Years ago I paid particular attention to the way I dressed. I had just graduated from the University of South Carolina and I was boldly walking through the front door of my new life. My brother-in-law was my personal style adviser. Eugene Chalmers was his first and middle name and although his name was the epitome of stuck-up, I was convinced then and even today, that he knew how to dress… and very, very well.
He took me out and helped me buy my first professional suit, a Norman Hilton with a price tag of $1100, I had arrived. I laughed when he instructed me to NEVER let a women tailor your suit. “Why,” I asked. “Trust me," Gene told me. “Just NEVER LET A WOMEN FIT YOU,” Eugene confidently instructed. I followed his orders and never did. Next came the shoes, Allen-Edmonds Alton, over $500 shoes and I went for it, buying several pair.
I paid at least $85 for each of my more than one-hundred Robert Talbott ties. “You need to always wear a fresh tie,” he instructed. “Everything else can go stale, but the tie must always remain fresh….and never, ever dry clean a tie. Just trust me,” Eugene told me.
So out the door I went each day in more than $1600 worth of clothing. My shoes were always polished and not by me.....no never, but by the shoe man down at the barber shop. Eugene also told me to get a haircut every three weeks and check into a manicure! I did the haircuts but never the manicures….sorry Geno!
I remember visiting my father one afternoon at his home in the country. At the time my father was a successful sales executive in the electronics industry. He traveled the world opening up foreign lines for Union Carbide. He was a conservative dresser and spent some money on his clothing, but very little, mainly because he was a cheapskate. My father, however, could pull it off, because he had confidence, good looks and an ego.
“You look like a fop,” my father told me, as I walked through his living room, on that obligatory rare visit to my parent’s home. He and I were not particularly on good terms then; he was tough, judgmental and rude. He also was a tough bastard and didn't especially care what I thought. His lifestyle was also something I didn't much appreciate at the time; he was a classic playboy. Was he guilty about that? No never!
He led the life of a 007 character that had the expense account that even James Bond would have been jealous of. He was synonymous to a secret agent with no assigned mission what so ever! He just traveled the world in his average suits, mixing with beautiful women, money, food and culture, ALL OF THE TIME.
“What is a fop?” I asked; knowing full well what his response was going to be. My father always threw rare and obscure words at me all of the time. Most of the time it embarrassed me, but all of the time I appreciated it. Because out of all of those new words he threw at me and demanded that I “look up”, each one stuck to my soul like a dart.
I never felt insulted by his remarks, well maybe sometimes I did, but never personally, mainly because I knew something about my father. I knew that beneath his tough and critical exterior was a man who truly loved me. My father was a man who wanted to give his son some much needed advice about how to live and carry oneself. I knew it then, and I know it now. Even though, then, I didn't want to admit it.
“Look it up!” he yelled, from across the room. I remember walking over to the bookcase in my fancy suit, distracting tie, over polished shoes, and starched pressed oxford shirt. I opened the dusty, thick Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary to where the F’s began and read it out loud to my expectant father:
“Fop noun \ˈfäp\: a man who cares too much about how he looks or dresses. FOPPISH: Obsolete: foolish, silly. Examples of FOP <he's such a fop that he drives nearly 50 miles just to get his hair cut by Monsieur Louis>”
I will never forget both that rarely used name with the most profound meaning. I frequently see fops on television that remind me of my father’s name calling from the other side of the room. Adam Levine is one who I believe personifies the word fop. It’s really not his fault that he has become one. He just slid into the name like I did at the instruction of my foppish brother-in-law.
I’m sure that Adam Levine is a wonderful person with a great eye for style. I wish him the very best, even though he needs no advice from me. I also wish that he would have had a father like mine who countered the style advice from other fops in my world. I love my father today specifically because of the critical advice that he threw at me when I was a showy fop executive. It helped tone me down and utilize more of my authentic characteristics, like an honest smile, a confident eye and a matching, but firm handshake.
The moral of that lesson to me and to Adam Levine, if he is reading this is: Don’t be a fop and be yourself Adam.
Post note: my father lived the life and survived to talk about it. He has been married for 60 years to my wonderful mother where they both hold each other’s hands when then fall asleep each night and wake up each morning. Who’d of thunk it? I, on the other hand, stopped thinking that the entire world was looking at me. I was and will always be just a simple member of the human race trying to help those hopeless fops out there like A. Levine.