That exclamation is one forever associated with getting dressed in my mind, and if you ever heard it belted out by Paul Harvey on the radio, you know exactly what that little piece of Americana sounded like. It was the typical start to the late radio commentator’s news and comment section on a morning broadcast that aired somewhere between 7:00 and 7:30 a.m. – the dressing time.
As a young boy, I used to visit my grandparents in Baytown, Texas, for a couple of weeks each summer. At least one of those weeks, I would accompany my grandfather to his office job in Houston. That meant getting up and getting dressed along side of him. My grandfather was an early riser – early enough to be silently cussing the paper boy for being late again. By the time the dressing time rolled around, that day’s edition of the Houston Post was scattered around the den like a buffalo carcass after the buzzards had finished with it. Teeth brushed and shave complete into the closet he went. Emerging with that day’s suit and tie in hand was as engrained in his morning routine as coffee. And then came the radio… It was positioned left of his dressing table, and I don’t think the station had changed in forty years. It was all so natural.
That brings me to this post’s film. The Natural starring Robert Redford is such a classic and distinctly American. A story about America’s game in the heyday of America’s music that showcases the versatility of classic American style all around a plot focused on the classic American struggle between being happy on the farm or making money in the city – how could it not be a home run? The ageless wonder, Redford, deserves a post on classic style unto himself; however, in The Natural he, among others, display with aplomb the versatility of our style. Much like my grandfather, none of the characters in this film thought that wearing tailored clothing was “dressing up.” Instead, they thought of it as getting dressed. Their clothes were tailored and immensely more suited to life. Their trousers could be let-out or taken-in; their jackets not only aided their shirts and ties in drawing attention to their faces, they also provided them with ample pockets to carry papers and tools – no you don’t actually need a murse; their shoes were built to last and could be resoled; if the day was cold, they threw on a layer of knitwear. Individual style came not from the drawing board of some remote fashion designer, but in how they chose to accessorize and wear their clothes. Take note of Redford wearing his braces on top of his sweater vest instead of under it, and the way he throws on a beat-up leather jacket over his shirt and tie for traveling. That is understated, personal style.
For decades now, we have been lost in a sea of sportswear dominated fashion and been allowed into restaurants in our work wear fabrics and underwear. The result has been that we have largely forgotten how to appropriately dress and express ourselves through clothing. It is time to start clarifying our thinking again. Sportswear and underwear have their places, but they should not dominate your wardrobe. The Natural can be seen as a period piece or a more natural way to dress. Start thinking of tailored clothing as simply dressing again. You’ll find that it won’t take long before you feel much more natural and ready for life in actual clothing. In other words, be the stubborn, individual hero who understands something others do not and help guide them out of their sartorial slump. The individual’s capacity to make a difference – that is what we Americans are all about.