For most of my life I have looked to my father – especially throughout the 60’s and early 70’s – for family style inspiration. My dad always leaned preppy favoring looks that could have been straight out of the Brooks Brothers or J Press archives. The late 70’s weren’t great for most; though he continued to have his suits custom made in New York, Toronto, or Montreal. The 80’s were cruel to everyone, and the 90’s didn’t improve on much. These days, my dad dresses casually most of the time, but still puts in the effort to look put together.
My dad’s dad, my grandpa Sol was never a guy I looked to for style inspiration. He was born in August 1920 – would have turned 100 this month. By the time I was born, he was 57. To me, he always looked like an old man. A photo I saw from my aunt’s wedding in 1978 shows me with my grandmother – looking elegant as ever – and my grandfather in the background; bald, heavyset, stogie in hand, looking very 1970’s with his tuxedo and ruffled shirt.
Grandpa Sol passed in 2006 followed by my grandmother last September. Upon sorting through her possessions, the only things I wanted to keep were a few paintings and a big box of old photos. I was pleasantly surprised to find a number of photos with my grandfather looking rather dapper in his Army uniform as well as in civilian clothes. The photo at the top of this post is undated. I would assume it was taken sometime between 1945 and 1950 noting the lines of his double-breasted jacket and full leg trousers. It is probably the most tailored I’ve ever seen him in a photo, and certainly any time in my life.
This photo is one of my favorites. I have no idea when it was taken, or the identities of any of the other people. My grandfather is on the left pouring from what looks like a bottle of bourbon. He’s rocking the same mustache as he is in the first photo, has a full head of thick, dark hair, and is again wearing a dark chalk-striped jacket. Now I wonder if this was taken on the same day as the first photo, which would likely mean it was taken in the late 30’s / early 40’s before he met my grandmother.
Here he is with my grandmother, June 1943, Detroit, MI. Not sure why they would have been in Detroit. I should ask my father. Perhaps he was stationed there for basic training. He served in the Army Air Corps as an airplane mechanic. He was stationed for a while in Panama, and also in the Galapagos Islands. While his three brothers were in Europe – including my uncle Harry who fought at the Battle of the Bulge in Patton’s Army – Grandpa was living the life down south fishing, drinking beer, and occasionally repairing planes.
Three more from the war. At ease on a bridge, probably hustling someone at pool, and smiling because he knows he looks good.
This one is also undated, but feels like it’s probably sometime immediately after the war. He’s standing in front of my grandmother’s childhood home – evidenced by my great-grandmother, Sophie making an appearance in the background. He once again looks perfectly tailored in a wool overcoat, and is holding what was probably the most important of all men’s accessories at the time, the hat.
I wish I could say he held onto some of these clothes, but if he did they were long gone before I had any interest. I once asked him about his military uniforms, but those were gone too. Can’t say I’m not happy to have these photos though. And the memories, of course.