One of the nice things about getting older is being able to recognize when fashions of decades ago have come back. I can imagine how some older folks must’ve rolled their eyes years ago when swing dancing became momentarily popular among young people, who acted like they’d invented it.
Recognizing when fashion cycles are repeating is like being in on some old joke.
“Every twenty to thirty years, it repeats,” my wife explains to me, but I still don’t understand it.
I don’t know much about fashion—I’m not sure what kind of white one is supposed to wear after Thanksgiving, or how much linen is allowable in a proper Christmas outfit. I try to keep in fashion by more-or-less obeying my wife. Still, I can’t help but laugh a bit when I see some of the old styles coming back.
I had a tough time containing my joy a while ago when I started seeing more women wearing gauchos. I was in Shadyside the other day, leaving a coffee shop, when I passed by a fellow who was probably in his early forties and was sitting on a park bench on the sidewalk. As I was passing him an attractive woman in her late forties passed by, walking down Walnut Street. We both glanced at the woman, who was wearing tight herringbone pattern wool gauchos and knee-high heeled leather boots.
“Gauchos are back,” I said lowly to the guy as I walked past.
The stranger burst out laughing, because he was old enough to get the joke.
“Yeah, baby!” he said in his best Austin Powers accent.
I don’t think that fashion gets more ironic than gauchos. If somebody told me tomorrow that cow-neck sweaters are back, it still wouldn’t be as funny as people falling for something as silly as gauchos, twice in a lifetime. My wife, being fashion-forward, has some new gauchos, which look disturbingly like the back pocket is inside out. But the pocket is actually meant to look like that. Go figure.
Over the past few years as the pants have gotten wider, the halter-tops tighter and the concert t-shirts blacker, I’ve been flashing back to different times in my childhood. From top to bottom, it seems that the fashions these days are reminding me of one thing or another. The men’s shoes that have been in style for the past few years, which have wide, rounded fronts, remind me of being a kid. They are much more comfortable than other types of shoes, but I still can’t shake the notion that they are all vaguely reminiscent of what we called “Earth Shoes” back in the day.
Back in the 1970s and early Eighties, so many of the fashions seemed to give the impression that the wearer was so earthy that at any moment he might become rooted like a tree. T-shirts, bell-bottoms, braided belts, earth shoes. Just add water and sunlight, and watch them grow!
I’ve even flashed back to close to twenty years ago. Back in eighth grade I had the fashion sense of what we called a “Head.” I let my jeans drag over the back of my square-toed cowboy boots, and I wore a chain wallet that I bought from Harley Davidson, though I didn’t own a motorcycle. My hair was long and curly on my shoulder, and my black t-shirts made me a walking advertisement for various rock bands.
“When in doubt about what to listen to, just look at Jon’s shirt,” Mr. Patrica, one of my middle school teachers, once kidded me.
It’s funny what you remember when people start wearing fashions that were popular when you were thirteen.
Thing was, even back then I was a bit ashamed to admit that I’d bought those t-shirts at the mall. I’d never seen those bands that I wore around on my shirts. I didn’t start seeing concerts until I was a bit older. And when I did start seeing shows, black concert tees were mostly out. I’d missed my chance to get an authentic black concert t-shirt.
Thanks to the cyclical nature of fashion, I recently got a second chance to get one of those shirts. I was at the Rolling Stones concert at PNC Park, and before we left, my wife insisted that we get some t-shirts while were there. We picked out a couple of cute ones for her. Then we looked around for me.
I spied the t-shirt for me—it had no offensive or suggestive words, nothing to anger any women or minorities or pious folks. Its simplicity was both beautiful and tasteful. The tee had the Stones’ stuck-out tongue logo, printed on a plain old black shirt. So of course I bought it.And for the second time in a lifetime, I’d gotten myself a black concert t-shirt. But really, it was the first time.