Forever Plaid

When I was 14, my sister Dale told me I needed to learn how to dress. She took me shopping and taught me. Since her favorite places to shop were Bloomingdale’s and Saks Fifth Avenue, she also taught me how to spend. One of Dale’s rules in 1968 was that you never mixed plaids and stripes (unless you really knew what you were doing — which apparently she did and I did not). And you never, ever, mixed two different plaids. Well, unless it was patchwork, and then — yet again — you really needed to know what you were doing (again, she did and I did not).

Dale hasn’t been around to see how styles have changed. Plaids and stripes, and plaids and plaids “work” now although they didn’t work in the ’70s. But, I still find myself judging pattern combinations by her standards. On my way home today from an autumn fair, I saw a combination that Dale most certainly wouldn’t have approved of. At first it made me shudder just a little. I walked behind the guy for about five minutes and realized the combination had started to grow on me — “like mold,” I could hear Dale saying — so I slowed down and let the moment pass. It was less a moment of inspiration and more a moment of nausea. Nope, you still won’t catch me wearing a combination like that. But, I hope it makes him happy.


When I was 22 (and knew what I was doing), I bought a patchwork shirt at Saks. While writing this, I remembered a photo of me in that shirt. I had a good friend who was Italian and owned a marble exporting company based in Carrara, Italy, where I worked here and there (barely) as a way to pass the time. No pay, but a very nice life. The marble was quarried in the mountains above the Italian Riviera where Michelangelo got his marble. That summer (of the patchwork shirt), my friend and I went up to the quarries one day. I watched as she selected where she wanted them to cut. Sorry you can’t see the shirt clearly. Apparently my friend’s assistant didn’t think my shirt was all that important.


Author: Moving with Mitchell

From Brooklyn, New York; to North Massapequa; back to Brooklyn; Brockport, New York; back to Brooklyn... To Boston, Massachusetts, where I met Jerry... To Marina del Rey, California; Washington, DC; New Haven and Guilford, Connecticut; San Diego, San Francisco, Palm Springs, and Santa Barbara, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Irvine, California; Sevilla, Spain. And Fuengirola, Málaga..

47 thoughts on “Forever Plaid”

  1. In Michelanelo's time plaids were still woven and nowadays they're mostly prints.

    The plaid shirt on the top shouldn't been worn with a plaid bermuda, it looks cheap.

  2. I love this post! And I want to tell you why. I talk about this a lot and you've demonstrated it here so perfectly. I am overly sensitive. I have a very low tolerance for making fun of people. Maybe it comes from the teasing and being made fun of I've encountered for the last 20 years. I don't get why people feel so comfortable doing it. And I'm always thinking, this is why there is such a bullying problem in schools. Kids are raised in an atmosphere where parents make fun of a stranger, or put down someone's looks instead of expressing an opinion.

    I understand people are entitled to their opinions. I know not everyone lives the "if you don't have something nice to say,…" adage the way I do. I know I'm on my own planet with this.

    It strikes me that with each generation, there is less and less of an ability to express a conflicting opinion without being mean. I think more people "know" how to look at that picture and make fun of that guy, then know how to simply say, "Nice shirt. I would have paired it with a solid short." It's as if it's not enough for them to disagree, they have to make the other person wrong as well. And they don't think twice about doing it. They really don't know how to disagree somehow putting this guy's choice down.

    What I LOVE LOVE LOVE about this post is how you've managed to be funny and present the question of a fashion choice. You do so with charm and a great story, warm recollections of your sister, and room for changing fashions and the choices of someone who maybe knows what they're doing. This is so telling about you as a person, Mitchell. And why you have so many friends, and why you are so genuinely likeable and a pleasure to follow.

    Ok, as far as the plaids go, I know plaid with plaid has been a strong higher fashion choice for a while now. I was just looking at the Steven Alan Glen Plaid Blazer on which the model is wearing over a plaid shirt.
    If you're curious, here it is –

    As for me, I'd probably go a different way with that blazer.

    1. Victor:
      If someone on the street chooses a combination that's not to my taste, I may groan a little or look at San Geraldo, but that's they're very personal choice. If a designer puts it together and tells us it's "good," I figure I have a right to say "no, it's not." So, as for that blazer and shirt combination: Blech! That's awful! What were they thinking?!?

      Thanks for thinking so highly of me! I figure these are personal choices. To be honest, I have a hard time looking at that shorts and shirt combination for long, but that's my own personal taste. If he likes it, more power to him. However, it DOES make for a fun picture and the more I looked at it, the more I wished (as I mentioned in the previous comment) that his friend had been wearing shorts with a vertical stripe. That would have been GREAT!

