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The Suburbanite
  • Jim Hillibish: Like DNA, what we wear is what we are (sometimes)

  • I took a course in The History of Clothing. I figured because I was wearing it, I might as well understand it. It has done me well.

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  • I took a course in The History of Clothing. I figured because I was wearing it, I might as well understand it.
    It has done me well. I can psychoanalyze by examining your hat: (late Victorian Sloucher, gadfly, womanizer, cheap beer, John Edwards). We are what we wear.
    The big revelation came when the teacher lectured on women’s platform high spikes (Twinkle Toes, super fabs, ankle broncos, Jenny Lopez). Now don’t get any preconceptions. Men wore them first, called pimp shoes. Women wore them at French cabarets, then American strip clubs, then Disco-era freak outs, then XX movies.
    Thanks to MTV, they made the crossover to our teenage daughters on prom night. They didn’t last long. Guys definitely made the preconception (fee, not free, love; unwed, unsafe, Secret Service).
    We ran a photo of some exceptionally cute prom couples, although all are. I was drawn to the shoes of the boys. Old faithful oxfords, to do double time in office jobs. Girls will buy anything. Boys are thinking 401(k)s, with crinkled soles.
    There were photos of prom kids in Time mag last week. The boys were wearing thin-sole boots that curve like Seven Dwarfs’ shoes. Then the ends are squared off. Quite a bizarre, in-your-face look (flamboyant, tequila neat, switchblade, Al Capone.)
    And what about the hoodie, I asked in class. It began with Medieval European monks’ tunics. In the 1930s, it was marketed to laborers in cold weather. Then Rocky Balboa wore one to a fight in 1976, and everybody had to have one.
    The hoodie survives. It’s been a statement of academics, complete with school name. Then surfers, then skateboarders, then NFL’s Bill Belichick captured the style. It survived Bill boredom, and New York hip-hoppers attached their urban coolness combined with the need to thwart store security cameras.
    Most recently, Trayvon Martin was wearing one when he was shot, elevating the simple hoodie to a symbol of protest.
    Once every year, my wife goes shopping for me. I’m not invited. She returned on Sunday with Merrell Cushion Mocs (practical, comfortable, zero fashion, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood).
    Jim: “Where are the laces?”
    Leen: “There aren’t any.”
    Jim: “These are old guys’ shoes.”
    Leen: “But half off.”
    Jim: “Half off — I like them.”
    (Old fart, stumbler, Medicare, dirt cheap, Ex-Lax, me)