BY HARRY ANDERSON
September 28, 2016
My loving spouse and I ventured out to The Clyde Theatre on a recent Monday evening to enjoy Meryl Streep as she magnificently mangled some classical music in “Florence Foster Jenkins.” It’s a fabulous film* and The Clyde was packed.
It was your typical Rock crowd, average age about 60 and, as always, almost everybody got there early to get good seats. A few millennials with tattoos did straggle in with popcorn just as the movie started, but they had to sit way down in front.
I had on my typical jeans and polo shirt even though my spouse had warned me it might get chilly. I, being stubborn and well past 60, shrugged it off.
As soon as we entered the auditorium, I immediately felt embarrassed. I was out of uniform. Virtually everyone in the place was smart enough to know it was mid-September and fall was just around the corner. They were wearing what Rock dwellers are supposed to wear at this time of year. Flannel and fleece over denim. No substitutions. Depending on the outdoor temperature, wool socks (multi-colored stripes are best), head-hugging beanie hat (preferably North Face) and wool (but never leather!) gloves also may be added.
There is a beautiful simplicity about this Rock uniform we wear during cold weather. Men and women have on exactly the same thing. And, since many Rock women wear their hair short to ward off the effects of wind and dampness and many Rock men are folically challenged, the sexes often look interchangeable around here. Confusing, perhaps, but never boring.
And, one real advantage of our Rock uniform is that nobody ever feels under-dressed, even at weddings, funerals, public meetings and church services. Maybe in the summertime a Whidbey restaurant will occasionally tell you to wear shoes and a shirt to get service. But I doubt anybody has ever been turned away this time of year for not being properly dressed. Flannel and fleece over denim fits in anywhere.
And of course another advantage is how little of your income you have to spend on a Rock wardrobe. Most of the clothes I wear come from Costco. A pair of Kirkland jeans may cost as little as $14.99 if you get there on a coupon day. A heavy-duty flannel shirt may be $8.99. Six pairs of wool socks may run $7.99. And the beauty of this kind of wardrobe is that I may very well wear out before it does. In fact, the more faded the flannel and denim become the more fashionable they look.
I admit that I do splurge on my fleece items like a Land’s End grey vest ($49.95) and a North Face beanie hat that covers my head and ears ($29.99). I am a brand snob in that regard.
Meanwhile, however, all those suits, dress shirts and ties on which I spent so much money during my years in America sit idle and attract dust and moths in the closet. I would give them to the thrift store but I doubt anyone here would buy them.
I realize some folks not from this beautiful island may poke fun at our dress code. To them, maybe we look like North Koreans all dressed alike while saluting Kim Jong-un. But they haven’t experienced a Whidbey fall or winter, and we have. Let them keep their dressy sweaters, topcoats, dresses and wool slacks while stuck in traffic on the I-5. I’d rather stay warm in my uniform while cruising up the Scenic Isle Way.
There is one item, however, you will never find in a proper Whidbey fall uniform: an umbrella. The Rock wind will flip one of those things inside out in an instant, and the rain is usually over before you remember where you put it. Besides, flannel and fleece over denim dry quickly as you sit next to a warm fire at home.
*Editor’s Note: For those who missed “Florence Foster Jenkins” the first time around, The Clyde is planning to bring it back as a “Second Chance” movie sometime in early October. Check The Clyde’s website for information.
Once upon a time, Harry Anderson made an honest living as a reporter, editor and columnist at the Los Angeles Times. He now lives in central Whidbey, where he spends his time gardening and ruminating on things that interest him.
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Good one Harry. I too enjoy a place where one can be underdressed and not feel inferior. I’m reading your story while visiting my son Michael and family in Netherlands, recently arrived from Houston via Whidbey. Then on to Germany where daughter Laura and fam has recently arrived from living with me for two years near Freeland. A laptop can take the place of many magazines and newspapers, even books, sometimes.
Keep on writing! Cheers, Martin
Thank you, Martin. So good to hear from you . . . and glad to know I have a reader in Europe! Best, Harry.
Coming from fashion and make-up conscious Texas, lack of both was what I first noticed upon arrival – but since a jacket with a hood covers any attempt at hairdo or style, I soon succumbed. My overall comment on fashion on Whidbey is this: I am pretty sure everyone gets dressed in the dark at Good Cheer.
Wow! Harry – you actually wear some designer items – guess you get dressed in the light at Good Cheer. There is hope. Donna
I love living where “couture” is wearing the black fleece (instead of grey, green, or blue). Great article, Harry!