Tuesday, July 10, 2001

Nice Lining

It's a nice Autumn day in London, this July Tenth. Overcast, occasional drizzle, cool breeze, about 60F . . . a bit humid, but not too damp, today. A nice day to take the long way to the tube. Why bother with a straight line, when you can walk in the breeze. I like this kind of weather.

Weather is different on the tube (subway). Remember: a beneath-the-surface public transit system is a tube, a television is not a tube, a subway is an underground walkway, not an underground train service.

Temperature below ground is about 90F and the humidity can be cut with a knife. Those of us dressed for work, in shirt and tie, are a bit warm. I seem to be less uncomfortable than some others. There are damp brows and dripping hair. The open window at the front and back of each car benefits only the person who has parked himself right in front of the breeze.

I am a people-watcher. I love to look at all people. The tube is a great place to

It's one of those days when you see some people dressed in shorts and t-shirt and others in sweaters and topcoats, with every combination in-between. A good day to get a sense of the city's fashion trends.

Today, I am admiring umbrellas. It is only two stops from Notting Hill Gate when it appears. THAT umbrella! It has been making the rounds for a couple years, now. The style is not just with umbrellas: there are bags, hats, shirts, dresses, briefcases, backpacks, socks, coats, etc. Like any popular trend, it easily becomes tedious.

When I returned to Boston, in 1979, the Barracuda jacket was popular, and the oddest twist on this fashion trend was the way young, thuggish (stylish?) Irish-American guys would sometimes turn the jacket inside-out showing the plaid lining and over-sized Barracuda logo (all finished off with a scally cap, of course). A silly fashion statement, I thought. I realized after a short time that it might be possible that after the commission of petty crime, turning the jacket inside-out made it appear that the person was wearing a different color jacket! Slip the scally cap into the back pocket, and you basically look like a different person. I do not know that this was the thought behind this fashion trend, but the theory still works for me.

But, that is not my point, is it? I was talking about the umbrella. Yes, the umbrella and the lining . . . and, by the way, what has happened to fashion?

My earliest memories of my father, and currently the pictures I possess of him prior to my birth, are of him dressed rather well in a button shirt and a suit, or stylish casual attire. These photos and memories are not of special occasions when everyone dressed-up; some are photos taken while off-duty from the Army in Panama, some are family trips to restaurants. Whether in memories of my early childhood or photos of his young adulthood, my father dressed nattily in the styles of the day. I remember that all of the men during the early sixties, when they were not in work clothes, seemed comfortably dressed in button shirts with or without a tie, wool trousers, and probably a jacket.

Later in the sixties, my father began watching golf on television. Televised golf was a big deal in those days. Arnold Palmer became a pop star in the same Warholian vein as Joe Namath.

Palmer and Namath had different fashion sensibilities. Palmer could be seen in pull-over Banlon jerseys, Namath in the skins of soon-to-be endangered species.

Suddenly, my father and his friends were dressing in Banlon golf jerseys and polyester slacks! What looked good on a golfer seen on television looked silly on my father. Unfortunately, a corner had been turned, and adult men of the late sixties, like my father, now purchased their clothing in stores like Zayres and Bradlees and Anderson-Little. Gone were the jackets and ties, replaced by sportswear. Polyester Sportswear! Ugh! My father looked silly. Is this because my father was my father and I would always be embarrassed by my parents? Maybe, a little; but, this new fashion trend was hideous. And it didn't stop for weekend dress-down!

For dressy occasions, wool suits were replaced with polyester suits (pre-Leisure Suit polyester suits); cotton Oxfords were replaced with shiny, flowery polyester shirts open at the neck with collars that looked like wings; the tie was gone. When my mother dressed us like that, it was easy to accept. I never have accepted that grown men CHOSE to dress like that.

Would I have preferred my father dress like Joe Namath? Unlikely. Namath's natural fibre turtleneck sweaters and Nehru jackets were much smarter looking than Arnold Palmer's banlon! So, maybe I would have preferred it. I wonder: Did Namath's fur coats have good linings?

The lining of a coat often points to its quality. I remember the first time I had a proper top coat with a satin lining. I loved it. It was real wool and real satin. It was very comfortable and very warm. The coat seemed expensive and its lining showed that. It never occurred to me, though, that displaying the lining of the coat could be a status symbol. It is, after all, a lining!

I once went shopping for a raincoat. A friend told me that Burberry made a wonderful raincoat. Since this was before the proliferation of brand-name boutiques, I found a department store that carried Burberry, and went for a shopping spree. Burberry was totally out of my price range and I settled for a London Fog. The thing I noticed about the Burberry was its distinctive lining. For years to come, I could tell a Burberry by peeking at the lining. I wanted a Burberry.

When Anne went shopping for Wedding Boots, she stumbled on the Burberry boutique on Newbury Street, in Boston. (Or is that IN Newbury Street?) At Burberry, she purchased a wonderful pair of boots that she wore under her wedding dress. They did not have the distinctive Burberry lining, but they were boots. When we settled in New York, I began to notice people carrying bags with the Burberry lining pattern, scarves of the Burberry pattern, and umbrellas of the Burberry pattern. It was amusing, but dull. Most of these were trendy, middle-class, middle-of-the-road, middle-management people of middling intelligence with middle-of-the-road tastes. Yawn.

Upon my arrival in London, last year, I saw this same type of person wearing button shirts of the Burberry lining pattern, dresses of the Burberry lining pattern, jackets of the Burberry lining pattern, and MY GOODNESS, topcoats with the Burberry lining pattern on the OUTSIDE! Does Burberry sell only their linings now? What a scam! I thought lining went on the inside!?!?!?!?!?

Please, please, please . . . help stop this dreadful trend and refuse to wear your
lining on the outside. Well, unless you've just committed a crime and need to change your appearance; then, simply turn your coat inside-out.

Oh, yeah, the umbrella! Two stops from Notting Hill Gate, a handsome young Japanese man boarded the train neatly closing his umbrella and lovingly wrapping it in its protective covering. It was an umbrella made of the Burberry lining pattern.

Would my father have carried an umbrella with the Burberry lining pattern? Probably not. Unfortunately, dad had gotten trapped in the golf clothes promoted by Arnold Palmer. He may be an American Icon, but I will never forgive Mr. Palmer his role in the shaping of America's fashion trends.