Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

That 1950s Cool Look Doesn't Wash in '90S

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

That 1950s Cool Look Doesn't Wash in '90S

Article excerpt

IT WAS the kind of invitation that should be promptly tossed away. A party with a theme. Even worse, a theme that required wearing what amounts to a costume.

I haven't worn a costume since a painful evening visiting friends in Florida. One friend, who worked in real estate development, urged me to join him at a costume party being given by a big developer.

"You can wear something I brought back from the Middle East," he said, producing a caftan, the flowing robe worn by many Arab men. And the head wear, known in some quarters as a kaffiyeh.

So I slipped into the outfit. With dark glasses, a deep vacation tan and aquiline features (a kindly way of describing an eagle beak), I made a passable Arab sheik.

My friend took the easy route, slipping on a dark business suit and a fez.

When we walked into the cocktail party, it was obvious by the way the other guests stared and whispered that they weren't impressed.

"You said this was a costume party," I hissed at my friend.

"I thought it was a costume party," he said, whipping off his fez. "But I guess I was wrong."

I spent the rest of the evening mumbling to investor-seeking real estate hustlers: "No, I am not in oil, since my poor country has none. Sand, I export our excellent desert sand to your beaches. Want to buy a ton or two?"

That was when I vowed to never again put on a costume.

But the blond accepted the recent invitation before I could express my revulsion.

"It's a 1950s theme," she said, "so that shouldn't be difficult."

She was right. I could wear my everyday clothes, which are timeless.

"No," she said, "your clothes are just old and baggy. You have to do better than that."

That's why I found myself in a men's clothing store, shopping for the first pair of jeans I have owned or worn since the late '50s.

I'm aware that some men wear jeans into their middle years. But I assume that they are making a personal statement. The only statement I make with clothing is that I am not naked.

The youthful salesperson said: "You'll want the loose cut, I suppose. It gives you more room in the . . . uh. . . ."

"Nonsense. I happen to be blessed with the white European male's inconspicuous bottom and will wear the traditional lean cut. …

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