I always had a robe going, despite having no discernible need of one. In college, a cotton flannel robe hung sullenly from a nail knocked into the bathroom door. A girlfriend might have worn it once. In my early working life I was given a plush robe by a different girlfriend. This one had my initials embroidered into the chest, which must have seemed like a good gift for someone with a surfacing interest in classic clothing. But it was artifice—a cheaply made polyester thing from an airline order catalogue. I’m not embarrassed to admit its gimmicky presence in my bathroom became daily confirmation that we should part ways. I’m equally unashamed to admit the gift of a finely made Turkish toweling robe was a not insignificant indicator that I should take seriously the person who gave it to me. My wife remains very good at discerning these things.
That last one is my current robe, but not until we had children did it see any real action. Before kids I jumped from bed to shower to being dressed with not so much as thirty-seconds between stations. As any parent knows, though, kids need things at inhuman hours, and one’s own routine quickly loses precedence to bottles and midnight hunts for misplaced stuffed animals. A robe, then, becomes the essential covering of the twilight hours—the utilitarian and familiar uniform of early parenthood. This sudden and continuous use has its effect though; a soft, broken-in character has given way to a creaking threadbareness that threatened disintegration as of late. Diving for a teetering vase the other day I ripped the back wide open, from blade to blade. It is beyond repair, I’m afraid.
But in every calamity exists opportunity, and in the passing of that first quality robe comes the prospect of a new one—this one optimized for its duty. But does such an article exist? The chief qualities of my sadly passed toweling robe were, in descending order of importance: unpreciousness, launderability, absorbency, comfort, style. The problem, if it can be called one, is the necessary time spent in robes has developed in me the taste for lounging about in them too. Sundays, when little more fills the agenda than watching an egg poach (or the home team lay one) a robe of some more dignified ingredients and construction seems a nice idea. Perhaps something more than a man-shaped towel? Something I might even wear in the evening once the kids are soundly asleep? So—does such an article exist?
Having given extensive thought to the matter, I have decided that no, a robe cannot both weather the assaults of people under four and appear elegantly off-duty at home. Two articles are required. At first this realization concerned me; what should a wife think of a husband who not so long ago couldn’t fathom more than a towel, but who now ponders the robe wardrobe? But then I discovered her own cache—five in total, ranging from vintage silk (given her by my mother) to some sort of billowing Grecian sacrificial vestment, complete with hood. A modest requirement of two should hardly raise eyebrows. Plus, I understand they make good gifts.
The first should be relatively similar to the now deceased: Turkey toweling, in white or navy, as beefy as it comes. It will be laundered to death, so nothing too extravagant. The other, however, might conceivably possess some swagger. Woolen flannel appeals, particularly when made to measure and finished with subtly contrasting piping. The one gripe there is seasonality; what does one do in the summer? A third robe is, even for this newfound robe enthusiast, one too many. Linen is out for the same reason. This leaves the obvious: silk. Of course with that revelation comes as many questions as answers. Chief among them: is such a thing no longer a robe, but a dressing gown?