Archive for September, 2008

Sartorial Semiotics Part III

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

Having stretched this trio of meditations on my father’s taste in menswear over a time frame unprecedented in the blogosphere, I suppose it’s only fair I get around to explaining my highfalutin title. Why, you may have wondered, did I opt for something evocative of the oxygen-starved, jargon-giddy seminar on critical theory I ran screaming from in graduate school? Quite simply, because it captures the simple truth that my father’s personal style signaled flashes of who he was (or wanted to be), even if he himself kept fairly mum on the topic.Here are two more photos of him which offer sartorial clues to his well-concealed identity:

dad in hawaii

In this first one, he compensates for the lack of a splashy floral print on his buttondown sport shirt by wearing it untucked and accessorized with a lei. Taken on a “parents-only” trip to Hawaii in 1970 (I was in sleepaway camp, and my middle half-sister had recently moved out on her own), the photo is notable both for the expression of nirvana-level delight on my father’s face, and the fact that he seems to have responded to Oahu’s breezes by channelling the spirit of the Aloha shirts he’d grown up seeing on everyone from Bing Crosby and Harry Truman to Montgomery Clift and Johnny Weissmuller (aka Tarzan). I don’t know that he ever actually owned a Hawaiian shirt, come to think of it, though I do remember adding this shirt to my high school wardrobe, where it formed an ensemble with much-patched jeans and tooled buffalo hide sandals. By then, it had mellowed, its plaid not so bright, its worn fabric silky and coarse as a pair of snagged nylons