I’ve written before that I never had a chance at being cool. It was mostly my own fault, but there was one aspect of my not coolness that was not my fault: my wardrobe. True, it changed as I got older and had more say in what was bought, but for many years I was at the mercy of what my mom thought would look good on me. This wouldn’t be too much of a problem except my mom has a . . . unique fashion sense.
There are pictures from when I was very young that still make me shudder. In one (which my wife insists on displaying because I look so cute), I’m sitting in a chair wearing brown striped (!) pants, a pale yellow shirt, and a neckerchief. (For the record, Freddie Jones is the only one who could really pull that look off successfully). There’s another photo in which I’m wearing a vest that looks as if crafted from strangled raccoons.
Those two photos were taken in the 70’s, so I could make the case that I didn’t look any sillier than anyone else at the time. Unfortunately, I have experience (particularly from middle school) that forces me to believe otherwise. The main thing I notice from those photos (and others like them) is that my early years consisted mostly of earth tones that complemented my complexion and contrasted nicely with my ridiculously blonde hair. Unfortunately, my mom’s sense of color evolved into what most people consider, um, clashing.
As recently as just four years ago, my mom was selling clothes through in home parties and was even selected to model them on a Nashville talk show. She came out wearing an ensemble containing colors I had always referred to as lime green and faded orangy-pink. The announcer said she was wearing “shrimp” and “apple.” There was a short pause and then the host of the talk show said, “Huh . . . I would not have thought to put those two colors together.” Neither would anyone else. There was a far-worse color combo though, and it hung about my scrawny frame in eighth grade.
I had made All-County band (this was a big deal) for the third year running, but had outgrown my dress clothes due to a growth spurt (I had grown from laughingly short to snickering short). Mom knew I needed a new suit for the performance so she got me one. Well, she got me some new pants and a new coat. The pants were the right cut, the right style, and extremely comfortable. There was only one tiny, insignificant problem.
“Mom, these are pink.”
“No, they’re salmon.”
“They’re not pink, they’re salmon.”
“Maybe, but they’re the same color as the inside of a salmon. That’s pink.”
“They are not pink. They’re salmon. Besides, they won’t look pink to you with the coat I got.”
She was wrong. They still looked pink, but the coat was actually worse. It was somewhere between turquoise and teal. It is a color I now refer to as “spank me gay blue.” (Sadly, I’ve received more than one article of clothing in that color). Since it was the 80’s it had shoulder pads, but they seemed larger than normal. As did the white buttons the size of dinner plates. The buttons that were on the left side of the coat. I’ll give that a moment to sink in.
I wore those salmon (pink) pants and that spank me gay blue coat in the largest indoor gathering place in Clarksville. In front of family, friends, and strangers. It didn’t help that I paired them with a plaid-ish shirt and a silk piano keyboard tie. I never lived it down. Which means even fellow band geeks made fun of me. I’ll let that sink in as well.
While I somewhat enjoyed the notoriety I gained that day, I only wore that outfit one other time. As for now, I mostly stick with earth tones. And when I wear blue, it’s either navy or regular old blue. Never the spank me gay variety.