By Patrick F. Cannon
I bought a couple of sports coats and pairs of pants the other day. They fit quite nicely. I mention this because the same store sells men’s jackets and suits that don’t fit – not by accident, but by design. The photo here shows a young fellow wearing what is known as a “slim fit” suit. His au courant look also features an askew tie, no socks, and sneakers instead of dress shoes. Like most models these days, he looks like he could do with a good meal.
In my youth – admittedly some time ago – if someone showed up looking like this, one would have assumed that he had outgrown his grade school graduation suit, but was too poor to buy a new one. Either compassion or laughter would have greeted his arrival.
A variation of the current fashion has the fashion plate eschewing the tie altogether, but buttoning the dress shirt all the way to the top. Now, this fashionably incomplete look is not limited to the slim fit crowd; one sees it on men wearing traditionally-cut suits, as if to declare: “I hate ties, but I’m not willing to throw away my expensive suits just yet.”
I myself have been accused of an unwillingness to vary my dress from a look I adopted some 50 years ago – suits that fit, a conservative tie, dark socks and real leather shoes (I still own two pairs of dress shoes I bought some 25 years ago). My “casual” apparel has long consisted of khaki pants and polo shirts in the summer, and khaki pants and long-sleeve sports shirts with button-down colors in the cooler months. I sometimes accessorize with a sweater. I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing a ball cap backwards (and neither should you).
Thus, my friends and relatives would be shocked to know that I was quite fashion forward in my youth. Puberty, I expect, was to blame.
Now, I do acknowledge the singing talent of Elvis Presley, but he has much else to answer for, God rest his soul. One sin was the advent of pegged pants. For the young among you, these were pants with baggy legs ending in narrow cuffs, barely wide enough to get ones feet through (some actually had zippers to better ease entry). As if this weren’t curious enough, strange pastels and zany patterns were additional features, as were side pleats of various widths. Did I mention blue suede shoes?
To complete the look, it was de rigueur to have highly pomaded long hair that was combed in the back to resemble what we crudely called a “duck’s ass,” or “DA” for short. In addition, I affected a kind of pompadour in the front. This of course was easy to see in the mirror, but for a verdict on the success of the DA combing, one had to depend upon the kindness of one’s friends.
Thankfully, due to changing fashion, I soon abandoned the “greaser” look for the emerging “Ivy League” or “Preppy,” which some say I have clung to ever since. But that’s because they have conveniently forgotten the double-knit fiasco on the late 60s and early 70s. I confess I strayed a bit then as well.
If you’re old enough, you might remember the emergence of “miracle” fabrics and materials, beginning with Nylon and progressing to Dacron and Orlon, among others. DuPont even came up with fake shoe leather called Corfam, which you never needed to polish. Just wipe it off with a damp cloth! Alas, after you wiped it off, it still looked like plastic.
Some advertised the suits as “Swedish” double knit, which could be loomed into elaborate and colorful patterns never seen in that gloomy country. I had one sports coat that seemed a ruddy rust in the store, but turned into bright orange in the light of day. Most of these fabrics tended to stretch with cleaning, so that the mass of men wandered about with increasingly drooping duds. It didn’t take long for the Salvation Army to become the beneficiary of yet another fashion faux pas.
Ever since, I’ve stuck with wool and cotton. I did vary from my usual khaki a couple of years ago by buying a pair of Nantucket Red wash pants. My wife Jeanette thinks they’re dreadful; as for me, I’m waiting for an invite to a yacht club cocktail party to pair them with my blazer and blue button-down shirt, with perhaps an Ascot to complete the ensemble.
Copyright 2018, Patrick F. Cannon