It's fashion week in NYC. I know this because I heard it mentioned on Bob & Tom. I don't keep up with fashion. It can only lead to disappointment. I wear what I wear. It may be ugly, it could be cheap, it will be comfortable, it might even be in fashion, it might not, but I view clothing from a utilitarian angle most of the time. Did I ever try and be fashionable. Yes, yes, yes. I made attempts, but these either failed as in I never purchased or received the clothes I wanted or I did manage to buy fashionable clothes that either were already on the way out of fashion or cobbled together by me in a way to render them unfashionable. The outsider ethos of my life mixed with innate shyness around people could easily sabotage any look I conceived. However I can look back with fondness at my past clothing fits and wonder the what if's...like what if I had managed to talk my parents into buying me parachute pants my sophomore year of high school. Would it have changed my life forever? Perhaps some super cool heavy metal kid would have talked to me and we would have formed a band and changed the face of music. If that sounds stupid to you then you don't understand the power of clothes. I may value clothes primarily for utilitarian reasons, but I'm not dumb. A JFA concert shirt once got me a date with a girl which led to a several months long romance.
I was oblivious to fashion as a child which is how it should be. I wore Sears Tough Skins, lots of corduroy, tennis shoes bought from the local Pic'n'Pay, and really loud 70's pullover shirts. The tennis shoes were the one item you got the most fun buying. A pair of tennis shoes had to last a good 4-6 months so you wanted some that looked cool; the kind that made you imagine you'd run faster when you wore them. So it's no surprise that tennis shoes were the first items of clothing that became important in a fashion sense. It was in 6th grade that I learned that I wore buddies.
We were changing classes and a kid who wasn't in any of my classes started laughing at me and pointing at my shoes. When he said I was wearing buddies I didn't know what in the hell he was talking about. My comic book geek friends didn't know either, but my juvenile delinquent friends did. Once I found out, I didn't care. I was much more into comics, Hot Wheels, and television to care. It was the crushes on the girls that did me in.
I started hitting the roller rink in 7th grade and while I didn't become a slave to fashion I started to notice what the girls liked. Levi's jeans (always button fly) replaced the Tough Skins. I wore a fat comb in a back pocket even though my curly locks resisted taming. I never could get that feathered look that was all the rage for girls and boys. I got a sweatshirt with my school's name, Central Middle, emblazoned across it. I got into the corporate rock and roll marketing machine purchasing some Kiss shorts. This was all mild compared to 8th grade.
I got the greatest pair of shoes I'll ever have had: canvas Nike tennis shoes with the light blue swoop. They had the classic sole that could squeak even on dry floors. They went with everything too. I pleaded for them. I cajoled. I begged with every fiber of my being to get a pair before school began. I was in a new town. I needed all the help I could get to meet the cool kids. It worked too. The preppies and jocks accepted me right into their cliques. Being me, I promptly started hanging out with some of the rock and roll freaks. I even started wearing Keds before the school year was over which was just one step over the buddy line. You wouldn't catch any of the freaks wearing an Izod Lacoste shirt like Bucky Rice - he had Lacoste shirts for every day of the week.
But I wasn't a freak. I was just some in between kid that got along with most everybody. 9th grade saw us moving back to Murfreesboro. I would be in another new school. I wanted an Izod Lacoste shirt to help me fit in this time. They were a bit more pricey than the shoes and it took some doing to convince my mother. I nagged her enough until one day she packed me in the car and we drove across town to Harveys which was the only store in Murfreesboro that we know harbored any of those polo shirts with the alligator on them (yeah I know it's really a crocodile). So I ended up with an item that was technically in fashion, but in what would set the tone for future fashion purchases I ended up with the most godawful ugly alligator shirt ever made. It was a green and yellow striped thing. The word garish might have even been on the wash and wear tag. If it wasn't it should have been. It wasn't my choice. It was my mother's wallet's choice.
I wore the damned item for picture day and then chucked it into the closet. I couldn't make friends at Oakland High. I started wearing whatever the hell I wanted to which meant jeans and flannel. It was the era when I slept in my clothes and I'd wear the same items for days. Imagine...me not making any friends! I liked to wear concert t-shirts over the flannel shirts. If that was ever a trend; I'm taking responsibility for it. The only fashion trend that year I briefly rocked: ag-boy chic which fit right in with my flannel wear since all you needed was a Co-op cap with the brim made into a duck's bill and a pair of work boots. Taking agriculture didn't hurt either. I can still spot a Poland China from a mile away.
