A recent shopping trip had Mister Boomer feeling his age when he was surrounded by skinny jeans and shrunken suits. Yet what the experience really reminded him of was how the tables had turned from when he was a young teen, about to embark on his first foray into consciously choosing fashionable duds for himself.
It was 1967, and Mister Boomer was an early teen in high school. His friends heard about an all-day concert coming up, and suggested they all go together. However, the boys had also decided that it was time for Mister B to get with the program in terms of his mode of dress. Up until that point, he had not put much thought into what he wore. In fact, the vast majority of what he wore was purchased by his mother, with little or no input. Now his peers were pressuring him to buy some fashionable clothes so they could collectively present themselves as “with it” to members of the opposite sex.
After much badgering, Mister B gave in and bought his first pair of bell bottom pants. It could very well have been the first article of clothing he purchased without any assistance from his parents. The memory of the location of the purchase and the circumstances surrounding it are lost to Mister B, but the remembrance of those pants past are still as vivid as the day he slipped them on to attend his first rock concert.
By late 1960s standards, there was nothing particularly special about the pair. The fabric was a little dressier than a corduroy or jean might have presented, reflecting Mister B’s practical nature so as to be able to get more wear out of the pants in multiple situations. By that point in sartorial history, the mode of dress for men was very much defined by the activity involved: there was church and event wear, school wear, work wear and everyday wear for hanging out in the neighborhood. It took until the 1970s before the unwritten lines of dress codes were rewritten when jeans became the primary mode of dress for teens, regardless of where they were going or what they were doing. Now, however, a rock concert was the event target.
The pants were cut in the lines of the day, hugging the hips and following the leg to the knee, where they then flared outward to the tips of the shoes. They were a dark, burnt orange color, flecked with black specks that further visually darkened the appearance, but gave them an irresistible texture that sealed the deal for Mister B. Putting them on was far from comfortable. To Mister B, it felt … silly, and more like donning a costume. Once he got to the concert, however, he blended right in with the throngs of other teens who were also looking to be seen as “with it.”
This recollection triggered an instance that occurred around a year after the bell bottom acquisition. As part of a required daily journal in school, Mister Boomer wrote a couple of paragraphs about an old man he happened to see. The man was dressed head to toe in up-to-the-minute fashions, including bell bottoms, Beatles boots, a puffy shirt and a neckerchief. Mister B posed the question of whether this man — probably in his seventies — was embracing the times by his fashion choices, or was instead denying his own age by taking on the trappings of a younger generation.
And so we flash forward to the present, where aging boomers like Mister B are faced with that very question: Is it better to grasp the fashions of the times, or accept societal norms for people of a certain age? In the case of the aforementioned shopping trip, Mister B avoided the question somewhat by purchasing some acceptable corduroys, but found a rather groovy paisley shirt to pair with them. As far as shrunken suits, in our day we might have suggested that pants above the ankle and suit sleeves that showed three inches of the shirt cuffs were just too small, and we’d suggest a size larger was in order. Skinny jeans, on the other hand, won’t be an issue at all. There is no way those suckers are going to fit this boomer’s body.
How about it, boomers? Do you believe in “dressing your age” or “dressing the age you feel?”