Not many Boomers were able to avoid the scourge of hand-me-down’s – clothes and shoes passed down from older brothers or sisters, or from one family to another. Most Boomer parents were children of the depression, and recycling was a way of life, not a fashion statement. Moms were even known to cut off buttons from old shirts and coats, so you know they were eager for gently used clothing in good repair.
At the beginning of the school year, a trip to J.C. Penny or Sears & Roebuck was an exciting event. Youngsters returned with jeans that smelled like a denim factory and plaid shirts with lots of pins. To supplement hand-me-down’s, there were new socks, new shoes and a coat for winter.
But Boomers grew up proud of the way they looked and dressed. Girls wore crinolines and poodle skirts and spent hours arranging and curling their hair to achieve their flips, bouffants, and beehives. Guys wore spiffy, well-creased pegged pants and also spent an eternity in front of a mirror, making sure that their ducktail haircut was combed just right – and groomed with Vitalis. Many of us today wish we still had enough hair to hold a squirt of Vitalis – or even a little dab of Bryll Cream.
But hand-me-down’s or not, a young Boomer would never think to wear, or ever be seen as much of the youth today appears.
When Boomers received hand-me-down jeans, if they had holes, they were neatly repaired with an iron-on patch. But as a rule, if jeans were badly ripped or torn, they were thrown out with the trash.
Today, young people buy jeans that look like they were once worn by tramps – jeans with holes in the knees and seats that are worn through. Strategically placed rips or slits add extra cost to these so-called designer jeans. Who decides where the holes go or how many rips? And rather than rolling up their trouser legs when they are too long, young people leave several inches of material flopping on the ground, then walk on the pants bottoms leaving rags and strings at the hem. Had a Boomer done that, the punishment would have been swift and thorough.
And while some Boomers may have dabbed some peroxide to the front of their hair for a little blonde streak, kids today like to experiment with a rainbow of gaudy dyes, ending up with a head full of purple, orange and emerald green hair. Many look like parrots from a tropical isle. One good way to tell the difference is that parrots don’t have their beaks pierced.
And Tattoos? We used to pay 25-cents to see the Tattooed Lady at the carnival. For Boomers, a tattoo was something former Navy men had on their arms if they ever got extremely drunk while on liberty. With many kids today, it’s hard to find a little natural skin color where the tattoo artist has not yet inked.
Boomers remember madras shirts and blouses. They wore button down oxfords under lamb’s wool and camel hair sweaters. Boomers insisted on Bass Weejuns and Papa Gallo flats, long wool, knee-high socks and Burlington Gold Cups. Boomers worked and scrimped to be able to buy nice clothes and to look their best at all times.
Modern kids have a standard uniform – tee shirts, jeans, white socks and tennis shoes. In the halls of high schools and colleges throughout the country, it looks like an army of little soldiers in white shirts scribbled with gibberish, blue jeans with strings going in every direction and tennis shoes large enough to house a rabbit.
Maybe one reason there are no more hand-me-down’s is who would ever want to wear what these kids wear today?