Leave It To Mister Boomer

Mister Boomer envisioned a lost episode of Leave It To Beaver this past week. It centered around the Beaver tearing a hole in his jeans:

Leave It To Beaver: The Lost Episode

The Beaver walks up to his home. June Cleaver spots him coming and, wiping her hands on her apron, immediately meets him on the porch.

June: Theodore, what happened? You have a tear in your pants!

The Beaver: Oh, it’s nothing. I was playing on the school monkey bars and got caught on one of the bolts. I hardly bled at all.

June: Look at that tear! Come on, I’ll sew it up before supper.

Wally and Eddie Haskell walk up and listen to the conversation, while at the same time Ward Cleaver pulls into the driveway, home from a long day at work. All three converge on the porch with the Beaver and June.

The Beaver: I was thinking, mom, maybe you could just leave it the way it is.

June: What! Whatever do you mean, Theodore?

The Beaver: Well, Wally was saying how some of the cool kids at school have holes in their jeans. Right, Wally?

Wally: Hey, leave me out of it, Beav.

Eddie Haskell: Yeah, Wally doesn’t know anything about what is cool! Hey, Beaver, when we were your age, our dungarees were made of strong stuff. We couldn’t punch a hole in them if we wanted to! What are yours made of, two-ply?

June (bewildered, but ignoring Eddie): So you think you want to be like the cool kids and have a hole in your jeans?

The Beaver: Well, with a face like this, I can only be so cool, so yeah, why not?

June: WHY NOT??!!?? Just because other misguided children want to walk around with holes in their jeans doesn’t mean you have to do it, too! If they wanted to jump off a bridge, would you want to do that, too?

Ward comes over and wraps an arm around her shoulder and gently nudges the now trembling Mrs. Cleaver to the front door.

Ward to Eddie: Will you be staying for supper, Eddie?

Eddie Haskell: No thanks, Mr. Cleaver. I got to be going. See you tomorrow, Wally!

Eddie leaves as the Cleaver family enters the house. Ward sits June in a chair in his den, her eyes glazed over and holding back sobs.

Ward addresses the Beaver: You know, being cool isn’t all its made out to be. I was young once, too, you know. All my friends had zoot suits, but you know what I did? I refrained from buying one. It wasn’t really for me, now was it, Theodore?

Ward lights his pipe that he pulled from his jacket pocket.

Ward: Did you stop to consider what other people would think of your mother, letting you walk around with a hole in your jeans? This is the 1960s, Theodore. People fought for our freedom to create the kind of life where people wouldn’t have to walk around with holes in their jeans. Would you want people to think your mother wasn’t doing her duty? Do you understand, now, Theodore?

The Beaver:: Yes, sir. I guess so.

June makes a remarkable recovery and pops up out of the chair.

June: Wally, take Theodore upstairs and pour hydrogen peroxide and some mercurochrome on his bloody knee. Theodore, change those pants and you boys wash up for supper. I’ll mend them after I do the dishes.

June exits for the kitchen as Ward sits in his chair to read the newspaper.

Wally: Come on, Beav. What were you thinking?

The boys walk up the stairs. Roll credits.

The situation that prompted this hallucinogenic flashback was a tear Mister B has in the knee of his jeans. Mister B had written before about the trend of torn jeans (see: Boomers and Torn Jeans: The Evolution from Time-to-Replace to High Fashion). But this was different; it happened to him! One day, out of the blue, as he bent, the fabric flexed over his knee and split horizontally in two places.

At first, Mister Boomer thought maybe he’d just go with the flow. No one would give him a second look, with the proliferation of torn denim parading around the streets these days. After only one wearing, though, the tears grew wider, exposing his entire knee to the elements. This was not the season for exposed knees, so Mister Boomer did the only thing he thought he could do: he grabbed needle and thread and attempted to mend the tears.

Despite his rudimentary sewing skills (Mister B never took Home Ec), he was able to stitch the fabric in a manner that reminded him of scars on Frankenstein’s monster. “Maybe I’ll start a new trend,” he thought, admiring his amateur repair.

When the time came to rotate from one pair of jeans to another, Mister B put on his Frankenstein jeans. Within an hour, the fabric tore, not along the hastily sewn stitches, but directly above and below the thread line; the repair thread was stronger than the fabric.

