Wearing out my fatherís clothes
By Henry Burt Stevens
July 30, 2003
It started with a brown suede sports coat just after I became full grown. My father had always wanted one, and when finances allowed he bought one. It cost twice as much as a good wool one, and its purchase signaled my fatherís establishment in his own business and a symbolic end to the great depression. The year was about 1947.
My father was an orphan. I know nothing of his early life, but I have family pictures of him as a teenager, young adult, and young man. He was always dressed in a conservative uniform of suit, shined shoes and well trimmed hair. Grooming was his life long passion.
My fatherís idea of casual dress for a summer picnic would be a button down white cotton shirt, perhaps with a light blue strip, bow tie, light weight summer sports coat, pressed kaki trousers and a pair of slightly worn wingtip shoes. If it was quite warm, and the hour was getting towards mid-afternoon, he might just unbutton his collar and loosen his tie a bit.
My mother was equally conscious about clothing and grooming, but I always felt that her interest was more to please my father than to please herself. At 94 years old my mother still has her hair done at least three times a month. I know this because I see the charges on her assisted living bill when I write the check from her account each month. A light scarf round her neck and tucked into the top of her blouse is a signature.
The suede jacket just didnít work out for my father because it always crocked a bit on his shirt and pants. The elbows and the sleeve cuffs started to show a little wear and grime. My mother was forever worrying and wondering about how to clean the suede.
Finally, one day in desperation my father said to me, ďHere, Henry, try on this suede jacket.Ē I did, it fitted perfectly, and I spent a happy twenty years wearing it out. I didnít care about the elbows and cuffs getting dark and shiny. In dress and grooming Iíve never been my fatherís son.
Over the years there were many clothing pass offs to me. My father weighed about 180 pounds, and I a similar weight, but a bit taller. My bother left high school at well over 200 pounds and was much heavier later in life. He had to buy his own clothes.
My father died in 1987. My mother asked me to take the balance of my fatherís clothes, she could not bear to throw them out, or send them to Goodwill. I gave some away and the rest hung in a closet for years. Then I took them to Goodwill.
I started wearing my fatherís light weight blue ticking striped bathrobe a few years ago. I believe it may have been furnished him on a hospital visit. I canít see him buying it. However, I enjoy it. But I gave away his deep maroon smoking jacket with the satin lapels.
We agreed on one thing: daily shaving. I just feel right shaving every morning. My brother grew a beard starting in his middle twenties and it obviously irritated my father.
After my father died, I used his Norelco electric razor daily up until a few weeks ago. It finally got so noisy it jarred me to use it. I bought a rechargeable battery three cutter Norelco that is very quiet, but looks similar to the old one. I put Dadís razor in a bureau drawer. Someone will through it out one day, but not me.
Iím happy to still have clothes Iím wearing out for my father. He was a good man. We just had a different view of dress and grooming.