WHEN I was younger I was a sharp dresser. I used to wear Kangol hats and gold-frame glasses, snakeskin shoes with belts to match. You couldn't tell me a thing.

Grey Flannel cologne? Had it. Drakkar Noir? Had that, too. Joop! I still have a drop or two for special occasions. But back in the day, everything was a special occasion, so I had to make sure that I not only looked good in my leather pants. I had to make sure I smelled good, too.

My silk shirts and Giorgio Brutini shoes had to be accessorized just right. That's why I made sure that I had at least one herringbone chain on hand at all times. I was the man, you see, and I had to dress accordingly.

Of course that was the '90s, and in the '90s that's what you did. But here's the reality. Back then my clothes consumed the vast majority of my paycheck. Now my paycheck is spent on people. Their names are LaVeta, Eve and Solomon, and they are my wife and kids.

Still, sometimes, late at night, when the moon is shining through the blinds like a giant disco ball, I remember my days at the nightclub, dancing the night away after making that last layaway payment on my outfit.

Those were good times, but those days are over. Nowadays, if I get one or two nice items of clothing, I feel like John Gotti. As a result of the way they make me feel, I tend to wear those items repeatedly. In fact, I've been known to don certain items until they recognize my voice, and come to me when I say "fetch."

I am not alone in my clothing misery. Any man who works every day and pulls his pants on one leg at a time will tell you. Once you get a wife and kids, your days as a clothing aficionado are pretty much over.

That's why you still see old men wearing Members Only jackets from the '80s. Fortunately I have a few years left before I get trapped in my clothing time warp, and I'm trying to make the best of them. LaVeta keeps making of fun of me, though.

It started a few weeks before Christmas. LaVeta asked me what I wanted, and for once I knew exactly what to say. I'd seen cashmere sweaters in Macy's, and I wanted them. Having witnessed the lint balls on my wool sweaters, she did the right thing, and bought me four of the cashmere sweaters I wanted.

In the days following Christmas, I took a particular liking to one of the sweaters. Maybe sometimes I wore it a little too much. OK, maybe I wore it a lot too much. But I would think my wife, of all people, would be happy to see me getting such great use out of the Christmas gift she bought for me.

She was happy, all right. She was so happy she was laughing. But she wasn't laughing with me. She was laughing at me. Every time I wore that sweater, she got another notch in her comedy belt. At first, it was just little things, like, "Have you named it yet? Is it taking Styx's place as the family pet?"

I ignored her and kept wearing my sweater. It's winter, after all. I'm not sweating. I'm thoroughly deodorized. As long as I skipped at least one day between each wear, no one would ever know.

LaVeta knew, however, and that was enough.

"You're running that sweater," she said.

Where we come from, when you're "running" something, it means you're wearing it far too frequently.

No problem. I waited three days before I wore it again. The way I figured it, I'd gone into the next week so another wear was permissible. My wife was having none of it, though. She made up a song about my sweater and sang it to the tune of a jingle from a long-defunct brand of cheap jeans called Baronelli.

"You've got the body/We've got the sweater/Cashmernelli, Cashmernelliiiiiiii . . . "

The song was particularly galling because a childhood friend of LaVeta's used to sing it to a neighborhood girl who kept wearing her Baronellis. To make matters worse, the song was catchy, so I started singing it myself. That's right. I joined in on the ridicule, and I'm ashamed.

But I'm putting my foot down now, and demanding an end to the teasing. This is America, and I have the right to wear my sweater as many times as I want to. And if it recognizes my voice and comes when I say "fetch," then that's between my sweater and me.

My sweater deserves at least that much respect, even if it is a Cashmernelli.

Solomon Jones is the author of 10 books, including his latest novel, The Dead Man's Wife (Minotaur Books), and the humor collection Daddy's Home: A Memoir of Fatherhood and Laughter. The married father of three has been featured on NPR and CNN, and has written on parenting for Essence and other publications. He created the literacy program Words on the Street. His column appearsTuesdays. More at Solomonjones.com.