Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Fashionable Fatherhood

He looked the part:
Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in "To Kill a Mockingbird"

My dad was a natty dresser. Now that's a word you don't hear much anymore. From old photos that were before my time of remembering to the dad I did know— albeit briefly as my parents divorced when I was ten— he got dressed.

He wore suits and shirts and ties and pocket handkerchiefs Monday to Friday. I think the shirts were always white. My childhood laundry memories are of a sea of white flapping in the backyard in summer or the basement in winter. The handkerchiefs (my job to iron) could have a little color or be subtly plaid, but "the best" ones were white with a monogram (heavier and harder to press).

My father, John Ruskin, visiting Mt. Vernon circa 1940

He had pajamas, robes and leather slippers. He had cuff links and tie clasps and hats, but only one wallet. He had sport jackets, casual slacks and gabardine shirts in neutral hues (smoke, taupe, cream of wheat) for weekends, cabana suits and beachwear for rare trips to the beach. He had shoes of all description— brogues, oxfords, slip-ons— though no boots of any kind.

Did all men dress that way back then?

Some stories in the way of family history make me think not. There was the time, shortly after we moved to the suburbs, when my dad decided to introduce himself to the neighbors by joining the men on the community tennis courts. He left home one Saturday morning, attired head-to-racquet in brand-new tennis whites. He was back two hours later, took off the clothes, retired the racquet to the attic and never spoke of tennis again. The fact that he hadn't played before was immaterial as he looked the part and probably believed the clothes would make the Bill Tilden. My mother's recollections were a little bitter as she remarked years later how Daddy never denied himself new clothes, but she had to beg or sift from the grocery money to buy herself a new dress. Did I mention they were divorced when I was ten?

I have had many more happy father fashion moments seeing my son and his dad (my husband) forge a beautiful bond as they wear matching wetsuits and football jerseys. Clothes may make the man; they can also make the family.
Father and son showing their colors


  1. Such a great picture of your Dad. He was most definitely a fashionable man! I like his name too ;)

    Hope you and yours have a wonderful Father's Day this weekend!

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.