Freshman memories still fresh

Judging by what I see from my friends on social media, we are in the season of sending our kids off to college.

This year marks the fourth August we have experienced this, and next year we’ll go through the exercise with two kids. But whether this is the first time or a repeat experience, the act of loading a vehicle down with dorm or apartment stuff and hugging my son goodbye inevitably takes me back to that special time in my life when I made that journey for the first time.

In late summer 1988, my mom, grandmother and youngest brother loaded my stuff in the family car and drove to Troy, Ala. Dad was on a mission trip in Ecuador, so my freshman year began with unlikely entourage making the 8-hour trek from Lake Wales, Fla.

From my first day on campus at what was then called Troy State University, I made good friends with guys like Peter, Tom, Ross, Donavan, and Trey. David, who would become my roommate for nearly two years, and I met the first week as freshman tutors in the Writing Center.

As an extrovert, the college experience suited me perfectly. I thrived on the independence to make my own choices: when to go to bed, who to hang out with, what to eat, how much time to devote to studying. I excelled academically, and I enjoyed interacting with professors, particularly the journalism faculty.

Lance, top row first on the right, and nine friends from Troy University pose in the hallway of Alumni Hall on the campus of Troy University in 1989.
Alumni Hall alumni… Troy’s largest dorm no longer stands, but the memories made there last a lifetime.

A key to my happiness that first year was finding Campus Outreach. The evangelical campus ministry proved to be a safe place to grow in my faith and meet other people who had similar beliefs and faced similar challenges. Fun outings, meaningful worship services and connections to a local church expanded my horizons. Other groups that provided social opportunities included my Honors Program cohort and the staff of the student newspaper, The Tropolitan.

Dating came easily and naturally. If I saw someone I liked, I asked her out. One night during winter quarter of my freshman year, I happened to have scheduled back-to-back dates, and my across-the-hall neighbor, Dave, a football player, caught me between outings. When he found out I was about to leave for my second date, he dubbed me “the Love Broker.” It stuck because it was ironic. I was hardly a player.

I made friends with a group of guys from Miami who had somehow managed to make their way to Troy. My next door neighbor, Dino, shared a telephone with me, back when they were on the wall and had a cord. Dino took his calls in the hallway, and he once freaked out our resident assistant by yelling “Com quem? Com quem?” into the phone. He was asking his parents in Portugese “With whom? With whom?” The RA, who knew Dino was from Miami, thought he was placing a drug order, fitting the “Miami Vice” stereotype.

Trojan basketball games were a thrill for my group of friends, particularly the Sunday afternoon when they set the NCAA single game scoring record by beating DeVry 258-141. We saw a ton of movies at the Pike 3 cinema, went bowling at the all-night Bama Bowl in Montgomery and frequented the restaurants along the Highway 231 strip on Sunday nights when the on-campus cafeteria was closed.

That first year there was no hint of the drama that would unfold with my parents, and I frequently sent letters to my youngest brother, drawing little “Calvin and Hobbes” comics at the top. Lyle was in first grade and wrote to me about his G.I. Joe action figures and adventures with the dogs.

My freshman year of college capped off a great two-year run of happiness and put me on a road to a lifetime of happiness. I hope and pray the same will be true for my boys on their respective journeys to independence.

Want to keep cool? Wear more clothes

I know, I know, it’s counterintuitive, but as summer pays its annual, six-month visit to the South, it’s important to know how to dress for success.

White T-shirt collar
Showing a little white collar under a polo isn’t a sign of fashion clumsiness. It’s about keeping cool.

In an era when underclothes are getting way too much exposure for my taste, one example that is not only appropriate but expedient is men’s undershirts. In the South, it is not unusual to see the neck of a white, crew undershirt under a polo or golf shirt. It’s a secret Southern men have learned as they adapted to their humid environment.

First, let’s deal with the science. This may gross you out, but your body is secreting oils and fluids all the time. This stuff is what creates body odor and unsightly stains on your clothing, particularly the arm pits. You can avoid this mess showing up on your clothes by wearing an undershirt.

Among those aforementioned fluids is sweat. Southern summers induce sweating the way the smell of bacon induces salivating. No amount of antiperspirant can keep sweat from soaking your clothes. You need a barrier between your skin and your shirt. An undershirt not only traps moisture preventing it from soaking your outer clothes, it wicks the moisture away from your skin allowing evaporative cooling to take place. Hence, the title of today’s entry: stay cool by wearing more clothes.

Internet forums devoted to men’s fashion are divided on the topic, but as a long-time undershirt wearer, I can attest to the validity of the wicking and cooling properties of a T-shirt.

I routinely wore undershirts with my Sunday clothes as a kid and teenager, but it wasn’t until I got to college that I began wearing them under everyday casual wear. Attending school in Troy, Ala., I was exposed to what I thought at the time were pretty arcane fashion choices, one of which was undershirts with collared, knit pull-overs. In fact, I called it the “Troy Boy Look.” It consisted of a polo with white crew-neck undershirt showing through at the top, jeans, khakis or even khaki shorts with white socks and buck oxford shoes. Sounds real sporty, don’t it?

I mocked it for a while before eventually assimiliating, mostly because of an Alabama girl who gave me wardrobe “suggestions.”

While I don’t wear white socks and bucks anymore, I have kept the undershirt as all-occasion wear. It has absorbed the sweat trickling down my back at a sweltering September day game at Sanford Stadium. It has provided an extra layer of insulation when a cool breeze kicked up during a round of golf (although I can’t remember the last time I played and couldn’t find my clubs with a map.) And I always wear them under my dress shirts as any self-respecting man should.

So while everyone else in society today is showing off their underwear distastefully, I think it’s OK for a little white to be visible at the collar of a polo. I have learned that fashion sometimes gives way to practicality, and with this particular style, cultural adaptation results from prevalence.

undershirt
It’s more than a fashion statement, it’s a sign of intelligence.

I’ll admit this style is headed in a weird direction. I recently discovered that Spanx, a company that makes women’s “controlling undergarments,” has moved into the market of men’s “compression undershirts.” No, I’m not talking about athletic compression wear that shows off rippling muscles and aids in athletic performance. The new “compression undershirts” by Spanx are essentially girdles for men. I can’t vouch for their effectiveness at “holding everything in,” but they do give you the same effect of showing a little white T-shirt at your collar.

Anyone not living in the South may be a bit confused by this week’s post, but I assure you, this is an issue confronting Southern men every day. And if you want to look and smell your best during the summer, you’ll proceed to the closest Wal-Mart and get yourself a pack of Hanes crewneck undershirts.

If they’re good enough for Michael Jordan, they’re good enough for me.

What’s your take on men’s undershirts? Do they really keep you cooler or is it psychosomatic? Do you find it tacky to see a man’s undershirt at the collar of his polo? Leave a comment below to help guide the fashion impaired on this Southern style.