• John Burton

The White OCBD


A brief ode to the white OCBD. I wear one every day. Every single day. It started in high school. I was kinda on my own in high school, and grew up in Rhinebeck NY which, back in the day, was farm country, and a flannel shirt was more expensive than a white ocbd. When I went to college, I had one gym bag (remember gym bags) full of clothes and a 12 string guitar. I had 4 white ocbd's from Caldor's (remember Caldor's) and one flannel shirt that I blew all my money on. When I started playing concerts, I thought it was more dressed up to wear the flannel than my every day ocbd's. Then I got out of school and went to NYC to work in an ad agency. I lived in the downstairs of a teeny house in Secaucus NJ with a widow who's late husband's name was Oscar. She had Oscar fish named Oscar, an dachshund name Oscar, a cat named Oscar, and she called me Oscar. I still didn't have any money, so I slept on a lawn chair I picked up during rubbish pick up. But I had a roof, and white ocbd's which I thought were t shirts. At the ad agency (NW Ayer) I met a gentleman named Charles Croce, a wonderful guy and a great writer, who told me I got hired because I had the sense to wear a decent shirt and because I could type 137 wpm. One day I went into Brooks Brothers because somebody asked me if I got my shirts there (No, Caldor's) so I thought maybe they had some. HOLY S. A shirt was more than my paycheck. But they were so thick. Like what a king would wear. And so I worked. When I could afford them, for my first wedding, I bought my groomsmen each a Brooks White OCBD and one of those Brooks pocket things (leather) that hold index cards and you can take notes on them. When I got sick about a decade ago, I kinda lost everything, and I was sick, so I just kept the white ocbd's, and still wore them every day that I got dressed (there were many days when I didn't). They made me feel like my old self a little. As the sickness wore on, my shirts didn't, and I couldn't work so I had to buy used Nautica ones on eBay. But because I wore them all the time, people thought I was dressing down and had a different closet back home. I didn't. When I started to get better and could work again, I refused to spend big money anymore on them, as a reminder of my getting sick. Some people get tattoos, I have white ocbd's. I shop hard for them, even if I don't have to shop as hard anymore, because it is the principle of the thing. Either way, Brooks at $120 or whatever or Nautica at $12 or whatever, they always gave dignity at times when I had plenty and at times where I felt I had none. The other day I asked Gramercy (daughter) if she wanted to go thrifting, and she asked, "For what?" And I said, "I dunno maybe a shirt?" She opened my closet door and there was a line, some ragged some ready for ties, all the same. She gave me a look. We went for greek food instead, and had probably a better time. The white ocbd keeps giving.