There is a romanticism to the working man. Day in and day out, he pushes himself to the limits in order to provide his family with a better existence than he knew as a child, pursuing the American dream. Whether this is in the office or classroom, at a job site, or in service to his country, a hardworking man will find himself physically and mentally drained on a regular basis. It is at these times that he turns to a bastion of Americana that deals in relaxation and revelry: the bowling alley. That brief time of the week that a man can separate himself from worry in the fire of competition and the promise of dollar beers is a holy time, and one that my father and his friends enjoyed on a semi-regular basis. On the occasions I was allowed to accompany him, I would see him separate from his time as a roughneck loving father and become “one of the guys.”
Though I have never had the precision of an expert bowler, it is a hobby that has a special place in my heart. Bowling is an activity that is greatly overlooked in the realm of leisure activities. People often think of bowlers as lonely men who simply feel the need to go out and validate themselves through the act of chucking a heavy ball at some pins, but the truth is much deeper. Bowling is the Average Joe’s baseball. It is an environment where one can wash down a tray of lukewarm nachos with a pitcher of cheap beer while being immersed in the fires of friendly competition. Winning isn’t everything, but it’s a fun story to tell the wife when you get home.
College bowling alleys are a good time as well. As much as we like to joke, the stress of classes, student organizations, and fraternity meetings can take its toll on a man. Our alley has a decent selection of dollar beers, and it’s the place to go when you’re looking to blow off some steam midweek. You have a couple drinks, talk some friendly shit, and disregard the high schoolers asking you to buy them a pitcher. It’s a good spot to mingle with other walks of student life, and promotes a sense of community. Athletes show up for a few frames when they’re in season, and where there’s beer, there’s trim. Yes, some folks throw the ball too damn hard and are asked to leave. Sometimes people don’t know their limits and overindulge. For the most part, however, my time at the lanes has always been enjoyable and therapeutic. Despite its misfit status, bowling is a refuge.
This brings us to the shirt. Possessing a collar, buttons, and enough pattern variety to give cool-tie-guy a run for his money, bowling shirts are another dark horse in the fraternity world. Typically associated with Italian weddings, Mafia bosses, and lonely old men, the shirt is so much more than that. It is a functional and stylish addition to one’s wardrobe that was made cool by Jackie Gleason and briefly ruined by Charlie Sheen. A warm Spring day calls for a pairing of shorts and bowling shirt thanks to a lack of sleeves, while the same shirts can give you a chance to show off that killer farmer’s tan in a pair of slacks. While the Hawaiian has long been associated with the fraternity lifestyle, its son is the bowling shirt. A lightweight floral patterned shirt is a staple of retirees and days on the beach. The bowling shirt is a part time hooligan who needs an escape from the pressure of daily life. These shirts are an excellent way of telling those around you that you’re in a state of relaxation that will soon give way to responsibility. Where the Hawaiian’s life is dedicated to a full-time rest that puts the cap on a job well done, the bowling shirt is a work in progress. Its wearer is still in his prime, doing things that those in a Hawaiian can only look back on with whimsy. Hawaiian shirts are the mark of leisure. Bowling shirts are for a man who plays hard but works harder, as every good American should. Jackie can’t quite compete with Thomas Magnum, but he certainly has his own merit.
Gary Portnoy of Cheers fame says, “Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.” Those words ring as true now as they did in 1982. So when Monday rolls around, throw on a bowling shirt in preparation for a long week of exams and bullshit meetings. Let the world know you’re there to have a good time and look great doing it. When you feel a need to engage in some well-deserved Tuesday night tomfoolery, grab your friends and a ten dollar bill for a night at the lanes. Maybe you’ll win and impress some babes, or maybe you’ll bowl a 48 and get a pity jerk from a townie. Either way, you’re sure to have a good time before getting back to the grindstone. It’s what a working man does..
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