King of the Leisure Suits

From 2003

The other day on the radio, the topic of leisure suits came up. One of the DJs didn’t even know what they were. Mike couldn’t believe that anyone could not know what a leisure suit was, as he was a leisure suit aficionado.

Yes, the uniformed man at work, or the casually dressed man you might see out was once a lover of the stylishly sleazy leisure suits of the 70s. He had an impressive array of colors, including pea green, lemon yellow and baby blue.

Back in the days of leisure suits, Mike worked in the menswear department at Dillard’s. He had first look at all the latest styles, and if he liked what he saw, he’d put it back until he could afford it.

He wore these suits proudly. He felt suave (say that swave, like Gomer Pyle) and cool with his rainbow of suits and his platform shoes.

I only know this Mike from a black and white photo, so to get the full effect, picture along with me a tall, thin man with hair like brand new copper pennies, just a shade long. Picture him in a loose-fitting polyester jacket with huge flap pockets across the chest. Now color that jacket pea green and add some clingy polyester pants, also pea green, flared at the bottom. Big-heeled platform shoes complete the ensemble.

Add a mustard yellow shirt with a huge collar, and a broad diagonally stripped tie, and that’s the Mike that was a fashion plate for the 70s. That must have been quite a sight.

Mike’s mother remembers his leisure suits and, as a mother should, says he looked handsome in them.

His sister-in-law remembers seeing Mike in his pastel polyesters and thinking of Easter eggs with red tops.

What would cause a normal, sensible man to wear such a display of colors?

The only answer I can think of is that it was the 70s, man. Everyone who was there did something strange in the 70s, fashion-wise. My own father grew a mustache and sideburns.

Mike was still in possession of these suits when we got married, but we don’t have them anymore. Either we managed to sell them at a garage sale, or just dropped them at Goodwill’s door and ran away.

Nowadays, Mike makes no apologies for his attire. He smiles when he remembers his rainbow of suits. He wishes he still had them. I’m glad we don’t because, if they fit, he would still be trying to wear them. And I don’t look good standing next to anything pea green.

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