Walking The Line

I’ll admit, I haven’t always been known for my unique sense of style. But I’ve had my moments. Most of the time, I followed the fashion herd with whatever trend was most popular at the time – especially as an impressionable teenager.

I wore pastels in the 80s because of Crockett and Tubbs. Later, I wore “hammer pants” because of M.C. Hammer and I wore more than my fair share of turtlenecks, cardigans, and tight-rolled jeans because of Dylan, Brandon, and the rest of the kids living in Beverly Hills 90210. Fortunately, there was no such thing as social media at the time so I have been mostly spared the embarrassment of being reminded of those years.

As the youngest of four children growing up in a household without a lot of expendable cash, much of my wardrobe consisted of hand-me-downs from my older brother. Honestly, I never really cared that much – except when trends made a drastic change at some point during the six years that separated us. Six years isn’t enough to pull off a “retro” look and as a result, there were times when I just looked like the kid wearing his big brothers leftovers. I was fortunate (I think) that that my mother could sew and there were several times that mom came to the rescue with her version of whatever trend was popular at the time. She was exceptionally proud of her button down shirts – even though I’m pretty sure she was still using a pattern leftover from the early ‘70s.

By the time I was a senior in high school in the early ‘90s, I had settled into a comfortable wardrobe consisting mostly of off-brand blue jeans, t-shirts, and a Mexican poncho stamped with the “Corona” beer logo. I usually wore a wooden Buddha figurine around my neck, although I can no longer remember why. The poncho stuck around during my college years until it mysteriously disappeared one semester. 

One staple of my wardrobe from almost the very beginning has been my trusty Chuck Taylor Converse tennis shoes. I wore them in middle school and high school (when they weren’t so cool), and they have stuck around ever since. Like most trends, my Chucks have come in – and out – of being fashionable a few different times since then – but I’ve always been faithful to Mr. Taylor.

As an adult “business man,” I admit I still haven’t strayed very far out of my comfort zone. A look into my closet will reveal a few dozen button down shirts with about 60 percent of them being blue. I’m not sure why I’m drawn to blue shirts, but I clearly am. They’re almost always paired with dark dress slacks and a pair of dark shoes.

I suppose my one fashion indulgence is socks. I do enjoy myself a pair of whacky socks and my sock drawer will back up that claim. No colors or designs are off limits. I have squirrel socks, robot socks, and flag socks. I have paisley socks, striped socks, and socks with polka dots. Purple socks, green socks, and turquoise socks.

I’m not even sure how I settled into the “sock thing,” but more often than not, they serve as a great conversation starter. A few years ago, my staff even bought me a six-month membership into the “Sock of the Month” club. 

As I get older and time continues to march on, I can’t help but think more and more about the fashion choices of my father and I wonder if I’ll follow in his footsteps.

He’ll turn 80 next year and for the last several years, he has almost exclusively worn those one-piece jumpsuits – you know, the kind prison inmates wear. He has them in just every color known to man (including prison orange) and most of them have been elevated to an all-new level thanks to my mother and her embroidery machine.

He told me once he liked to wear them because he didn’t have to wear any underwear with them. So there’s always that.

I don’t know if I’ll ever go that far, but I suppose I admire his commitment. 

For now, I think I’ll stick with my Chuck Taylors. They seem to go well with the gray in my beard. And if I ever do decide to go with the jumpsuits, they should work with those, too.

Gustafson is the not-so-mild-mannered (and not-so-fashionable) publisher of Signature Magazine.