Monday, May 12, 2008

Oh, the things I've learned....

Upon perusing the fall men's collections, I learned (and confirmed) a thing or two about fashion. And the experience has inspired me to reflect on my own sartorial lessons throughout my life.

Sitting in a seersucker suit, picnicking with my pony on my family's front lawn at age 12, I pondered what it meant to be a man of style. Should a man's feet ache while wearing dove-grey, leather-soled, slip-on shoes? Does washed, butter-yellow cotton go with navy-and-white pinstripes? Should I lighten my hair for the summer? Such a young man's mind should never have been bogged down with such questions. It's a wonder I made it through those years unscathed.

But what resources did I have back then? I instinctively knew what looked good at the time, but being a child of the 80s and early 90s, sometimes those sensibilities resulted in a lose, lose situation. Also, geographically I was at a slight disadvantage. At one point, my hairdresser simply refused to give me a Caesar cut, citing it was "too gay." Perhaps that was what I was going for. I saw her recently. Ironically, she has never changed her hairstyle, ever, and her Poison/Cherry Pie shag now makes her look somewhat lesbian.

Thank God for Ralph Lauren, though. He is my patron saint of fashion. Without him, my childhood could have been very neon...or ever more neon, rather. My brothers and I were obsessed with Ralph Lauren and, at one time, quite possibly boasted the largest Polo collection in Saskatchewan. I could have easily passed as a young scholar at any ivy-league college in America.

Also, during these years of discovery, I realized that smelling good was half the battle (winning this battle in my hometown was a mixed bag -- I was teased -- by kids with teased hair, go figure). And guess what the first fragrance of note in our home was? Yes. Polo. To this very day, every time I smell Polo I am brought back to my youth, where young boys wore very mature scents, and mature men wore Brut... The first fragrance I bought with my own money was Calvin Klein Obsession. This one, too, takes me back to grade seven, boat shoes and skinny jeans.

Of course, a few women inspired me to love life, fashion, good things as I was growing up... But my ultimate style guru was my Grandma Zayshley. The only way one could truly know her greatness would be to know her personally. But I can try to paint a bit of a picture. She always seemed very tall to me. Once, upon getting lost at Eatons in Winnipeg (a terrifying ordeal at age 7), I simply scanned the heads and spotted my Grandmother's coif bobbing joyfully in the women's department. Admittedly, her bright-red hair helped the process considerably. She was also the first woman I knew of who owned dozens of pairs of shoes. Sometimes my cousins and I would try to count them all, lined up in the guest bedroom. I can't remember what the final tally was, but I have yet to see a comparable collection.

My Grandma was also a master at dressing perfectly for the occasion at hand. When she had a portrait taken a few years ago, she arrived in a full-length teal-green silk gown, but later that year when my father hosted a bbq at his farm, she donned perfectly cuffed raw denim, white canvas shoes and a cotton jumper. At Christmas she wears glittery frocks and at home she sports white linen pants and ruched, flowy blouses.

The most important fashion lesson my grandmother taught me, though, was that you can be fabulous and edgy and everything you envision yourself to be, in spite of your economic background, geographic disadvantage, less than sympathetic peer set and seemingly finite resources. And I hope I'm following in her beautifully shod footsteps as I continue eking out every ounce of style and happiness from what quite easily could have been a very typical existence.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Time to amp it up!

In the words of my super-stylish brother, "It's time to amp it up."

Summer in Toronto can be so oppressively humid it can be hard to have the gumption to dress properly. Sometimes I wish I could throw on a caftan and be done with it. But, alas, there are options. Here are a few of my picks:

1. Can't go wrong with a classic Polo. Try navy, white, Kelly green, pink or yellow:

2. These deck shoes by Philip Sparks are inexpensive and unassumingly cool:

3. I've always wanted a navy seersucker suit. This might be the year -- and to accompany it I'll get wide-leg pink pants and a pair of madras shorts:

Brooks Brothers

Polo Ralph Lauren
4. I'm still dead set on recommending Rayban Wayfarers:

5. Acca Kappa White Moss is the best summer scent, in my opinion:

Dress up!