Warm Leatherette

People are people, so why should it be, you and I should get along so awfully… – Depeche Mode

I was always envious of the head banger wardrobe, because compliance was pretty simple. Black Metallica t-shirt, white converse All Stars (tongue out), black skin-tight jeans (long handled comb optional) and regardless as to whether it was plus 40 degrees or minus 40 degrees outside – black leather jacket – undone. The rebel culture, throughout the generations, has always been to typify non-conformity. However, the irony was that they still conformed to their own group. To forego the Metallica and Converse in favour of the Go Gos and a pair of Tretorns could result in a black marble appearing in the bag.

Now, admittedly, the preppy culture was all about selling out. Theo Huxtable’s pursuit of Gordon Gartrell was no match for my pension-padding penchant for Ralph Lauren’s sweatshop employees. If you could put a horse riding polo player on a welding apron, I would wear it to school. And perhaps it would have helped suppress the cloud of Polo cologne I had basked in. Furthermore, the military precision involved in colour coordinating my cardigans to my slouch socks was tantamount to preparing for final exams. Which helps explain why I never had to formally prepare and present a valedictory address to my peers. (Did Lacoste even make mortarboards?) And sweaters. My closet looked like Mr. Belvedere’s. Pick up any yearbook from the 80s and you’ll notice two things different from nowadays. First, the pictures are all zoomed out in order to fit our hairdos into the frame, and second, three quarters of the students are wearing sweaters, and half of them have turtlenecks under them. My kids think I went to an Amish schoolhouse. However, ventilation was provided through the various strategically placed rips in our jeans, which was subject to strict adherence as well. (Didn’t a rip in your left knee mean you were gay?) I remember dropping a hundred bucks on a new pair of Calvins, only to come home, fray the knees, and then ruin my parent’s dryer “distressing” them with stones.

Teens, when struggling with self-identity, easily fall prey to imitative temptation. Which explains why the hell anybody would wear a red pleather zippered jacket over a pirate shirt. You either watched too much “Good Rockin’ Tonight” on CBC, or went to Voaden. (Relax; Voaden’s red leather jackets had subtle differences from Michael Jackson’s.) Regardless of whichever clique you belonged to, you wanted to project an image. Although, it has been said that people are like icebergs – 10% is showing while the remaining 90% is submerged. I was no different. For every Ramones pin on my lapel, there was a Duran Duran album hidden at the back of the milk crate. We all had emotional holes to fill. So while St. Thomas was hardly gangland in its appearance, clothing could often identify who you hung out with or, in essence, who you were. The head bangers and preps didn`t exactly mirror the West Side Story, however, fashion has the ability to divide people. I don`t want to get all Breakfast Clubby, but we`re all the same underneath and behind all our inhibitions. And if I may quote the great western philosopher Jermaine Stewart – `We don`t have to take our clothes off to have a good time. Just crank some Slayer and drink some cherry wine, uh huh…

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