Line One
Dashboard Confidential
Fitting a round driver into a square world

By Dave Sweetman


I have never been much of a fashion-conscious individual. I’m usually the boots and jeans type, with the exception of when I am on the truck. I wear a company policy-mandated uniform for work days. That’s not to say I don’t clean up well when going out but that is not that often.

So, imagine my surprise when I read a review by New York Times Fashion and Style columnist Guy Trebay that proclaims that I (and many like me) am the “new hip.” First, there was the influx of the trucker’s cap, which I have worn for many years. Some bearing logos of Kenworth, a car company or some parts supplier. Now, I find that I have been elevated to hip status because of a few extra pounds around the middle.

Writer Trebay refers to it as the “Ralph Kramden” (Jackie Gleason’s bus driver character in “The Honeymooners”). I needed to know more about this, to justify the many years I have invested in perfecting the “Kramden Look.”

As many would attest, it does not come cheap, and a great deal of money has been invested to maintain that image and profile. So I took a poll asking friends, both male and female. One male friend I asked has been sporting the Kramden look for years, and I had to know: Has he seen any increase in attention from the female gender, delighting in his hipness? I got a look of disbelief and a terse answer of “Hell no!”

I asked another male friend his views and was quickly accused of implying that he had a pot belly. The question was all in the interest of science, and he quickly got over his indignation about being asked. It is probably easier to buy bigger size shirts than lose 30 pounds, so the point was eventually well taken. I concurred with that decision, as my shirt sizes have increased steadily over the past 25 years or so.

That’s not to say that I do not watch my health, as I do. I have cut back the intake of red meat, do not do buffet dining, and have cut out sugar, salt and soft drinks. I try to get a degree of exercise, but my downfall is the sedentary lifestyle of sitting behind the wheel for 11 hours a day. Quitting smoking 25 years ago was like throwing a light switch. The pounds go on easily, but come off slowly.

But with all of this new celebration on being proclaimed one of the “new hip,” I found that my polling process was ignoring 51 percent of the population. The story would not be complete without the female perspective and opinion.

So I asked my ladyfriend Tracey, a sharp dresser and fashion-conscious person who reads all about the trends in the latest girly-girl magazines. The results of the impromptu poll were hardly surprising. A little extra poundage around the middle is not a turnoff as long as it is not too much. Strike up the band over that one, as I have been justified. Or would that be certified?

Asking another ladyfriend, Pat, the same inane questions, I never did explain why I was asking. I thought it better to act as though it was a personal question, rather than attempting research into the realms of the female psyche. Pat is also a very stylish dresser and up on current trends and the like. The answers I got were identical to Miss Tracey’s, and I figured that I should quit my research on a positive note.

Had I tried long enough, I suppose I could have found someone to tell me that I look like a tub of lard, but that would hardly justify the intent of this column. The “Kramden Look” was OK and even if it were considered hip in the New York fashion circles, it still played well in Tallahassee.

So after all these years of thinking that I was in the wrong place and the wrong time, it has taken a fashion columnist from the Big Apple to tell me that what I thought was a case of the “furniture disease” (when your chest falls into your drawers) is actually a sign of prosperity. And it’s considered a sexy one at that. Perhaps all it takes is that extra biscuit and gravy. Who knew? LL


Dave Sweetman can be reached at