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Fiscal Fashions

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So…I’m listening to a radio program called “Marketplace” and discovered an interesting idea from some economic guru—Michael Bloomburg or Warren Buffett or some such multimillionaire.  Whoever this dude was, he said that he frequently followed the MUI—the Men’s Underwear Index(not to be confused with the Modern University of Information and Technology or the Multilingual User Interface)—when deciding the type and/or extent of his financial calculations.

It seems that no less an expert than Alan Greenspan, former head of the Federal Reserve Board, is reputed to have consulted these statistics to divine the direction of the nation’s economy.  It is based on the premise that—whatever else is going on in the economy that makes the outlook gloomy-ish—when men start buying new underwear(or their wives or significant others buy it for them), it indicates   an underlying confidence and willingness to engage in discretionary spending, thus buoying the economy. According to this website, men buy 3.4 pairs of underwear per year (Some of them are skipping that .4 percent, if the Designer Underwear site is to be believed—pretty skimpy!).  Leading up to the recent recession, there was 3% increase in men buying single pairs and a 2% decline in purchases of multi-pacs.  So there you go, proof in the register tapes!  According to reports(didn’t say from whom) the sales of boxers and briefs have risen some $1.1 billion since 2009.  Take that, CPI (Consumer Price Index); take that GDP (Gross Domestic Product)!  Just ignore those who  claim that men wear their unmentionables until they’re threadbare, not just unmentionable but nearly invisible( though other features may be all too much in evidence).  New skivvies means new confidence for the future.  But let’s not EVEN get into the topic of Designer Underwear; Victoria’s Secret is not the only game in town , ya know.

Other fashion-based indices are also swirling around out there, according to Business Insider on the internet.  These include women’s hemlines, lipstick, dry cleaning, men’s ties.  The oldest of these, the hemline theory was first proposed by George Taylor of the prestigious Wharton School of Business, in 1925.  The gist of it is : the better the economy, the shorter the skirt.  The rationale behind it was that when time were good, women wanted higher hemlines to show off expensive hosiery(We’re talking silk here, in 1925, not nylon pantyhose from L’eggs) and when things got tough, they wanted longer skirts to cover up cheap stockings.  Periods cited as examples were the Jazz Age/Roaring Twenties—short, Great Depression—long, expansive ‘60’s—miniskirt, slowdown in ‘70’s & ‘80’s—longer, tech bubble in late nineties—short again…it goes on.  Lipstick purchases suggest that women are trying to keep up their spirits in hard times, haircut timing stretches as paychecks decline, high heels are about looking spiffy when your budget is flat, dry clean only means only dry clean when you must, men wear a suit and tie during a setback in order to look employed(This does not apply in go-go tech firms, probably); there’re a million of them.

Since it’s tax time, keep in mind that the clothes that you buy can only be viewed as a tax deduction if they are specifically required  and worn as a condition of your employment and are not suitable for general/personal wear.  So  if you’re the UPS or Fedex delivery person, a nurse/doctor/ healthcare worker, someone in public safety—police, fire, emergency medical, USPS, or a professional athlete, your threads will be deductible.  Musicians, actors and sports stars can claim items that can’t be worn for everyday use.  I could probably  deduct my three queen costumes—with crowns—but not the rain gear for track meets.

Remember, however, that you may deduct the fair market value of any clothing you donate to a qualified charity; what’re queen costumes going for nowadays, anyway?

On a completely different tack…I ran across some items on the internet that tickled my fancy, being just sort of “off the wall”.  One was a tea infuser of silicon shaped like a shark (Looks like a grey reef shark–Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos—to me)  Yes. The little guy grips the edge of your cup in his jaws and his tail, with perforations, hangs over into the hot water and stays there until your brew is the right strength and/or color.  Who knew that tea—and infusers—could be such a big deal?  You can get, in addition to the shark, a yellow ducky, a dive submarine, a whale, a sloth, a strawberry, a whale, a yellow submarine, Loch Nessie, a manatea and the Tea-Tanic.  There are people out there with WAY too much time on their hands.  Here’s what else you can find:

Emergency beard guards…which poses the question, what constitutes an emergency for a beard?  You can get a Holy Toast bread stamp which enables you to create an instant icon in a kitchen appliance.  A Holstein oven mitt, a “Love the Cow” balloon (both from Simply Bovine), pink flamingo picnic tablecloth weights (must-have for summer dining), a corkscrew shaped like a bluebird, a veggie peeler like a toucan, a tape dispenser like an orange-and-yellow snail…and that’s just skimming the  more rational items.  Virtually all of these will make their final appearance on some shelf at GoodWill or in heaps of boxes at estate sales where people will wander around saying, “Shirley, what do you suppose all of this was for?  I heard they   were kind of ga-ga before they left for the home.”  I’m pretty sure that’s what will happen to my stuff.

Maybe it already has.