      I haven't always been so kind and respectful. I was one of those who would have made slightly snotty comments in the background. It came from insecurity and wanting to fit in with the other clever nasties. I've, thankfully, outgrown that. I have a nephew (24 years my junior) who is so incredibly kind all the time (and still unbelievably funny and quick-witted); he inspires me unintentionally to be a better person. And sometimes he even succeeds!

  3. Oh he, Ron, is so brave to even mention those pants!! lol Don't get me started!!

    Maybe, just maybe, the 'two friends' are straight or they know John Gray really well!!!! I am SO DEAD!

    1. Jim:
      I want to see those pants!!! As for those guys being straight, I didn't think so. Besides, I see plenty of gay guys around town wearing combinations I wouldn't have worn 40 years ago (and wouldn't wear now).

      I'll leave John Gray to defend himself… or maybe he'll just agree.

  4. Is that Josephine with you in Carrara?

    I love your posts – don't always have the time to comment these days as work is #?$+_@*)(*@, but I do read them!

  5. Plaid on Plain has dipped in and out of trend in the last number of years, I was going to make fun of this guys choice of P on P, but then I read Victor's comment and I thought it best I kept it to myself.


    1. Mind of Mine:
      I'm glad Victor inspired you to be kinder! Those plaids are not for everyone, but that guy clearly like them… or he's like my father, who cared so little for what he put together that anything was just fine with him! Either way, he's wearing it, not us!

  6. I see that combination and "those" shorts all the time here in France. It must be some kind of fad or trend at the moment. If I dared to try it, I'd look like a walking tablecloth.

    1. And, for the record, I can't pull off the other look, either. That is, below the knee cargo shorts. My legs are too short; they hit just below my ankles (only exaggerating a little). Cargo shorts make me look like someone from the renaissance wearing "puffy" pants.

    2. Walt the Fourth:
      I DO see "vertically challenged" people here wearing just what you describe and, I agree, they do end up looking like those Renaissance pants! Even worse is when they have the pants dragging down below their butts in the first place. As for me, I'm the solids/separates type and I'm not a big fan for myself of long cargo shorts/capri pants/clamdiggers/pedal pushers!

  7. Hello Mitch:
    Generally speaking we are not faced with this dilemma as we seldom, if ever, wear anything patterned and avoid tartan.

    However, in interior decoration we really do favour pattern on pattern.

    1. Jane and Lance:
      I can be much bolder in colors and patterns in interiors, as well. As for my exterior: I have a hard enough time straying from black and gray. Patterns are rare.

  8. I don't wear horizontal stripes,tartan – even Cornish tartan which is mostly yellow, but I do like small patterned fabric i.e ditsy flowery ones, swallows small repeated white on navy. The guy with the matching shirt and shorts is not a good look did't see that much here as we had no summer here this year.

  9. Well, I found the photo of you in bell-bottoms more interesting…. or are those "boot cut"? I'd be the last person to qualify as the "fashion police"… I'm never up with the latest… but I do like seeing what other people wear…. even if it's stripes with plaids.

  10. Sooo cute! Look at you in your fashionable shirt and those sexy bellbottoms!

    I knew a Cajun (really) for the briefest amount of time 🙂 back in the early 80s who wore pants like that. Oh, my. I'm in MN and he's in FL, but hot damn, thanks for reminding me of him…

    Wonder if he's single…


  11. His look was too "matchy plaidy" it needs some different coloring to be a Wow.
    I mix plaids all the time, and, even though I never met her, i think Dale might approve.

    1. Kristi:
      I'm not at all old-fashioned, but although I like patterned shorts on others, I would have gone with a pair of black shorts with that shirt. I'm enjoying the fact that he doesn't care what we think… well, that he doesn't have a clue he's famous. Too bad he didn't go with plaid sneakers and color socks!

  12. They were probably tourists and that shirt and shorts were all he had left in his suitcase that were clean. At least, I hope he had a good excuse!

    1. YONKS:
      Well, I have to admit, I've done a plaid scarf in winter with a plaid jacket, but much more subtle. So, no I could never do what the guy in the picture did. But good for him for doing what he wants… although I couldn't look long in his direction!

  13. I enjoyed reading post and the comments. I agree with you about plaid on plaid. There are times it appears to be in fashion but I have never been condifent enough to wear it even when it is.

    I liked Victor's comments too. For a while I would see links to People of Walmart. What the people were wearing was beyond inappropriate for any number of reasons but the posts always make me uncomfortable because they are so mean-spirited.

    1. Harper's Keeper:
      Victor is definitely an inspiration. Like you, I had that same experience of "People of Walmart"; the first picture I saw I found funny, but the more I looked, the more mean-spirited I found it to be. No thanks!

  14. Gotta say it – plaid shorts guy has nice legs. 🙂

    You've reminded me that my big sister tried to teach me about what to wear, too. I wasn't a very good pupil.

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