My kids saw a picture of me from when I was in 9th grade and they asked me if I were wearing Capri pants, and if those were popular for boys in the 70s. No, sorry. The clothes I wore as a youth were never a fashion statement -- just a statement on how poor we were.
By the time I was 13 my waist was probably 28 inches. And it never changed until I was 19, although I grew at least a foot during that time. I literally could wear the same pants in high school that I got as hand-me-downs in junior high. But I was wearing pants much too short for me.
For Christmas one year my sister gave me a pair of cuffed denim bell bottoms that I just loved. As I grew taller, I discovered I could let that huge cuff out and wear them another year. Then, I found out I could take a jackknife and cut out the hem and get another year’s wear out of them. I started doing that with all my pants and I thought I was really clever. But I sort of looked like a tree with growth rings around my ankles.
By the time I graduated high school in 1975 my mom decided it was time to get me some fancy, trendy clothes that better reflected the fashion of the time. I wore with pride the white and blue plaid bell bottoms, with a midnight blue shirt and a white tie and white belt. To be really cool, I tied a double Windsor knot in the tie so the knot was as big as my neck. I was six foot three, but wore this outfit with platform shoes. To top it all off, I wore a double-knit sport coat that looked like patchwork denim from afar. I alternated, either wearing that white tie, or going with a dark blue turtleneck sweater under the sport coat. But either way, the threads were totally far out.
When I turned 19, I bought a couple three-piece suits and went off to serve a mission for my church. When I came back, I found my mom had given away my old clothes to a family whose house had burned down while I was gone. I had nothing to wear but the same three-piece suits, 10 white shirts and ratty old shoes I’d been wearing in Japan for the past two years.
I came back from Japan with $11 in my pocket. So I went to the store and got a pair of jeans and a beret (because it made me look so dashing). I suppose that was the first thing I ever did to consciously try to make myself look more attractive.
I guess I’ll never know if it was the beret, or if Mormon girls are just drawn to returned missionaries like moths to a porch lamp on a summer evening. But I was dating a lot, and every girl had their idea of how to recreate me into their idea of a proper fashion plate.
The first thing they had me do was part my hair in the middle and get a “feather cut” so I’d look more like David Cassidy. That task completed, I then got a pair of white bib overalls called “painter pants” which I wore with a red flannel shirt underneath. I think I looked kind of like a sissy lumberjack on vacation.
When I wasn’t wearing that get up, the girls I dated convinced me to dress in corduroy bell bottoms with Robin Williams rainbow suspenders. I coordinated those pants with long-sleeved shirts with huge lapels.
Because I was so thin, I could make a lot of clothes look decent I suppose, but why on earth did I let them convince me to buy a track suit made of yellow terrycloth? Of course, I wore that suit with a pair of blue suede Pumas with yellow striping.
When John Travolta made Urban Cowboy my girlfriends dressed me in cowboy boots, straight-legged Levi’s a long sleeved shirt with white snaps on the buttons and cuffs. When I played basketball, I wore really short shorts, a tank top and a pair of Converse All Stars. For some reason, I figured white sweat bands on both wrists would be a nice compliment for that getup.
By the time I got to college in the early 80s the latest fashion was the “preppie” look. Luckily I had a steady girlfriend by then, and I never seriously considered wearing the Top Siders, Oxford shirt with a sweater tied over the shoulders. It’s bad enough I have old pictures of me dressed the way I was. Thank Heavens I never had preppie pictures to have to live down.