I grew up immersed in starched khaki and olive drab. Dress blues and green berets. Jump boots and Jungle boots. I couldn't wait for my first uniform.
And here it is. Cub Scouts not only provided a uniform but also a closed world of shopping at Belks in the Boy Scout department. Only open to members you see. Jack knives, balsa wood scarf holders that I never could finish and a library of books and badges. My introduction to the love of bobbles.
Next came Junior ROTC. Certainly the Naval uniform stood head and shoulders above those Army and Air Force affairs laden with ugly patches, ranks, ribbons and medals for brushing your teeth five days in a row.
The Army was not junior ROTC but I'd be lying if I told it wasn't close. A common chorus among the troops, "What's the difference between the Boy Scouts and the Army? The Boy Scouts have adult leadership." Still, that beret was a jaunty piece of head gear. I ripped the lining out of mine and wore it in the shower a few times until it molded to my head. I was not alone in doing this. I also had my fatigue trousers tapered and spent hours shining those jump boots
After college there was another uniform. Ivy, Trad, North American Traditional (NAT?), whatever you wanna call it - -I called it home. It was (and is) the prefect uniform for someone who doesn't have a uniform anymore. The picture above is at a friends wedding on the Main Line in the late 80s. I was wearing the Summer uniform. Seersucker suit, white bucks, argyle socks, rep tie and braces. I'm not saying it's the only thing to wear. I'm just saying it's simple.
When my Grandmother asked for a retirement portrait of my father in his dress blues - - I don't think the above is what she had in mind. Olan Mills would have sufficed but as I've mentioned before--my old man is a bit out of the box. A genius. But out of the box. Still, he wore what meant the most to him and his career... his Combat Infantry Badge and Jump Wings rather than the three rows of medals - - some for brushing your teeth five days in a row. Of course, he never had a girlfriend paint his portrait.
I miss uniforms. They made me feel like I belonged to whatever it was I was doing at the time. Cub Scouts, ROTC, Paratrooper, Deputy Sheriff, Park Ranger...even a salesman. Starched oxford cloth button down, pressed khakis, shell cordovan shoes, a navy blazer or suit...It's still about feeling a part of something. Whether you belong or not doesn't really matter.