The declaration of independence from my parents arrived in the form of a hipster Nehru shirt during junior high school in the late 1960s.
The shirt, along with a matching pair of ridiculously pimpish, olive green, pinstripe bell-bottoms, became the first outfit I purchased with my own money and without parental supervision.
It also was my way of informing my parents they simply were not cool when I was in those awkward teenage years, and adults, like them, were freaking out about their kids wanting to let their bangs fall across their foreheads to match the Beatles’ haircuts.
My father was a steelworker who never managed to save a dime, but always dressed off-hours as if he stepped out of a 1940s men’s style magazine.
A product of the Great Depression, he made it a tradition to buy his three sons just one new outfit apiece for the start of school, and matching shoes if last year’s no longer fit.
For eighth grade I was given a pair of light gray, polyester pants, which were better suited for an old man gumming his teeth and waiting for a bus at Murphy’s five-and-dime in Charleroi.
I was embarrassed to be seen in those dress pants at my junior high school in Rostraver Township and abruptly told my father so after the first day of classes that term.
“If you don’t like the clothes I get you, find a job and buy your own,” he steamed.
So I saved every nickel earned delivering the afternoon newspaper, went to work on a nearby farm, started baby-sitting and looking for other ways to earn money for a new wardrobe. Back then you could even earn money by collecting glass soda pop bottles and returning them to the store for small refunds.
Then, I went shopping with the goal of looking like one of The Monkees – the rock quartet that was all the rage in their mod television show between 1966 and 1970.
In no time I was sporting multicolor, patchwork suede platform shoes at a school mostly populated by children either from farming families or with dads who worked in the steel mills. Most of the kids there were still stuck in the 1950s and dressed accordingly.
Needless to say I did not blend into the crowd. My classmates snickered at my fashion statement.
Although I wore that outfit until I outgrew it, it didn’t take long for me to realize that I actually was more comfortable in public wearing worn blue jeans and a T-shirt or flannel shirt.
Scott Beveridge is a staff writer at the Observer-Reporter. He can be reached at email@example.com.