Folks, I’m not being critical or judging this morning. I’m the biggest “to each his own” guy you will ever see. I think “flabbergasted” is the word that fits…… I read in the paper where the parents of a three year old bought her $650 dresses and threw in an additional $400 each for the appropriate matching shoes. I believe the mother’s comment was, “I dress my daughter exactly the way I dress myself”. Whew! I can’t ever remember a time I wanted to be dressed exactly like either of my parents.
One lady admitted that, “some of the clothes are outrageously priced. But things like $200 Gucci sneakers make her kids happy.” Listen, when I was three or four, what made me happy was a 5cent Baby Ruth. I would have traded any pair of shoes I had for a swallow or two of a Nehi Orange drink.
My whole wardrobe from the first grade through high school graduation didn’t cost four hundred dollars! I can honestly report that I don’t remember what I was wearing when I was three. If Mom put them $200 Gucci’s on me, I would have just lost them down at the creek. Mostly we went barefooted. It allowed us to run unencumbered through the cotton fields and gave us better traction for climbing trees and “getting a toe hold” for wrestling matches.
We were not without our fashion shows in West Tennessee in the early fifties. Leon modeled every single piece of clothing me and David Mark were eventual going to wear. It just took us a year or two to “grow into them”. I didn’t mind the hand-me-downs. Cramming newspapers in the toe of the oversized shoes was a bit uncomfortable and you might have a patch or two on the elbows of the winter shirts but heck, we thought it was the way everyone lived back then.
I begged Leon to take extra care of that Roy Rogers’ western shirt with the fringe down the sleeve. It was about the best looking thing he ever modeled for us. He took his third grade picture in it. I figured to do the same. It had that corded yoke across the back and real pearl buttons. I got upset because he was wearing that shirt three days a week and twice on Sunday. As it turned out, it didn’t matter. He got in a fight with Jackie Burns or Paul David Campbell, I can’t remember which, and that beautiful shirt got torn to pieces. My third grade picture was already a bust and I hadn’t even started to school yet!
Tuf Nut Jeans and tee shirts were our wardrobe staples. Leon was kind enough to break those Tuf Nuts in for us. And believe me, they lived up to their names! They had double patches on the knees, deep pockets for holding magnets, marbles and frogs. They literally “wore like iron”. It was tough rounding second base in a pair of those things, but they were nice to have on when principal McIver was dispensing some “correctional punishment” to your little backside. Levi’s, of course, were the Gucci of the day…..but shucks, they cost over two dollars a pair…..
Mother sewed a few shirts together for us out of flour or seed sacks but this depression era practice was, thankfully, just about a thing of the past by the fifties. She did make a lot of our shirts, which was ok by me except for one thing; she could not sew on a collar. She’d get one side way bigger than the other or she couldn’t get the point just right. She could get the sleeves the exact length. She could put a professional looking pocket on for you. She’d make those button holes look store bought. But, for the life of her, she couldn’t do a collar. She just left them off. We were wearing Henley shirts to school before there was such a thing!
Fashion wasn’t much of an issue back then. Neat and clean was the byline. But, still, you didn’t want to be the only child in the third grade without a collar on your shirt! Thankfully, it didn’t seem to bring on bouts of depression or scar me for life. The other kids never said a word or even seemed to notice. But, still, it certainly made me aware for the first time that clothes sometimes can make a difference.
Charlotte Melton asking me out to her house to ride horses in the eighth grade is what got me really to thinking about what I was wearing. Dang, I wish that Roy Rogers shirt hadn’t a’gotten torn up! I sought out Leon for some advice. He said, “Don’t worry about your clothes dummy, just splash on some extra Old Spice so you won’t smell like a horse when you walk her back to the barn!” As my “dating years” moved through high school I spent my lifeguarding money on bleeding Madras shirts, Munsingwear Penguin jackets and ultra thin belts with double buckles.
It all seems so silly now. Or maybe I’ve just gone full circle. The older I get, the less I care about what I’m wearing. Cost trumps style more than ever. A six hundred dollar dress for a three year old seems like a terrible waste. But hey, I’m going to let those parents figure it out like we all had to do.
And I also want to publicly thank Garth Brooks. I saw him on TV in New York back in the late ’90’s doing a concert in front of a million people…..and he was wearing a striped shirt with NO collar!
Made me feel so much better about the third grade.