I have a long record of being a fashion trend-setter, going back to before the time I started writing columns for Real Change.
I can document the fact that I began wearing my hair tied back by the spring of 1995. The proof? A drawing of myself as a carrot head, done on a napkin at the Frontier Room on 1st Ave. It showed me beardless, with my hair tied back, wearing a Chico Marx-style hat. I quit the hat and the beardlessness by 1997, but the tied-back hair has remained.
This demonstrates my fashion trendsetting because the man bun did not become a fad until around 2003, eight years later.
At the time, I was known for wearing T-shirts that sported either Mickey Mouse or sunglass-wearing tree frogs. But I wasn’t happy with them, mainly because they were just too tight. Then I started thinking back on all the “M*A*S*H” episodes I’ve seen, in which no matter what the weather, the surgeons wore “Aloha shirts.” Korea is not tropical so I thought, “Hey, those aren’t tight, and the same could apply to Seattle.” I mean, Seattle’s not tropical either.
That was 2001, and ever since I’ve been that guy you constantly see on Seattle sidewalks — the elderly, bearded, white guy wearing tropical shirts. I believe I started that, so don’t try to tell me I didn’t. I just won’t listen.
Not much later, I became one of the original Pemco sandals and socks guys, “You’re One of Us” number 56. These days, I favor white crew socks. In the summer, I round out my look with cargo shorts or, as Real Change volunteer coordinator Katie Comboy calls them, my sassy pants.
My father would be proud of me if he were still around. I have a picture of him standing on a beach in Hawaii circa 1952 wearing an Aloha shirt, shorts showing off his knobby knees and rocking sandals (minus the socks). But I bet he added the socks when he was on duty in Korea.
By the way, what we call “Casual Friday” here started in Hawaii as Aloha Friday and is pretty much synonymous with TGIF. In Hawaii, it was part of an effort to get more people wearing Aloha shirts.
There is dispute over where the idea for the shirts came from, but we know when. It was the 1920s or 1930s. The myth I like the best is that a Japanese kimono maker in Hawaii mistakenly ordered 10 times too much fabric in a shipment from Japan and had to find a use for it all. So they made shirts patterned on a Chinese competitor’s work shirts. I like that story because it completely muddies the question of appropriation. It also shows there is no question of appropriation from Native Hawaiians: it’s pretty clear the design and name of Aloha shirts sprang from Asian immigrants to Hawaii.
Part of the myth is that Japan and the U.S. were not on good terms diplomatically at the time, so the Japanese merchant thought it would be best not to make a connection from the shirts to Japan. Hence why they called them Aloha shirts, but that’s all a myth … maybe.
Speaking of trend setters, Taylor Swift is TIME’s Person of the Year for 2023. The women on staff at Real Change all know several Taylor Swift songs by heart, sing them with just about every breath and talk about their favorite Taylor Swift songs when they aren’t singing them.
I, being an old guy, don’t know any Taylor Swift songs, but I keep a Microsoft Excel sheet listing inappropriate celebrity crushes. The “inappropriate” mostly refers to age-inappropriate, but hey, Fran Lebowitz is also on the list. Eve Arden is at the top, Taylor Swift is near the bottom, as the listings are in order of birth date. Fran Lebowitz is in the middle. Buddy Ebsen isn’t on the list at all.
I came up with the Excel sheet because, the older I get, the more age-inappropriate celebrity crushes I have and the harder it is to remember them all. When I was five years old and it was just Eve Arden, I didn’t need assistance from Microsoft.
Here’s a connection between Taylor Swift and Eve Arden. I don’t know a single Taylor Swift song, and I also can’t remember a single episode of “Our Miss Brooks,” not even one plot.
Read more of the Dec. 13–19, 2023 issue.