Farm life looked good from the city, but when we moved to a farm before 10th grade started I found out I wasn't much for farming. So the look I suddenly wanted included penny loafers and a striped Oxford shirt. The penny loafers part was easy. The shirt was easy to mess up. I wanted an Arrow shirt with a button down collar. So I got a pink shirt with white stripes. This was bad enough, but to make it worse it didn't have a button down collar. It had a big white collar that was kept in place by a gold pin. It was like I was Charlie Brown - heck I would have looked better dressed like Chuck.
So I went back to the old standby of Levi's, concert shirts, and freak shoes. Freak shoes are normally called wallabees, but just like it's only preppies and jocks that liked Timberland boots back then only stoners and heavy metal fans wore wallabees when I was in high school; hence freak shoes. Then it turned cold and Member's Only jackets became the thing to have. I didn't even want one and my parents didn't disappoint me there. They bought me this huge bulky black nylon thing that had zippered pockets all over it. If it had been leather people would have thought I was into S & M.
The nylon I wanted was parachute pants. Jeff Blair had a pair and Jeff was one of the coolest cats around. He drove a Trans Am, played electric guitar, and went to all of the rock concerts in Nashville. He'd wear the latest cool t-shirt with his black parachute pants which always had a bandanna or two tied around a leg. He also rocked a wicked mullet along with a penchant for camouflage pants. I never did get a pair of parachute pants, but I did get some camo pants inspired by the film The Wild Life and Jeff.
The camouflage pants were a good springboard toward my senior year wish it was punk rock but New Wave will do look. The thrift store suit jacket was the most vital component of this look. It gave a person lots of room to place rock and roll buttons and it went great with a t-shirt. My friend Bruno was a maniac about buttons covering the front of his along with rocking a fedora. I took an old denim jacket and turned it into a punk jacket with Sharpie slogans covering the back. The best fashion moment of the year was in the spring at a world history academic contest where the teacher told me I needed to take off the DIY anarchy button I had made.
I had found my look! Thrift store garb was the way to go for me. Overlayered with a suit jacket filled with buttons screamed intellectual to me. An old USMC trench coat completed the picture in winter. I thought I was something walking across the college campus smoking a clove cigarette. This look would get me through most of one semester until I dropped out. It was the era of Wally's disillusionment.
I went to work and I got drunk. That's what I did for almost two years straight. Then my life was saved by rock and roll and skateboarding. I started singing with The Dislocated and then I started skating with the Gonz and Papoose. I even got back into college. When I went back to Riverdale High to play a gig in front of the whole student body with The Dislocated I wore camouflage pants, the JFA t-shirt that would later land me a chick, Chuck Taylor's, some John Lennon granny style sunglasses, and a Cubs baseball cap. It was a dreadful look, but it was me. We filmed the show and maybe someday we'll put some of it on Youtube.
If that fashion mistake wasn't enough I spent the next few years wearing day-glo flavored shorts, Vans skate shoes, and rock and roll t-shirts to go with various hairstyles like the buzzcut, the dyed blonde, the 90210, the long and shaggy, the long and shaggy but shaved underneath aka the Jason Newsted, the shaved except for one shock of hair aka the modified Zippy, and then the dyed red trying to dye it blonde haircut. It could have been worse, the Gonz liked the Body Glove look.
By the mid-90's the skater shorts were gone, but now I was prone to wearing lots of plaid. That's how I was dressing when I met the future Soulfish wife. I had gone back to the thrift stores in earnest which at the time were stocked with Izod Lacoste shirts. I bought dark colors. I liked button up sweaters, khakis, and low top Vans. I could have passed for emo even though that musical movement was many years away from becoming a codified thing. The Soulfish wife helped to tighten up my look and it hasn't changed much since then.
My fashion sense today is primarily dictated by work: khakis and a company polo shirt. When not at work it's the casual daddy style: rock and roll, button down, or rugby shirts, shorts or jeans, tennis shoes or loafers, and perhaps a baseball cap. Add a sweater during the winter and I'm happy. Gone are the days when I might rock an African dashiki (picked up in D.C. at an African festival during the Iran-Contra era), a tie-dyed shirt with the Soviet cross and sickle (Fat Sammy told me I'd get my ass kicked wearing that shirt when visiting Ripley, Mississippi one summer - I should have been beat for pairing the shirt with a pair of pink plaid Bermuda shorts), tortoise shell Raybans, or a hooded Baja shirt.
I now get to survive my own children's fashion wants. The girls' big thing this summer was getting a pair of Crocs. They didn't mind when they got knock-offs. They're only 7 and 4 so the peer pressure isn't so great, yet. I'm sure it won't be long until we're being asked, cajoled, and begged for the latest hot item and while we won't acquiesce to all of their demands we'll try and make them happy when it's appropriate and I promise no green and yellow monstrosities allowed.