Gadzooks...are they back for real?

Gadzooks…are they back for real?

Forgive me as I meander…I’ll get there in the end.  Enjoy the ride.

I am a man. Therefore, I do not like shopping.  Simply put, I shop like a man. I want, I research, I go, I buy, I leave, I enjoy.  The joy is in the capture and use, not the hunt. So, like many of my ilk, shopping is not a major pre-occupation.

But, while I may not wish to shop – occasionally I don’t mind gawking.

Centre of the Universe

Just recently, I had a great weekend in Toronto and – as everyone knows – Toronto is the hub of the Canadian Universe; good ol’ Tee-Oh feels as if it is closer to New York and Paris than Winnipeg or Saskatoon.  As a result, the shops are usually full of the latest and greatest wares.  So it was with this in mind that I walked through the Eaton Centre and down Queen St West, fully bedazzled by what the New Fashionistas think is à la mode and hip.

I’ll get back to that in a moment…

Now I have already blogged about my unfortunate fashions worn on the merciless runways of the downtown Toronto public school…plaid “floods” and buttoned up shirts covered by a sweater vest. That was the height of Honest Ed’s haute couture.  But as time marched on, and I wrested control of my fashion dollar from my parents, all my hard earned cash was spent on Adidas sweatshirts and Levis – the staples of my wardrobe until I joined the Army.

Bargains for the fashionable!

Bargains for the fashionable!

But upon entering the Service, the culture and tradition of the pre-millenium Army laid waste to my faithful dungaree (cue Last Post now…).  In the eyes and esprit of the The Old Guard, any denim – Levis, Lee or Wrangler – was the Devil’s Cloth. Upstanding young men with good morals and high standing did not wear denim unless they wished to bring down the Institution like a house of cards.  And so, my faithful Strauss’s went into Rubbermaid hibernation. Dockers – pleated of course –  became my new fashion staple and they went well with the dependable, safe and ultra-conservative golf shirt. (Interestingly, Dockers were our small scale rebellion against The Man, as they were still made by Levis Strauss and Co.)  My sartorial efforts all aligned with Officer Mess chic.  Khaki plants and chambray blue was the after-hours “uniform”…forget those heretical pinks and oranges…they were much too flashy for the staid and stuffy Mess!

And as the months and years went on,  I watched the fashion world morph and shift. But as the world outside the gates of the Army Base evolved,harem pants the military suffered fashion inertia due to the slow-paced materiel acquisition process. So in the 1980s, during the height of the Payolas and the Talking Heads and Adam Ant, we “poor” Army blokes wore ties that had the girth of aircraft carriers, while our contemporaries wore skinny leather ties with piano keys on them. During Post-rugby match beer ups, we sported bell-bottom grey flannel trousers with crested blue blazers while the opposing XV donned fashionable pleated pants or “Hammertimes” with Club Monaco sweatshirts!  Big glasses were vogue and shoulder pads were in. The other team all looked like they came out of Miami Vice; we looked like short-haired Donny Osmonds in a suit.

Officer Mess CasualAnd predictably, not much changed in the 90s. The majority of Teenage Spirit wore Cobain-esque greasy bangs and red & black plaid flannel shirts – acting all tragically hip; it was a time when torn jeans and high top runners ruled. And still we, the “Boys from the Institute”, went about in our Officer Mess Casual Dress, unencumbered by the ritual of shopping for clothes – unencumbered by the fashion police…avoiding the rat race of keeping up with GQ and Esquire. It was quite liberating, actually. The Service gave us an excuse to be fashion-imbeciles!

But times changed.  The Army eventualluy got hip! We even received skinny ties and straight-legged trousers with pleats.  Unfortunately though, this was in the  2000s and everyone had reverted back to wide ties and flares!

As for me…in the intervening years, I developed made my own style, favoring denim and french cuffs and the occasionally daring flash of lavender or pink in my socks or trousers or pocket square.  I am not a fashion maven, but I suppose I have taken what I believe is a little 60s and 70s and 90s (but definitley not much 80s).

I have come to the conclusion that there is only a limited range of styles that the stylists recycle …just like the rash of movie remakes of our 70s and 80s favorites.  Creativity is limited and so things just come back over and over…

Some is good…for example I was too young for the first Mini-skirt invasion…I was only 5.  But I did enjoy its renaissance when I was older.  And I think that some of the 60s and 70s resurgence, the Mad Men suits, the tie-dye, the Adidas Gazelles, the broad tie, and Ray Ban Aviators are all pretty happeningl, too.  It was a return to a retro-cool time: Sean Connery as 007, martinis, cuff links, pocket squares and handkerchiefs…

And I wish it would stay like that  – cool.  And this is where I revert back to the subject line – sadly it hasn’t stayed cool. Some is bad…

Just this past weekend, while window shopping in the Centre of the Universe, I noticed that I was becoming slightly perplexed and anxious. There were shoulder pads and off the shoulder  t-shirts that sported slognas that were the 2013 incarnation of  “Frankie says…”. The predomonant colour is now NEON – green and orange and yellow – shaded and hues that looked more at home on a highway construction site than a storefront. And dotted amongst them there were all sorts of pastels and patterns and canvas shoes and cotton blazers…


The 80s are back…and it won’t be long until headbands are back and leg warmers cover Lululemon gear.   Soon modern-day Olivia Newton Johns or Madonnas or Don Johnsons will be parading through the streets reminding us of all those things that were not so cool…Cliff Huxtable sweaters, acid- or stone-washed jeans, mullets, fingerless gloves, stirrup pants and eyeglasses that covered your whole face…Yikes.


I am a tad afraid of what the Voguists will reintroduce next…and I am more than a little dismayed that the fashion graveyard lasts for only 30 years.  Thankfully the Army did not allowedFlockOfSeagulls2 me to go all Flock of Seagulls the first time around. And happily, I am far too old and un-hip to be expected to do it this time around (though the Hammertime pants would be handy at the all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet).

Optimistically, once we make it through this New Wave, I will be 80+ years old the next time the 1980s fashion rolls around. I think I’ll be safe then too, unless they come up with something pastel and funky in incontinence pants…

Gag me with a spoon,