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!”