October 2nd, 2004


Cool Brands

When I saw my dad last night, there was a brilliant white glow coming from his feet. "Got some new tennis shoes there, Dad?"

"Yes, do you like them? I got them on [some bargain website that I've forgotten] for $20 off."

I squinted at them, trying to look more closely through the glare reflecting off the too-white shoes. "Sure, they're nice. They'll look good once they get a tiny bit dirtier. They look a little like my running shoes. What are they, Aesics?"

"No, they're Adidas. But that's a 'cool' brand too, isn't it?" He looked at me quite concernedly, but I knew he was just joking with me. [Side note: it took me years to realize that my father has a sense of humor. It is very dry and subtle, but he can be quite funny. I never got his jokes as a teenager, because I was too busy being driven crazy by him and taking offense at his every word.]

When I was around middle-school age, a pre-teen, my sister and I had a shared obsession about our father's wardrobe. We felt that his clothing choices were embarrassingly 'un-cool', and we told him so regularly. He dressed the role of a scientist/engineer, with a closet full of short-sleeved button-down shirts with pen pockets, drab slacks, and ugly work denim for the weekends. Remember in the Apollo 13 movie, when all the scientist nerds get together in a room to make an air purifier out of the astronauts' socks? Those were the clothes my dad wore every day.

Every Christmas, birthday, and Father's Day was an opportunity for us to try to bring him into the (early) 1980's, and try make his outfits (what we considered) hipper and trendier. My sister and I tore through the malls searching for cool clothes for him. Fortunately, our mother always supervised these shopping excursions and kept us from buying radically trendy clothing that he would never-ever wear (so no parachute pants, much to my disappointment). Still, we would find 'cooler' pants and shirts to give him. Even though we gave him pieces of clothing that we considered more appropriate, he always managed to combine them in decidedly un-cool ways. It was a hopeless battle, but we continued with it for many years.

In retrospect though, looking at photographs from middle school... I was only marginally more fashionable than was my father. I was never one of the popular "cool kids", and I never had much of a clue as to what I should be wearing to fit in. So I don't know why I was so obsessed with updating my dad's clothes. Maybe just because it was easier to see what was wrong with them than with my own fashion choices.

So last night, my dad checked once again to see if he'd made good brand choices. He didn't really care, but we both still find the old game amusing. "I also bought a pair of dress shoes, from [some brand which I'd heard of, but have since forgotten]. That's a 'cool' brand too, isn't it?"

"I don't know. I've heard of the name, but I'm not sure if they're 'cool' or not... But to tell you the truth Dad," I joked, "I don't know what's cool these days! I'm 33 years old now, remember? I'm too old to know what's cool or trendy."

"Oh that's right," he nodded, with a sympathetic look on his face. "We'll have to find somebody younger to help us out."