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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Hand-Me-Downs - Another Cranky Fashion Post

Hand-Me-Downs - Another Cranky Fashion Post

Every once and a while in the evening, I lift my head up from my PC and glance at the TV in our bedroom.  It is often tuned to a fashion show, “Whatcha Wearing,” “Fashion Makeover,” “Girrrl Don’t do it,” or some such program.  These shows are all the same, a fashion expert prances around and makes fun of some poor lady who doesn’t really care about her clothes. She is usually concerned with something much less important like searching for a cure to cancer.
The experts inevitably make fun of the cancer-cure-searcher.
“Girl, the nineties  just called, they want their clothes back!”
When I hear this snappy one liner I always think,
Dude, in the nineties you thought that was a great look, were you stupid back then?  Why is one year’s fashion the way to go and years later it is subject for scorn?”
Then I think back to a twelve year-old Cranky who learned his first lesson in fashion.
As the third boy in a family of three boys, much of my wardrobe was hand-me-down.  I’m not whining here, most of my generation wore hand-me-downs from some relative or neighbor.
My older brother Chris was four years older than I.  By virtue of clothes shrinkage and an accelerated ten-year-old growth spurt, I was two years behind Chris in the hand-me-down circuit.
When I was ten, Chris had several shirts that were very popular, very jr. high fashionable…they were “In.”
I think they were just referred to as “Italian Collar” shirts. They were unlike any shirt collar I had ever seen then or since.  They were straight across the front with a button on each side that did not really need to be buttoned.  There may or may not have been an actual collar on the back involved.  The shirt had no tail; it was not designed to be tucked in.  The compliment to these fashionable shirts was white suede shoes.
Ordinarily I did not give a whit about a hand-me-down shirt, but I coveted these “Italian Collar” shirts. Other kids in my class had them and they were the “cool” kids.  As I was on a two year’s late fashion schedule I was stuck with pull-overs with the standard boring collars.
When the day came that my brother did not fit into the “cool” collar shirts, and I had grown into them, I was very excited, or as they said in those days, “psyched!” I was looking forward to strutting into school dressed like the “cool” kids.
On the last day of school 1957, the cool outfit was the Italian collar shirt and white suede shoes.  I left for summer break with a pull-over standard collar shirt and black, high-top Keds. 
On the first day of school 1958, I strutted into the hallowed seventh grade halls of Manhasset, L.I. Junior High with my brand new two year old Italian collar shirt and a pair of brand new white suede shoes.  (No hand-me-down on shoes, my feet were too big.  I had to beg my mom for those new shoes.)
As I strutted down the hall I took notice of the cool kids.  They were all wearing Brooks Brother button down collar tuck in tail shirts and brown penny loafers.  I small buzz turned into snickering and then someone hollered out,
“Hey Hagy, 1957 just called, they want their clothes back.”
That was my first lesson in how fashion changes from year to year.
It was also the first time I ever uttered out-loud another hand-me-down from my brother.
“Go fuck yourself...assholes!”   


  1. Amazing over the summer how quickly the fashions had changed. Now if you were to wear something like that it would be called vintage or retro. I wear what I'm comfortable in, now matter what the current styles or fads, they do seem to repeat themselves I have found


  2. I had a similar experience involving a plaid pants suit.

  3. The entire fashion industry is a giant marketing scam. One of the things I enjoy the most about growing older is I give even less attention to what I wear, fashion wise. I'm always dressed clean and neat, but my duds are usually LL Bean T shirts (no visible label) and shorts. In the winter it's LL Bean long sleeved T shirts and jeans. All were chosen for comfort and their appearance straight out of the clothes dryer. My circle of friends has now settled down to those who are not so shallow as to judge me for something as silly as my (lack of) fashion sense. But during those early high-peer-pressure years not having the right style/label it's tough to be on the outside looking in.

  4. i was never cool. we were too poor for any trends. i wore hand-me-downs and 'give-aways' and was glad to have 'em. :)

  5. Yep, it's the way of things. Still is. I wore a lot of rummage sale stuff. It was pretty awful most of the time. Oh well, those days are over.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

  6. I asked my daughter once if she was self-conscious of her home made and hand me down stuff (back in '80's). She said she knew she didn't wear what the mainstream wore, but on the other hand, she didn't hang with those people, so what was the point of my inquiry.

  7. They say if you wait long enough it will come back in style!!

  8. I thought about it for about ten seconds.
    I'm pretty sure my response from about the seventh grade on is. "Who gives a shit!"

    Notice there's no question mark.
    It isn't a question.
    Oh, and I cleaned up the language.

  9. I remember when fashion dictated madras sport shirts (a plaid pattern) with matching belt. Yes, this was for the guys. My older brother had this and I thought it was so cool, but by the time it was my turn to take a ride on the fashion train, this look had already left the depot.

  10. You are so right about the fleetingness of fashion. In my freshman year girls wore poodle skirts and guys looked like mobsters with pegged, low on hip pants. By senior year, the preppy look was in Button down shirts and chinos for the guys and tight pencil skirts with a slit in the back for girls. .Both guys and girls sported a buckle in the back that buckled nothing.
    Sure am glad I am old now and comfort is my fashion guru.

  11. When it comes to clothes, I really wish I were born in the time of Star Trek. Everybody wore pull-on pants and t-shirt. I imagine a closet with seven identical outfits like that... no difficult and potentially hazardous choices to make in the morning!

  12. My grandma made dresses for me and my sister. With lots of rickrack. Always rickrack. That was when I was in elementary school, and it didn't occur to me to mind.

  13. My mom sewed a lot and made my sis and I matching outfits every school year.. HORRIFYING..

  14. Fashion is over rated. I've never kept up with fashion in my life. Well, there was the mini skirt. I had some but usually they were just dresses that I'd grown too tall for. A year later they were tops that I wore over my jeans.
    Since then, I haven't cared about fashion, I just wear what's comfortable and fits.

  15. As the youngest of 4 girls I feel your pain - as the tallest of 4 girls by the time I was 12 I was literally in pain much of the time having to squeeze into too small hand me downs!

  16. I was the middle of 3 but smallest of the bunch so I was also at the end of the left-overs. Only we couldn't afford fashionable so big brother had 2 year old fashion, little brother 4 year old, and me 5-6 year old. And no, nothing ever came back into vogue for me in time!