Life’s memories are as common as street posts. I marked my progress traveling through life by being a slave to fashion with milestones of brilliance on the road of Haute Couture.
My travels began with blue velvet elephant ear bell bottom pants, the premiere statement of a fashion wannabe. Well, at the very beginning were cloth diapers in a rainbow of colors, with an 800 thread count Egyptian cotton herringbone weave — diapers that screamed “poop on me,” which I did with regularity. This was my true intro into the world of fashion. How could it get any better? you may be asking.
Some of my fondest boyhood memories are those of shopping with my nanny at the Galleria. She was European and had bohemian tendencies, but with a Eurotrash sophistication that most 18-year-old Americans lacked. That type is always in fashion, especially big-breasted blondes like her, whom my father took a liking to and went on vacation with 58 years ago. They must be having a grand time since we have not heard from either one since.
But I digress. Jump ahead 15 years to the point when I started carrying a comb in my back pocket. My era of blue velvet elephant ear bell bottom pants — very 70s and very clueless. Add to that a French T-shirt which wasn’t really a T-shirt (and probably not even French) and you had a clothing statement shouting, “He doesn’t have to worry about a prom date!”
I followed this gem of a look with the triple-layer Izod polo shirts. That’s three Izod polo shirts layered one on top of the other. A combination of vibrant peach, soft yellow and precious pink. I looked like I had been barfed upon by a Unicorn. People gazed at this fashionista and had to think that his mommy was still doing his laundry.
To complement this stylish attire, parachute pants, because everyone wants to give the impression that they just jumped out of a perfectly good airplane. My friends called this ensemble my “birth control look,” mainly due to the fact that no woman would ever have a thing to do with me. Yea, I was that good-looking — totally unapproachable.
My life progressed, but my fashion statements didn’t, as I went straight to my Members Only jacket phase. A jacket that was worthless for rain, wind or cold, but man, did it look cool. Silk shirts with no buttons and platform shoes completed the disco look. Watch out, sugar, this is a fashion bomb about to go off. I adopted my Forever 21 look at age 40-plus. Hip and forty-ish, hanging out at the local watering holes drinking my Harvey Wallbangers, wearing sunglasses at midnight. Silk sports jackets, lavender pants, white shoes with no socks. Daring, yes, but worth it. You get the picture: totally cool, someone everyone was afraid to approach and be with — Mr. Standoffish was my moniker.
Then onto my golden years, the years I wore gold rings and necklaces (several at once) which served a dual purpose. Not only were they a fashion excuse to flaunt my excess riches that I didn’t have, I also knew where to stop shaving. The life miles started to show as I traveled onto my J Crew look: tight-fitting jeans and tighter T-shirts, looking hip, bulging and sixty. Curves were meant to be displayed, and baby, I had the curves.The years wore on (pun– get it?) and I finally settled on the sweater vest.
At first I was reluctant — what would the members of the Way Past Their Prime and Don’t Know It club think? Uppity? But I didn’t care, so I purchased my first sweater vest — a green number with a tight weave and washable on delicate with cold water. My mom refuses to do my laundry anymore, the 90-year-old wimp. There I was at our weekly Wednesday dinner meeting (4:30 p.m. during daylight savings time, 3:30 standard time — night driving is an issue), when she tells me to buy my own Woolite.
Dressed to impress with my green sweater vest and a new-found fashion freedom, I was empowered. I felt society owed me and I took full advantage of it. Waiting in lines was for the youngsters — those under 68. “Food, bland and boring” was my motto; oatmeal was too spicy. “What did he say?” became my catchphrase. “Ah, you don’t know what you’re talking about,” stopped every argument in its tracks — even the ones I was having with myself. Coffee wasn’t just for breakfast, lunch and dinner anymore.
Yes, I was emboldened. Every room I went into was too cold. Anything below 88 degrees was intolerable, so therefore I could wear my sweater vest all year round –even at the Sun City Resort Living community in summer.
And, truth be told, the women dug it; they grooved out on this hip young look and I know they all loved me, especially the young ones in their 60s. Just call me a man cougar. Yes, I would be wearing my sweater vest, shorts, black socks and Oxford shoes and they would look at me and smile. Well, laugh. All the same to me since I couldn’t hear what they were saying anyway.
I also noticed that a lot of the fellows at the resort emulated my fashion sense. I would go to parties and every man was wearing a sweater vest. We would be there sipping on our martinis, eating steaks, or lounging at the pool after tennis and complaining about the cost of prescription drugs.
Even old Dave, who was never one for fashion, took on the sweater vest look but didn’t realize that was all he was wearing. Trying to one up me, huh, Dave? As a lifelong fashionista I would expect nothing less. “Huh, what was I saying?” “Ah, I don’t know what I’m talking about. Pass the oatmeal. I’m not waiting in line anymore.”