Mister B is befuddled, now. If men his age are out in public with torn jeans, people will feel sorry for the old man on a fixed income who can’t afford a new pair of jeans. So much for being cool. What is maddening, though, is the jeans were a major brand name. The fabric obviously is not of the strength and durability we remember in our boomer days. Just what are they made out of, two-ply?

What have you done about torn jeans at your age, boomers? Or are you sitting at the cool kids’ table, sporting your designer tears?

Did Boomers Pave the Way for Athleisure?

Have you noticed that more people are wearing what most boomers would consider gym wear in all sorts of public venues, from shopping and casual evenings out, to heading in to the office for a day’s work? Evidently, it’s not your imagination, but a nationwide trend that is shaking up the world of fashion. As you might suspect, Millennials — you know, that demographic that is now overtaking boomers to become the most influential spenders for retailers — have taken to the trend like comics on Silly Putty. This new blend of what used to be called sportswear and active wear is now called athleisure. Merriam-Webster dictionary has included the term in its latest edition, defining it as “casual clothing meant to be worn both for exercising and for general use.” What? How can clothing be used for both exercising and general use? Well, maybe we only have ourselves to blame.

At the start of the Boomer Generation, Americans had a post-war dress code that was split between more formal attire and casual wear. Both were upended, first by the Beatniks and then into the sixties, where boomers replaced “sensible” with eccentric combinations of fabrics and patterns, more often than not paired with blue jeans. It was the Boomer Generation that started us on the path to what Mister Boomer has called the Casualization of America. Mister Boomer has written about this trend as he watched the first blue jeans make their way into his church. In just a couple of short years, horrified parishioners who once wore only dresses and suits to church were accepting kids walking in wearing jeans. “Anything to get them into the pews,” was one of the rationales you’d hear. Other than military academies and parochial schools, the lack of stricter dress codes allowed the boomer casual look into the schools to the point where jeans and, ultimately, t-shirts, became the new norm.

When the Boomer Generation began, there wasn’t much need for gym-style exercise for a lot of people. Instead, physical labor supplied all the muscle tone most people needed, or so they thought. Technology was changing the workplace, and television tempted people to sit more than they used to. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, having experienced the need for a fit fighting force in World War II, established the President’s Council on Youth Fitness in July of 1956. Unfortunately, people weren’t sure what exactly constituted “fitness,” so the program floundered.

By the time John F. Kennedy became President in 1960, the government was running ads to make people aware of widening waistlines and sedentary tendencies. Only a month after his inauguration, Kennedy reorganized the President’s Council on Youth Fitness to promote and improve fitness. It was more than likely through this program that a good many boomers were introduced to gym clothes as more schools made Phys Ed mandatory.

What did boomers wear to gym class? In Mister Boomer’s experience, both boys and girls wore the same practical outfit: t-shirt with the school’s name printed on it, cotton shorts, tube socks and gym shoes, otherwise known as sneakers. However, other than taking the clothes home from school for washing, gym class was the only place this clothing was worn. It was the sneakers that first made their way into the summer wardrobes of boomers, which turned out to be a welcome addition to more than one style of boomer fashion.

Fast forward to the times when most boomers were raising families themselves and you’ll see the slow but steady acceptance of more casual attire in the workplace. Factory workers had always taken the lead in casual comfort, wearing overalls or jeans more often than not, for durability as well as mobility on the job. Into the 1970s and ’80s, as office jobs were more prevalent than factory jobs, the question of “proper” attire was a battlefield for some employees, while a place of freedom for others. By the 1980s, the trend was given a name, and it was called “business casual.” Boomers took to it like screaming fans to the Beatles. By the 2000s, business casual was the norm in many industries.

And that brings us back to athleisure. Mister Boomer supposes it comes down to this: have you ever worn sweatpants to shop at WalMart? Did the clothing you wore to play football with the kids become OK to wear while visiting Aunt Martha? Did you ever buy a running suit, but never took up running? If so, then athleisure is your baby. Mister Boomer prefers his jeans.

How about it, boomers? Will you embrace your kids and grandkids coming to Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner wearing athleisure clothing at the end of this year?