It was during a brief late-September vacation on bleak Plum Island off the northern tip of Massachusetts that the man across the road made me fashion conscious.
On a Saturday morning he walked out to pick up his mail in a dark gold robe. On the back was a splendid centrifugal balance design in a variety of colors starting at the hem andd working slowly up the back and spreading out at the shoulders.
Then on a morning stroll, the couple approaching looked familiar.
She wore a casual outfit that could hang through the day, but my kimono-clad neighbor was dressed in a dark windbreaker out of an L.L. Bean catalog, plaid slacks and a crushed walking hat.
A short time passed as I lay in the sun with a 20-year-old pair of bathing trunks on when a door slammed. My neighbor set out for the ocean in a black scuba-diving suit, a raft under one arm, flippers under the other and a spear in his hand.
The garage door opened and a small sports convertible pulled out with the roof down, and the driver was attired in a good-looking tennis outfit.
he sun burned deep into an idle mind as I lay with an eye on his house wondering what I'd been missing all these years and making bets with myself as to what his next inclination would bring.
Jockey silks for pitching horse-shoes? A T-shirt with the Campbell soup girl on the front, for lunch, a Smokey the Bear get-up for raking leaves, a fire fighting hat, raincoat, and boots for watering the grass, Gucci coveralls with "N.Y.C. Dept of Sanitation" across the back in old English for croquet?
There was a light touch on my shoulder and a voice: "We're having dinner with the Crays." Rubbing my eyes I knew there would be no problem. I'd wear the other outfit.
Do clothes make the man? That was a question that old Rembrandt played around with when he took a vagrant off the streets, dressed him in regal robes and painted his potrait.
There is a mild fever working through the system of a man who needs the reassurance of the right clothes for the occasion. The '70s have flashed a few uniforms for the chic for us.
The white or off-white for discoing, with the dark open shirt unbuttoned to the navel, and the mandatory pendant around the neck.
The expensive sport jacket, rich shirt and faded blue jeans for the hip sipper at the Trend Central Bar.
The three-piece suit devotee, sweltering while vested in Washington's 90 degree days, is for Very Important Business and the Big Impression.
Then we have the weekend outfit.
A quick, in-close survey turned up a colleague who spends a lot of time on weekends digging holes in his back yard because his dog likes to sit in them.
For this activity he confirmed the manufacturers's suspicion that the pants he wears just might have been a part of a good suit and he tops them off with a torn T-shirt and on cooler days he pulls on an old sweater with the elbows out.
A restaurant manager who watches the wear parade closely remarked about the Georgetown outfit change rountine on Saturday afternoons, "You have to have an outfit to go buy a plant."
The Georgetown Safeway on a Saturday afternoon is a swanky, sporty scene. Said one shopper: "Really I have never seen such elegant, expensive-looking tennis outfits that do not seem to have ever been sweated in on a tennis court."
You could try the dirty look.
"I have the rottenest most beat-up pants you have ever seen," said a New York Yankee and a dirty worn shirt with half the buttons missing and that's what I wear."
A longtime friend, Phil Casey, solved the problem of putting together a wardrobe for weekends to any other days.
One afternoon he walked into a men's clothing store and told a salesman, "Give me everything in the window." Luckily the window was small; but the surprised salesman asked him to repeat himself.
"I want to buy everything, the suits, the sport jacket, the slacks, the matching shirts and ties. If the stuff is good enough for you to put in the window then I'll buy it."