit and feel comfortable. Thoreau’s motto was “Simplify, simplify, simplify.” I’m sure he would have preferred five belt loops to seven.

On the other hand, I doubt that clothing manufacturers have simplicity in mind when they decide to attach belt loops to their jeans. I suspect that after attaching belt loops to thousands – maybe millions – of pairs of jeans, they know exactly how much money the company saves in time and material when they cut the number of loops from seven to five. (As far as I could tell, six will hold up one’s pants as well as seven.)

It has become increasingly common for producers of consumer goods to reduce costs by cutting the number or volume in each package of their products. I’ve noticed it in everything from potato chips to toilet paper. (In the latter case, the “cost-effective” experts didn’t reduce the number of sheets; they cut the width of the roll.) But I believe the bakers of my favorite brand of cookies hit a new low when they started putting eight cookies in the same transparent package that once held a dozen. They pulled off this deception by using a false bottom.

I have no experience in manufacturing or marketing, but I do have a money-saving tip to pass along to any company that makes men’s socks.

One shade of grey will do.

Chuck Avery is a former high school English teacher, published playwright and dramatist.