A Floyd Countian who did not offer her name cornered me outside a meeting of the Board of Supervisors this month with an observation.
“I’ve noticed your casual dress at public meetings that you cover for the paper,” she said. “Some might call you a slob. Do you even own a suit?”
She walked away before I could reply. At the meeting, I wore in a short-sleeved shirt, jeans and tennis shoes — standard attire for covering court, other meetings and photographing high school athletic events.
To answer her question, I do own two suits: One black pin-stripe with vest for funerals and a grey pin-stripe for weddings or other functions that might require a coat and tie. I have a half-dozen dress shirts, several ties and a pair of black, wing-tipped shows in our closet, along with a tux from our time in Washington and a collection of “braces,” otherwise known as suspenders for the suits and several pairs of cuff links for the cuffs of the shirts.
The last time one of those suits came out of the closets was for an appearance as an “expert witness” at a court hearing in Floyd several years ago.
When we moved from Washington to Floyd in 2004, I donated many of my collection of suits and sport coats, along with many of the dress shirts to charity. I wore suits while working for Congress and during my time as vice president for political programs for the National Association of Realtors. During that period, the attire were designer suits, British dress shirts from Turnbull & Asser and silk braces from Trafalgar. Ah, the Yuppie years.
No more. For the most part, I wear jeans and t-shirts day in and day out, with tennis shoes or motorcycle boots. Same for Amy. She has closets full of dresses, skirts and evening wear left over from our Washington, DC, days but casual is name of the game here in Floyd County and “dressing for dinner” usually means tucking in our shirt tails.
In courts, the judge wears a robe and lawyers wear suits or sport coats and ties. Most witnesses, however, dress more casually.
As a reporter for The Roanoke Times in the 1960s, I wore a coat and tie on most assignments. Same for early days at The Telegraph in Alton but over my 12 years there the dress mode for most newspaper types changed. Guys wore sport shirts with no ties and woman reporters appeared more in slacks than in dresses or skirts. I wore jeans, for the most part, in my final years at the paper in 1979, 1980 and early 1981.
I remember an attractive female photographer at another paper who often showed up for assignments in a tight pair of hip-hugging jeans and a bare midriff blouse. She often got more attention than the subjects were were photographing.
I did wear suits at one time, as the photo below, taken by National Geographic photographer Ed Rash, showed in 1885: