Cool Warren, Ohio, teen boy fads
It was the summer of 1951. We had just finished 10th grade. I really thought we were quite stylish when two other classmates and I went for a stroll looking for girls on the boardwalk of an upscale East coast resort town called Rehoboth Beach. However, the way we were dressed resulted in catcalls and snickers as we walked along. We were almost oblivious to all this attention. Our mission was to meet girls.
Our Warren, Ohio-style teen boys’ outfits consisted of blue jeans tightly pegged and rolled at the ankles, white socks, blue suede shoes and a white T-shirt with the sleeves tightly rolled up to the armpits. This was to show off well-muscled shoulder caps (deltoids) if we had any. None of us smoked, but if we did, a pack of cigarettes would be included in that sleeve roll.
We didn’t go so far as having duck butt (DA) haircuts, but nevertheless, we thought we were really cool. The other teens at this resort didn’t seem to think so, and even pointed at us with the girls holding one open hand over their mouths. We thought they were gesturing their approval of our fashion statements. The guys and girls there were wearing strange long-legged shorts they called Bermudas.
Back in Warren, guys my age indulged in many styling quirks. I purchased my favorite suit at Larry’s Squire Shop on East Market next to the Masonic temple. It was a light beige flannel. The coat had flapped pockets, wide lapels with a one button roll, double vents in the back, huge shoulder pads, and my Hi-Y pin in the button hole. The cuffed trousers were pegged to a very conservative 15 inches (A 14-inch peg was the coolest.) They had tunnel loops for the belt, flapped back pockets, and a French seam down each trouser leg with a half-inch flap that hid a complementary brown stripe.
Accessories included a pink or yellow shirt with French cuffs and over-sized cuff links, a skinny brown knit tie tied in a double Windsor knot, the ever-present white socks, and brown wing-tip suede shoes. This, in my mind, was the epitome of style.
At school we wore the previously mentioned jeans and T-shirt. But, sometimes, during a short burst of faddism, we wore either chartreuse or fuchsia socks.
In cooler weather, we wore our T-shirts backwards in order to bring the neckline up closer to the throat so that it displayed a huge white vee when we wore a pullover gaucho shirt with one or two buttons left undone. Of course, we had to turn the collar up. I don’t recall of seeing very many zippered leather jackets as seen in “Grease,” but Eisenhower-style jackets were popular.
Most of us followed this style formula quite carefully. We carried a suede brush to keep our shoes pristine and, sometimes, a pocket comb either to keep a greased DA haircut in place or to assist in keeping butch-waxed hair standing tall.
We all looked pretty much alike and sometimes made a little fun of our good-looking friend, Charlie. He wore neatly-pressed pleated and cuffed gabardine cotton or wool slacks, dark socks, shiny leather shoes — like Weejun penny loafers, collared shirts, and cashmere V-necked sweaters. He also had an old man haircut with no long sideburns. His parents took him out of town to buy clothes. He fit in well as a friend, but his attire was just plain out of it.
Perhaps you might have guessed, Charlie was voted by his classmates as being the best-dressed kid in the class. Maybe it was the girls who swung that vote.
Anyway, all of these clothing fads were taboo when we went out into the full-time working world or went on to college.
Mumford, of Warren, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org