“Is that a new shirt?” Sue asked a couple of mornings ago.

It is. Why the hesitation? It’s not what you think it is, but if it is what you think it is, then “it is” will be doing double duty.

The shirt came from Nordstrom Rack. When I visited, I realized I was out of shape. Not shape-shape, but shopping-shape.

Shopping shape takes nerve, an open mind and a fertile imagination.

Retail may be dead but no one told Nordstrom Rack. No one told Selena, my in-store consultant. No one told the scores of people who looked to be in fine shopping shape.

It feels good to go into an actual store. A store with actual goods. A store with actual people having an actual good time. It’s like walking into a theater you thought was empty but where you find the stage lights on and a play being acted out.

“I’m just looking for a pair of jeans,” I told Selena, but she didn’t believe it and I didn’t either.

Beautiful clothes in a brightly lit store reminds me what Fred Hagist said a long time ago to a depressed teenager.

“When I’m depressed, shopping makes me feel better,” he said. “You ought to try it.”

I’ve heard that many times since, mostly from women but when a grown man says it to you, a man’s man, it makes an impression. If I had been down when I walked around Nordstrom Rack, which I wasn’t, I wouldn’t have been down for long.

I was looking for a pair of Joe’s Jeans. Classic fit, which means extra Spandex around the waist and a more comfortable fit down the legs. Don’t be afraid of Spandex. Spandex is your friend and, if not, it should be.

Why not look at a couple of shirts to show off those new jeans. Since it was 105 outside and would probably be hot for the rest of my life, I opted for short-sleeved. A black one and a dark blue one. I might have been out of shopping shape when I walked in but I was getting in shape fast.

I saw a light blue shirt with a collar, a pocket and small yellow suns scattered winningly all over the shirt. It was an “Original Penguin” made by Munsingwear, a name I hadn’t heard for years but sounded trustingly familiar.

“This is my color,” I told Selena, as if she had the slightest interest in my color palette. To her credit, she gave every indication “my color palette” was more important than her faith, her family and the $1 she would probably make on the blue shirt hanging on the sale rack.

I tried on the blue shirt festooned with the little suns. It was so comfortable, so me, that I wanted to shout out in the middle of Nordstrom Rack, “I have found a gem and it’s in my palette.”

The shirt was “me” but what kind of me because the color was so light and blue and the miniature yellow suns so fetching that it could have doubled as a pajama wear.

I had the top, all I needed were the bottoms. The bottoms, a pair of slippers, a pipe and the remote.

A few days later, I trotted it out during coffee for its first public showing. I could see that friends didn’t quite know what to make of it. They seem confused.

"Is he wearing a pajama top?"

What if I was? What if I planned it like that? What if I think that what we wear under the covers shouldn’t stay under the covers?

Look at it like this: There’s Casual Friday. How about Pajama Thursday? That way we can slide into the weekend even earlier.

The shirt is versatile. It’s going to work with jeans. Jeans or just a blankie and Mr. Sprinkles.

Herb Benham is a columnist for the Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at hbenham@bakersfield.com or (661) 395-7279.

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