Pop couture

Yale Hollander is a dad, husband, legal professional and writer whose works have appeared in a number of local and national publications. He is currently a trustee of the St. Louis Jewish Light, however the opinions and viewpoints he presents in this blog are strictly his. Follow him on Twitter @yalehollander.

By Yale Hollander

Welcome to June! This is the month when kids celebrate their liberation from school, the menswear world celebrates itself at Pitti Uomo, the fashion extravaganza in Florence, Italy, and millions of us celebrate our dads.

And even though this is a month when education gets pushed aside until August or so, I have a reading assignment for you. This particular reading assignment concerns the other two subjects I addressed in the paragraph above — menswear and dads.

Your assignment is to read “My Father’s Fashion Tips” by Tom Junod. You will not regret the investment of time required to do this, and quite honestly, if you’re reading my stuff, you owe it to yourself to read something by someone who’s real good at writing.

The story’s title is by no means deceptive. Through the course of this tale, we do learn Lou Junod’s secrets of dress, bodily preparation and perspective on life; actually, make that his perspective on living. But beyond the instructive elements of putting oneself together and forward, this is the story of a grown man taking the time to spend a weekend with his dad at a Long Island resort near the site of their old summer home in order to recapture a bit of the “old days,” learn some more about his dad’s secrets, and in the course of doing so, take pleasure in the old man’s indulgences.

ADVERTISEMENT
New Mt. Sinai Cemetery advertisement

This story could have veered into mockery and it could have just as easily slid into treacly nostalgia, but it didn’t. It is a character study that exposes an outsized personality who possesses a few traits that some may consider quirky, but it remains respectful, even reverent.

“My Father’s Fashion Tips” was originally published in December, 1996 when I was a newlywed and three years into my career, but I was well past those teenage days when it is almost traditional for fathers and sons to experience that disconnect that I liken to the three or four minutes of radio blackout that occurs when a spacecraft reenters the earth’s atmosphere. There’s friction and heat and massive static, but eventually contact is reestablished and life goes on.

Junod’s story about the weekend he and his dad spent at that resort made me think a lot about the summer Saturdays my own family and I would spend down at the Lake of the Ozarks, especially those jaunts that had taken place since that period of Dad-détente blossomed into somewhat of a mutual admiration society. We actually liked each other – and still do.

Unlike Tom and Lou, my dad and I actually share a passion for clothes and fashion (although anyone who observes me on my basement treadmill or pushing my lawnmower might question this.) Thus, every trip to the lake involved a visit to the large outlet mall nearby and its collection of menswear shops. Although we’d spend considerably more time dismissing items, there were moments when we would celebrate the victory that accompanied the purchase of a quality item at a good price. And every trip ended with dinner at the Blue Heron, a comfortably elegant restaurant perched atop a majestic hill overlooking Lake Ozark.

As the years have passed and I’ve gotten busier with family and work obligations, those trips to the lake have grown fewer and further between. But this past weekend, a strange and wonderful thing happened.

On Friday, my wife escorted my two daughters to Indianapolis where one was attending a friend’s Bat Mitzvah and the other was set to visit her best friend from camp. I had an extremely rare weekend to myself. As I often do, I called my dad to say hi.

“What are you up to this weekend” he inquired.

“Shari and the girls are in Indy, so I have no plans.” My dad repeated this out loud for the benefit of my stepmom to hear. There was some muffled chatter from his end of the line.

“Come up to Jeff City tomorrow. We’ll go to the lake. How long has it been since you’ve been to the Blue Heron?”

“Oh . . . I’m guessing at least two years.”

“Come up. We’ll hit the outlet mall and have dinner.”

Although I now have two very fine outlet malls within a 15-minute drive from my house, the temptation to spend another Saturday afternoon and evening with my dad, now 78 but in great health save for an occasionally balky knee and hip, was irresistible.

We went to the outlet mall, and while it’s a bit worse for wear these days (pardon the pun) and the selections pale in comparison to what I have at my disposal back home, I still managed to land a bargain — naturally, a pair of rather bold trousers.

We arrived at the Blue Heron just as it was opening for the evening; spent a little time in the bar enjoying one of our other shared loves — vodka gimlets — then proceeded to the dining room for a leisurely dinner.

As the sun set over the lake and my dad, my stepmom and I lingered over demitasses of strong coffee laced with stiff, sweet whipped cream, I thought about Tom and Lou (the latter of whom passed away about a decade after the publication of “My Father’s Fashion Tips”) and how lucky the two of them were to have that incredible weekend, and how thankful I am that their story continues to inspire me to seize opportunities to revel in my dad’s company and the things we both love.