I was a teenage wear ... wooph
I can explain.
It was 1975. If you experienced that woe-forsaken year, perhaps no explanation is necessary. If you missed '75, either through luck of the draw or advanced studies in chemistry, perhaps no explanation is possible.
She loved purple ' as you might be able to tell, if you haven't been blinded by the wallpaper. Her name was Cathy, and I mean that literally. Her name WAS Cathy. Perhaps irreparably embarrassed by this photograph, she changed it shortly after high school ...
... to Burchenal; Burchie for short. Did I mention she loved purple?
— No, I do not come from a family of colorblind folk. That would be an easy out, considering my mother's choice of the cranberry and gold wallpaper.
Among other things, that tuxedo represents the final piece of my 1975 Triple Crown for unfortunate clothing choices. Let's start with the other photo. That's my graduation picture.
It isn't easy wearing green. Especially so many shades of green. And while the test-pattern design of the suitcoat matches smartly with the insignias on the tie, it's the green that stands out. Coat, tie and shirt (also green) were purchased an hour or so before the picture was taken. The clothing salesman was happy to see us.
Why, you might ask, am I smiling? I like to believe these days that I'm expressing relief that my senior yearbook was limited to black-and-white pictures.
Stop Two on our tour is my outfit (unseen ... believe me, you're better off) for our senior class dinner. This would be at the country club and it was suggested we come in what today would be called dress casual.
Did these people have no common sense? I repeat ... IT WAS NINE-TEEN-SEVEN-TY-FIVE! Boys my age were taking style tips from Greg Brady's Johnny Bravo period, not the Fab Five.
Powder-blue, brushed-corduroy, wide-lapelled, big-buttoned, flared bell-bottom leisure suit. It did not exactly hang well on my 5-foot-10, 135-pound frame.
My pants were held in place by the fastener of the age ' a wide, brown hook belt with a Zodiac symbol pewter buckle the size of an avacado and the weight of a bowling ball.
The shirt? What else? Faux-silk, silver, with black lines swirling hither and yon ' interrupted by bursts of orange flames. Accentuated smartly with a man's chain necklace bearing an African fertility symbol. Although, for the life of me, I can't imagine African fertility symbols being sold door to door in 1975 by Avon ladies.
And what better way to complete the dress casual look? Brown ... vinyl ... Earth shoes. I don't suppose I have to explain why no photos remain of that night.
Which brings us to the prom tux. Gaze at that jacket again. Is it the drapes? An Ottoman? A Liberace starter set?
This goes back to Burchie, when she was still Cathy. I had planned not to attend the prom as some sort of protest against the cliquishness of my high school. That, and I couldn't get a date.
With a week to go, she finds out that her boyfriend cannot get home from the military. In steps the third wheel ' friend to both and sure to be free for the evening.
Suddenly, the protest is forgotten and son and mother are back at the clothing store. Remember the salesman who sold us the green ensemble? He remembers us.
There's not enough time to order; we have to choose off the rack. And there, alone, is one tuxedo in my size.
It is black. A fine, safe, conservative black.
It fits, sort of. Thirty years of self-inflicted torture are about to be avoided. When, as an afterthought, our salesman says a tuxedo had just been returned that might fit me better. There's one thing, however, we should know.
Did I mention Burchie loved purple?
Sometimes, on a fine spring night, when the stars are bright and the breeze is warm and light, a sudden shudder will spark at my shoulders and streak down my spine. I'll close my eyes and slowly shake my head at the horror of that sight.
Light purple, hints of pink, paisley print with madras undertones, lapels larger than flamingo wings. There was no reason on earth ' not in '75, not in 2004 ' why such a tux should exist.
Until, I suppose, today.
Robert Galvin is news editor of the . Reach him at 776-4462 or e-mail .