Tuesday, January 26, 2010

We Thought We Looked Cool or Was It Hot?

Fads and fashions come and go. In the 60's and 70's in Ohio's Steel Mill Region, in and around Youngstown, kids tried to keep up with the national trends of what was "Hot" and what was "Cool". If there's a difference, I need somebody to explain it to me. Maybe I was being Hot, when I should have been Cool.

My earliest recollection of a "Must Have" item was the Nifty Notebook. It was a hard plastic notebook with a magnetic latch. The two spindles to load the paper on were at the top of the page, instead of the traditional three-ring binder. This appealed greatly to my left-handedness. No rings in the margin to get in my way. Sold! The marketers of this were geniuses. They also cornered the market on the special notebook paper required for the Nifty. Of course, it was about double the price of regular paper. After about three months of kids using these new notebooks, the teachers put a stop to it. Apparently, the odd size paper was too much for them to deal with when grading papers, so they boycotted it's use. If that was today, some left-handed kid would have sued them under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The British Invasion of many Rock Bands, brought along many items intended to woo the masses. Many fashion apparel items were adopted by kids following the clothing designs of their favorite groups. The Beatles were copied by a lot of kids with their haircuts, Beatles Boots, Pea Coats, CPO Jackets, and Mandarin Shirts. The Rolling Stones Famous T-Shirt with the Tongue Sticking Out is still popular today. A couple of American groups that created a fashion craze was The Beach Boys with Bermuda Shorts and Paisley Shirts and The Monkees with their checkered black and white pants.

Around the time of the Woodstock Music Festival, anything with a Peace Sign on it was a big seller. I had Dog Tags with a Peace Sign on one and an American Flag on another. As a sixteen year old, I also had my head shaved for football. (We all did that in those days.) I walked into a restaurant bar looking for a friend. The Bar Tender insisted I sit down and have a free beer. He noticed my Dog Tags and my lack of hair and assumed I was home from Basic Training in the military. I didn't say a word, chugged down the beer and sat there looking straight ahead. He asked me who I was with. I figured he meant what high school I was playing football for. I said, "The Struthers Wildcats". "No, no," he said, "What branch of the service are you in?" I told him I was sixteen and still in high school. He grabbed my glass and told me to leave. Can you believe it? What Nerve! Hey, I wasn't going to pass up a free beer.

Some of the boys in my class started fashion trends on their own. One kid in my class had a black Beret he wore backwards. We asked where he got it at and Paris' Men's Shop sold out their supply in a week. Black Leather Jackets were popular in high school, especially if you were a hood. I never had one, that wasn't my style or in my parent's budget. Black sneakers with white trim were a hot commodity, only available at A&A Department Store in downtown Struthers at five bucks a pair. I think that's all I wore all through high school. White Levi's were popular locally, thanks to a popular radio commercial featuring a poor duck that lamented the fact that he couldn't wear White Levis and how lucky we were that we could.

My mom, always on the cutting-edge of the fashion world,(Tongue firmly planted in cheek), bought me a zippered sweater that was red on one side and black on the other. I felt like Ralphie in "A Christmas Story" that was forced to put on the Bunny Outfit the first time she made me wear it to school. The guys in my class all laughed at my sweater and asked if I was a Joker from a deck of cards. Needless to say, that was the last time I wore the sweater. I was no Fashion Setter, for sure.

I laugh when I think of some of the failed attempts of trendy fashions that were popular back in the day and how many I actually had. I actually wore Platform Shoes on my Wedding Day in 1976 and many men wore Leisure Suits to the reception. My Leisure Suit was Pea Green with a Nehru Collar. I must admit, it was much better than wearing a Tie. I wore a yellow crushed-velvet jacket to a Winter Formal in high School along with rented Patent- Leather Shoes. That went along with my Afro hair-style of my red hair. I looked a lot like Ronald McDonald, I was told. How Flattering! Thank God any pictures were burned a long time ago!

1 comment:

  1. "If that was today, some left-handed kid would have sued them under the Americans With Disabilities Act." I am laughing out loud!!!! So funny!

    And your calling someone a "hood" sent me back 35 years! I had totally forgotten that term.

    Another good one, Tom!