My father had that nineteen-sixties-middle-manager-in-a-textile-mill sense of style that was an affront to his teenaged son at the time. His thinning hair, which he so desperately tried to save by throwing money at shyster companies shipping box after box of plastic-bottled, follicle-saving goo, was unconvincingly coiffed in a rooster style combover that was hilarious and tragic at the same time. His half-sleeved Dacron polyester shirts, always white, always sported a pocket protector, or if not that, at least a naked pen or three. The pants were nondescript, belted. Ah, but it was the shoes, the shoes that stick in my mind.
Those are the shoes I remember my father wearing. Brogues, as they used to be called in Europe, were initially shoes designed to be worn outside, for hunting and other over the ground pursuits. The pointed toe cap was extended back along the shoe in a shape that roughly resembled a wing, thus, wing tips. No matter the color pattern, the materials, as long as the toe cap was configured thusly, the shoe was a wing tip.
My father’s wing tips were the heavy, plodding kind that lasted forever, never seemed to wear out and oozed a work vibe, at least in my teenaged mind. I could not fathom a time in my life that I could ever possibly wear such a shoe, except perhaps when one foot was literally in the grave. They felt heavy in the hand, sturdy but in a rough, uncomfortable way, with severe waxy laces that also screamed responsible adult in a way that I could not bear at the time. They were the kind of shoes that went with the rest of the sixties wardrobe and denoted adulthood and a place to be at eight AM each morning.
Wingtips went along with the daily evening newspaper, the six o’clock news, used cars and retread tires, going to church on Sunday, eating fried chicken and taking a nap in stocking feet on the couch before church in the evening. My sixteen year old self, so confident and busy with my high school pursuits, thought my father stodgy, rigid, conformist and unimaginative. He provided for us, yes, certainly, but did he enjoy his life in those stiff leather shoes with the lines of perforations and chunky heels and hard soles? Was he trapped in those paid-for used cars and white shirts and trying to stop the passage of time by working those combovers down to the last few strands of hair that would reach the other side of his balding pate?
I don’t know. How I wish I could ask him.
Dad, we went to church this morning.
I drove my paid-for car, which I love and will keep until it no longer runs.
I wore my favorite white Oxford shirt and a pair of gray all season wool pants. Very practical and a staple of my adult wardrobe.
Shiny black, size eleven Cole Haan wingtips, one of the most comfortable pairs of dress shoes I own.