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HERB BENHAM: New twist on formal wear

Herb Benham

In lieu of the tuxedo pants, which somehow did not make it from Bakersfield to Santa Barbara, how about wearing some tan shorts to the wedding? The wife did not agree, so off to the mall he went.

"I don't know if you heard, but this wedding is black tie," Sue said.

The wedding was taking place in Santa Barbara. Weddings are occasions but a Santa Barbara wedding can set a lofty bar and demand something more formal than a suit.

"No problem," I said. "My tux is pressed and ready to go."

I was prepared because being prepared is a better way to live. Years ago, Carl from Mr. Tuxedo, fitted me with an elegant black tux, a beautiful pleated white shirt, (also known as a bib amongst tuxedo insiders), a cummerbund, a black clip-on tie, and the white pocket square that peeks playfully from the front pocket of the jacket as if to say, "Good evening, I'm here to put a smile on your face."

The tuxedo spends most of its time in Herbie's old closet, a cool, comfortable roomy affair waiting for the call either from the Master Chorale or the occasional Santa Barbara wedding. The cummerbund hangs on the hanger with the tuxedo, the tie nestled in the inside pocket of the jacket. For the wedding, I packed a second pressed white shirt in case I decided to opt for something other than the pirate look.

Ready Freddy and his beautiful, equally ready wife drove to Carpinteria last Saturday, checked in early to the Best Western. Early is good. Early is not rushing. The wedding was scheduled for 4:30 and we arrived at the hotel at 2:30. It was a 10-minute drive to the Miramar and this gave me enough time to take a rest before donning my stunning tuxedo.

I stretched out on the firm, comfortable bed both to rest and to drift into a wedding state of mind. I like making a grand, unforgettable entrance into a wedding and this is easier to do when you are crisp and cool.

I closed my eyes and before drifting off, thought about the cummerbund, wondering if I had seen it on the hanger underneath the tuxedo jacket. I rose from the bed and walked to the closet where the tux was hanging smartly on the smooth wooden pole.

The cummerbund was there, the jacket too but where were the pants?

Perhaps they had slipped into the recesses of the closet, dark as hotel closets can be, or were hidden on the hanger shielded by the jacket in sort of a tuxedo magic trick.

The last time I was in Montecito for a wedding I had forgotten to bring a tie. Now I was pantless, it was 3:10 and the wedding was starting in 80 minutes.

Options included a pair of tan shorts, pictured in a photo taken after the wedding. They might have looked quite smart with the jacket, ruffled shirt, cummerbund, pocket square, knee-high Smartwool dress socks and black Samuel Hubbards. No doubt wedding-goers would soon be wearing this combination from Boston to Bakersfield.

I threw the jacket and shirt on the bed and used some colorful language both because I felt colorful inside and it was an effective tool in blunting the colorful language that Sue might have employed.

Sue suggested I call a friend of Katie's who lives in Carpinteria to see if I could borrow her husband's pants.

I declined and not because I am too proud but because I didn't want this to get around to everybody and their Santa Barbara brother that I had come to a wedding but forgot to pack pants.

I Googled "mens' store nearby," and found a Men's Wearhouse located in the Paseo Nuevo mall on State Street in Santa Barbara.

I punched "directions" on the website that said the trip would take four hours and 21 minutes. What? It was five miles. Did the route include a ferry ride around Anacapa?

I dropped Sue off at the Miramar, ignored the four hours and 21 minutes and certainly didn't tell her that, headed north on 101 and blew by or did not see the Castillo exit, and exited instead on Carrillo. Castillo/Carrillo, it was one of those C words.

After being befuddled by one one-way street after another, I parked and ran three blocks toward the store with my blue suit bag with half a tuxedo (a semi tuxedo) in one hand and a small black suitcase in the other.

I sprinted through the Saturday afternoon farmers market outside the mall like a lunatic. I wouldn't have been surprised if a cop on foot had chased after me because clearly I had stolen some fruit or a necklace made from puka shells.

I ran into the Men's Wearhouse and the sign in the window stated "No Hiring," which meant, since the store was pretty full, that service might be on the relaxed side.

They had two pairs of black pants left. I hoped they were the right length, otherwise I'd be cuffing them with paper clips if I even had time for that.

I almost bought the blue pair, saved by another customer who noted that the blue pants with the black coat might be a stretch.

I explained to the manager of the store that I had forgotten my pants, that my wife probably had lost what little respect she had for me and that the wedding was probably 40 minutes from starting, "probably" because I hadn't looked at my phone because whatever was on that phone was not good news.

Before paying for the pants, I went into the dressing room and put on the tux. The manager helped button the shirt because my turkey neck was in a state of panic and had grown three sizes.

I sprinted three blocks to the car, working up a nice pre-wedding lather, drove, as if possessed, the five miles back to the Miramar, overshot another exit, turned around in Summerland, parked on the street in front of the hotel and ran inside. It was 4:25.

Sue was standing inside looking pretty relaxed. The first five people I saw were from Bakersfield, and all of them greeted me with, "Nice pants." Tell me this is not the age of communication especially when your wife drops the dime on you.

I'm surprised the minister did not mention the pants during the ceremony and the father of the bride didn't include it in his toast.

Good to be prepared. Prepared for adventure. Prepared for the fun that happens along the way.

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