We visited our kids and grandkids in Portland a few months ago, and I spent a good deal of time talking with Mattias, the 9 year old. He likes to talk – a lot – and he asks lots of questions. One of his favorites is How were things different when you were a kid? When we got home, I wrote several posts addressing the olden days, and this is the next in the series. There are links to earlier posts at the end of this one.
Kids dressed a lot differently in the 50s and 60s than they do now. One of the big differences was shoes. Shoes were usually made of leather, had smooth soles, and were brown or black. Tennis shoes were for gym class and the tennis court, and there were two choices, black high tops for the boys and white Keds for the girls.
The most popular shoe for school was penny loafers that had an open slot across the instep for a shiny, new penny. Some of the flashier kids put dimes in their shoes, but those of us who knew the value of a penny (see previous post in the series) covered our pennies with foil and saved our dimes for more important things like candy and ice cream. Boys wore lace-up dress shoes to church, and girls wore flats or Mary Janes with straps. Play shoes were those that had become too scuffed and worn to be acceptable for school or church.
Girls wore bobby sox with our loafers, thick white sox that came halfway up our calves until we rolled them down two or three turns to form a thick band around our ankles. Later on we evolved to crew sox. We wore thinner sox with our Sunday shoes, sometimes with a touch of lace around the edge. Boys wore white crew sox, some with a band of color around the top. Sometimes they switched to dark sox for Sunday, but sometimes they didn’t.
Boys dressed a lot like they do today – shirts and pants – but there were some differences, especially on Sundays. Some actually wore suits, and the ones who didn’t usually wore dress shirts with ties. For school they wore slacks or khakis or jeans. There were no designer jeans – the choices were Levis or Lees – and they were worn belted at the waist. The bottoms didn’t puddle around the shoe tops or drag on the ground but instead were rolled up to expose an inch or two of white sock.
The biggest difference for boys was the shirts. They all had collars and buttons. T-shirts were white undergarments that were not worn on the
outside unless you were in the cast of “West Side Story” or were a would-be hoodlum with one cigarette behind your ear and a pack rolled up in the sleeve of your t-shirt.
Girls wore dresses or skirts and blouses – period. Oh, we wore slacks or jeans to school on pep rally days, but otherwise they were forbidden. And we never, ever wore them to church.
There was a distinct difference in the way girls and women dressed. The emphasis for girls was sweet and wholesome, and anything revealing or sexy immediately labeled you as one of “those” girls. Hose and heels were reserved for those who had reached their teens, and the circular, gathered, and pleated skirts we wore were below the knee. The first time Mom made a “straight” skirt for me, she hemmed it at the middle of my knee. When I modeled it for Dad, he scowled.
“Looks awfully short to me,” he said.
Hems became quite a point of contention between students and staff by the time I reached high school. To test the suitability of a skirt, the wearer had to kneel on the floor. If the hem didn’t touch the tile, she was sent home to change.
Shorts were not much of an issue because we didn’t wear them except in gym class or for playing outside in the heat of summer. Even then, most of us wore Bermudas just above the knee. Some of the more daring wore Jamaicas at mid-thigh, but again, only “those” girls wore short shorts.
There were more differences, but you get the idea. Some time when you come to visit, Grandpa David and I will get out our old high school yearbooks and show you how we dressed way back when. In the meantime, have your dad tune in an old episode of Happy Days and you’ll get the idea.