Accidental fashion

Gary Lester

I’m really into fashion. I mean, I don’t get too dressed up too often, but I’ve been cutting edge plenty of times. Well, not in the “Men’s Warehouse ‘You’ll like the way you look'” kind of way. Those people don’t cater to guys my size. That reminds me of the time we were at some kind of outlet store and the tags in the shirts had the sizes in foreign languages. A friend noticed that one shirt had a tag that read: “Small/Petite.” He thought it was funny, but I didn’t. I suggested “Wiry” as a better adjective. Haven’t seen that term used yet. Too cutting edge, I guess.

Anyway, back in the mid ’60s, when I got to college, all the cool “city boys” were wearing bell bottoms. I wanted a pair but no stores in town had them yet. My friends here thought I was crazy. I found a pair in Jamestown. Within a few months, that’s all everyone was wearing. I led the way that time.

Coincidentally, my Dad still had his WWII fatigue jacket hanging in a closet at home. That and the bell bottoms created a soon-to-be coveted pseudo-hippie vibe. I was cutting edge cool.

Some of my favorite clothing defies aging. I know that because I put on a shirt the other day and happened to look at a photo on a bookshelf that was taken more than 25 years ago and guess what… I was wearing the same shirt. Timelessness.

It was time for new glasses a few years ago. I channeled Grandpop after noticing a portrait of him and Grandma taken back in the ’50s. Dr. Spangler found me a pair of glasses like his in the picture, the ones with the thicker black tops and thin silver bottoms. I may have had the first pair of the new version of that style in town. Now I see them all over. Out in front again! Speaking of 25 years ago, apparently the early 90’s were good years for flannel shirts. I guess I bought several then. And as I did the winter-to-spring switch of clothing earlier this year, I noticed that a few were really worn. The collars were almost worn through. Holes, loose threads…. Sad, sad day; I had to get rid of some. (I now have a collection of soft, beautiful, plaid rags for my workshop.)

Neckties are another fashion statement I appreciate. Time was they were in the dress code for most businessmen. There were even tie shops in major airports. I started collecting oddball ones. Some of my favorites were from the Save the Children Federation. They had art contests for kids and the winners were put on ties, scarves, Whirley mugs, and other fund-raising items. They attract a lot of attention and it’s fun to tell the story of the outfit they benefit. Then came Jerry Garcia ties. I always thought it odd that the shaggy singer/guitar player from The Grateful Dead had a line of ties. I doubt he ever wore one. But as I wore them around town and ran into businessmen, mostly Northwest staffers also wearing Jerry’s recognizable designs, we’d check out each others neckwear and say: “Nice Jerry Garcia!” See, even old guys can be cool sometimes, when they know how to dress properly.

Today I scheduled some yard work and needed a pair of old jeans. Found them in a bottom drawer and there was a hole in the right leg just below the knee. It was one of those holes with the white threads still in it. Those are fashionable now, you know. Reminded me of the day a neighbor posted a picture of her “new” jeans, hand-me-downs, or more accurately, hand-me-ups from her teenaged daughter. I think it was her first pair with the same kind of holes as my old jeans. (Mine were from wear, not part of a contemporary, factory-made design.) I asked if they had to pay extra for the holes and she said they did.

Boy, did I blow it. I’ll bet I could have sold her those old, holey flannel shirts! You ought to help a neighbor be cutting edge, if you can.