Dad, in Living Technicolor:
It was only after Ma died that I gradually came to realize that Dad had managed to miss the boat in yet another direction. Or, rather, he had missed yet another boat.
Because, as time went on and various bits and pieces of Ma’s “tasteful home” began to wear out and be replaced, it became evident that Dad possessed a very strong and highly individual color sense. A fairly good one, too.
At least for household purposes.
For other purposes, his color sense was every bit as strong, and even more “individual”.
Dad was, as I have mentioned in another essay, extremely fond of the color green. Now, the moss green carpet in the den — which was age-darkened (and over-varnished) knotty pine, was actually very handsome. The kelly green ties — of which he had at least five — had not been an altogether voluntary acquisition. But the three nearly identical dark moss green suits were, at the least, not what one would usually expect in a man’s closet.
The reader will have probably deduced that these suits dated from the four years of Dad’s untrammeled clotheshorse period, wherein he had no job requiring him to dress in work clothes, and no wife to restrain him. Not that Ma would have, much. So long as his clothing was clean and unshabby, (neither of those stipulations referencing faults toward which Dad tended. Dad was nothing like Uncle Bronty in that regard) Ma would probably have paid his wardrobe little attention, apart from checking that everything fit, had all its buttons and was properly pressed.
However, my Dad had the good or ill fortune (depending upon your point of view) of having his untrammeled clotheshorse period take place during the late ’60s (his as well as the century’s), affectionately referred to at the time as the period of the “peacock revolution”. A point at which mens’ wear started trying to fight its way out of its grey-flannel cocoon and begin showing some spirit.
Of course, when you’re pushing 70, the sort of body-concious styling which the fine young peacocks are strutting about in holds little attraction for you. But it becomes laughably easy to purchase something other than a plain white shirt.
I have a clear recollection of one of my Dad’s favorite ensembles during this period. There he’d be, done up like the dog’s dinner in one of his moss green suits, with his red corduroy vest, a sedate grey fedora upon his head, black “dress” shoes, silky black dress socks, and a narrow black tie blindingly set off by an eye-seering, lemon yellow shirt, sublimely oblivious of the overall effect. Fortunately, it *was* the late ’60s.
(And the green hair. Don’t forget the olive green hair.)
It cannot have been accidental. I can only conclude that I come by my own color sense honestly. Or that we had both been permanently scarred by an over-exposure to Ma’s abiding faith in rose beige.