Things and More Things
Rebel Style

Some collections are inherited. Years ago I returned from Florida after my grandfather’s death hugging a battered cardboard box full of the grosgrain and woven linen watchbands he changed daily to match his seersucker jackets and madras plaid pants. He went to Princeton during the depression and his style evolved into a combination of old school preppy and dime-store dandy. Some of his sweaters were threadbare cashmere, others polyester blends. He smelled like cigarettes and Old Spice and was known to fart at the dinner table or dive into a pool with his clothes on.

Back in Chicago, where I was going to art school, I started wearing the watchbands as bracelets, or hooking them together to make belts. I wore bright pink or orange lipstick and embroidered cardigans buttoned up to the neck, and spent a lot of time trying to get my hair to look like a model from the pages of the Sears catalog, ca. 1961, an obscure code to signify a highly private form of rebellion.

In the bathroom after going to the movies last night I saw a girl carefully prodding the elaborately pinned curls of her rockabilly hairdoo back into place. Her lips were a perfect pouty heart on an alabaster complexion. Part of me thought, Such a ridiculous effort. Another part of me thought, Why don’t I wear fishnet stockings more often? I was wearing a gray sweater with jeans, along with the discretely hip accessories of the middle-aged. Walking out I passed a woman wearing the international uniform of the senior citizen: frumpy hat, beige clothes, wedge heel shoes. And now I’m wondering: Is the progression from retro-fringe to tastefully-modern to nondescript-utilitarian inevitable? And, if so, is it something I should welcome or fear?