Thursday, February 23, 2006

For the sake of all women, I don't wear suits too often

Actually, women don't have all that much to do with how I dress. At least not as far as wearing suits. Back in the 60's and 70's I was very much a jeans kind of guy. It was the hippie era and I had bell bottoms with a wide belt and a huge brass buckle. In cool weather, or when I wanted to appear "dressed", I wore square toe side-zip leather boots. Otherwise it was sandles. The popular style was made in India, a loop for the big toe, a band across the instep, and a thin strip connnecting that to the toe loop. Tie dyed t-shirts and a shaggy mop of hair completed the look. Without doubt "the look" helped when it came to getting photos within the music industry, and was common enough that I could shoot for the local neighborhood weekly aswell as the "underground" press, as counter culture papers were called back then.

As far back as I can remember I always heard the expression "Clothes make the man!" It's not likeI didn't own a suit. I did. A rather flamboyant thing with wide lapels, and I had a collection of 1930's and 1940's era wide gaudy floral patttern silk ties bought at yard sales and Good Will. When my daughter Elena was maybe 8 or 9 years old she bought me a book called Dress For Success.

By that time I was doing the photography for Barry College, the City of North Miami, the local congressman, and a number of other clients. That one suit, along with a blue blazer, was starting to get a real workout. Square toe boots were getting passe too. The essence of the book, as I recall, was to "fit in" with the culture of your client. When you first met a new client how were the top executives dressed? Suit or sports jacket and slacks? Solids, pin stripes, glenn plaid? Were they wearing spread collar or button down shirts. White, blue, subtle patterns? Rep striped tie or was paisley acceptable. Were penney loafers too casual, or even tassle loafers. Should dress shoes be cap toe or wing tip?

I don't recall where I read it, but somebody once wrote that women wear costumes and men wear uniforms. In corporate culture you can spot rank by the details of the uniform. Little things such as the use of bright red is usually reserved for the ties of top executives, along with cap toe shoes. I got myself a Brooks Brothers charge card and redid my entire wardrobe. I started getting my hair "styled" every other week. It made a major difference! Soon I was on the boards of directors of the Mayor's Economic Task Force, the North Miami Chamber of Commerce, the Central North Miami Homeowners' Association, the North Dade YMCA, and was appointed to the North Miami Planning Commission where I soon became vice-chair. Instead of just being "the photographer" I was running political campaigns. I had no time for myself, with meetings just about every night. I tried to resign from a few of the positions but was always asked to stay.

When my mom passed away a dozen years ago I used that as the excuse. I resigned from EVERYTHING. I had my life back! Then a few years ago, perhaps three, Scott called me up. There was an opening on the Board of Adjustment, would I please accept the appointment. I did. I showed up at my first meeting wearing a suit and tie. Nobody else did! It had been a decade of change, casual was in, jeans had become respectable, ties a useless accessory. Even the city's planner and city attorney were dressed casually. Rare was the person appearing in front of the board who was wearing a suit. I still like to get dressed up from time to time, but it ain't like the old days. The world has changed. Balding grey haired men now have pony tails and wear jeans. It's become difficult to tell a man's status in society by his clothes. Watches are seldom worn and everybody carries a cell phone, so that's no longer an indication. I just tell everybody to call me Al, none of that Mr. Kaplan formality. I like it this way


Anonymous TATIANA said...


11:33 AM  

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