I’ve never been a slave to fashion, but there have been a few periods of indentured servitude. My first foray in being on the cutting edge of style happened while in high school during the mid-sixties when I decided it was time to bring a bit of the mod wardrobe to my small hometown in southwestern Indiana. The nice fellow at the department store in Vincennes assured me that the hip hugger pinstripe bellbottom slacks with an extra wide belt and a shirt with a long pointed collar would get me noticed. Truer words were never spoken. Everyone at the bowling alley noticed and most felt compelled to express their opinion. I had no idea there were so many fashion critics in such a small town. The pants were banished to the back of my closet and the shirt was restricted to being worn under a sweater. Battered, but not beaten, I later purchased a flowered shirt with a white collar. By then a few other guys had been influenced by the British invasion and the new shirt got a few compliments.
While at Indiana University my personal style was eclectic and largely driven by my mood. It was a time of “do your own thing” and my thing covered the territory from preppy frat boy to faux hippie. Some days it was a pressed oxford shirt, nice sweater, wool pants, and shined shoes, while other days it was a peasant shirt, puka shell necklace, bellbottom jeans with a button fly and water buffalo sandals. I worked at a pizza place and my favorite delivery outfit was modeled after Michael Parks character on Then Came Bronson; a stocking cap, dark shirt, and jeans or corduroys. I graduated college never owning a Nehru jacket or a giant sunburst emblem on a chain.
Though I managed to get through the seventies without buying a leisure suit, I must confess there was quite a bit of polyester in my closet. I also made a couple of fashion missteps when I bought a pair of platform shoes, some baggy pants, and a winter coat that might have been pilfered from Sergeant Shultz’s wardrobe on Hogan’s Heroes. I had my share of multicolor sweater vests, turtlenecks, plaid pants, and even a bush jacket, but managed to avoid jumpsuits, all clothes influenced by the movie Superfly, and anything that looked like it might have been pilfered from Elton John’s closet.
During the eighties I was focused on my career and starting a family, so fashion took a back seat for a while. I did have a few tracksuits, but didn’t wear a headband unless I was playing tennis or basketball. Never got into the shapeless men’s suits, though I did have a couple of Miami Vice inspired shirts that I wore under my sport coats. My boldest fashion statements focused on hair. I got a perm and grew an awesome Fu Manchu mustache. Any evidence that I wore either has been lost to history except for the one photograph I keep in a safe deposit box.
I was moving up in the corporate world and being a dad in the 90’s, which resulted in two different styles: suits and casual clothes to chase the kids. Getting dressed up was fun for me and I liked the Gordon Gekko look from Wall Street. All my suits had buttons in the waistband for suspenders, I had loads of ties, and the laundry service and dry cleaners loved me. Medium starch on the shirts and a sharp crease on the pants, please. Once I got home, it was get into the comfy clothes to play with the boys.
A few years before the turn of the century, I took what was to be my last corporate assignment. The work atmosphere was casual and being near Birmingham, Alabama folks dressed practically to deal with the heat and humidity. I still enjoyed looking good, but my focus turned to soft clothes and comfortable shoes. Classic styles and patterns made up the bulk of my wardrobe. I became more brand loyal and purchased higher end items that would last longer. Turning 50 had a big influence on my practicality and the kids getting older had a bigger negative influence on our bank account.
Getting in to my sixties has created more than a few changes in my wardrobe. The slowing of my metabolism created a condition that required a larger waist on all my pants. To avoid resembling a five-pound sausage in a casing designed for three pounds, I moved up to a Large for all my shirts. I have a nice selection of suits, sport coats, dress shirts, and ties that may get worn ten times a year. Since moving to Florida in late 2014 I now have nearly as many pairs of shorts as I do long pants. In the last few months I have purchased several items that were new for me: sandals and shirts designed to be worn untucked. I see more of those in my future.
This brings me to the image at the top of this story. I have never desired to wear my clothing in this manner. Out of curiosity, I tried it at home and found it to be both uncomfortable and quite limiting in movement. Sagging has been around for a number of years and, apparently, still has a number of devotees like this gentleman I saw at a gas station. Though I am deeply grateful that he is wearing briefs and they appear to be clean, I want to see less of this in my future!