Fashionably late

My apologies to Valentino, Ralph and Gianni, but a fashionista I am not.

Taking a trip deep into my closet, I reluctantly admit that I once gained admittance to Member’s Only, was briefly rescued by parachute pants and narrowly survived a dip in acid wash. My sense of style has been on only a slight mend in the nearly three decades since.

The “look of the moment” is a bit of a hybrid, carefully shaped by an upbringing in the San Juans, half a dozen years on the East Coast and a decade of ski bumming in one of Colorado’s last remaining hippy hamlets. I call it “redneck-resort chic.”

But don’t go looking for the style anywhere near Sausalito, Milan or even Paris, Texas. Redneck-resort chic seems to function only in mountain towns and is most comfortable bellied up at El Rancho or strolling the iced-up runways of Main Avenue. The high (altitude, that is) style tends to draw curious stares in lofty places like Soho, LoDo or even the All-Star Sports Bar in the Phoenix Sky Harbor.

Redneck-resort chic’s “item du jour” is a canvas work pant. Utility obviously outweighs glamour in this department. The thick fabric has been known to repel everything from the rabid lapdog attack on the river trail to an errant stream of piping hot Americano. Handy pockets can easily accommodate bike lock, a packet of baby wipes or a full can of Modus Hoperandi. As an added plus, the earth-colored fabric handles all of the rigors of desk jockeying, offers protection from the late-night bike crash and easily slips into the crawl space for the occasional pipe thawing sessions.

My torso is clad alternately in wool, Capilene or good-old-fashioned cotton. Comfort is always king, and one can never underestimate the power of a Hanes Beefy-T. Tucking is completely out of the question (don’t even try it), and warmth is more vital than appearance during winter months. On the subject of colors, black is the new black. That said, print shirts can make occasional appearances for weddings, kids’ birthdays or the monthly date night (more on that later). Cover a super-wicking, heat-trapping barrier with a softshell, and I’m ready for whatever fate may throw my way. The getup makes quick work of the Shackleton trek through the recent single-digit temps for a little light lunch or caffeine touch-up.

The pièce de résistance is a weathered ballcap, stained visor or pilled-up wooly cap. Hair styling is for urbanites and people trying to rise to the top of the cubicle game. Yep, use the comb for grooming your climbing skins and cover your head with pride. And though your average resort town redneck doesn’t want to advertise for anyone, bike companies, obscure restaurants and now defunct ski areas can quite literally fit the bill.

As chance had it, I took a modified version of resort-redneck chic out on the town last weekend for an evening of child-free romance with my wife of 13 years. In honor of the hallowed date night and all of its associated rituals, I broke out my dress-hartts, belted up, ditched the visor in favor of a mussed up ’do and subjected my throat to a night inside the collar. The whole evening was going along swimmingly until I stepped into a local beanery for a little late night zip (“always keep your depressants and stimulants in balance” is a mantra that’s been handed down through generations of the Sands clan). You can imagine the surprise, when this resort redneck accidentally stumbled onto the runway.

Unbeknownst to me, a large man in a Coleman green dress coat had approached me from behind and reached out to tap on my shoulder. “This is gonna sound pretty weird,” he drawled sheepishly.

There I was, looking eye-to-eye with a full-grown specimen of Turista, subspecies Texican. “I couldn’t help but notice your boots,” he whispered, visibly uncomfortable. “Jus’ wondering where I might find a pair.”

I chuckled and looked down at my tired, old Red Wing work boots and responded, “Seriously? These old things?” I chuckled and then explained that the boots could be found just a few doors down at Hogan’s (may that store’s sacred walls continue to anchor Main Avenue for another 80 years). Unfortunately, that wasn’t the answer he wanted, and his eyes drifted and briefly wandered through the coffee shop before landing on my better half’s feet.

“Actually, I was a little more interested in your girlfriend’s ropers,” he said guiltily, having confessed to gazing longingly at her legs and simultaneously expressing interest in a pair of ladies boots.

My wife, a veteran of nearly two decades in most of the above-mentioned locales, actually possesses an inner fashionista. To her credit, she also missed out on my years in Montrose County, a stint rough-necking in the Texas oil slick and my highly questionable early years on the other side of the Juans.

That said, a piece or two of resort-redneck has rubbed off on her higher style sensibilities.

She not only puts up with my T-shirt collection, she’s occasionally lapsed into collarless-mode herself. Somehow I’ve managed to sneak a little burnish onto her nearly impeccable record for high style. On that night, she had rounded out a Banana Republic ensemble with a pair of weathered cowboy boots. I daresay she was wearing them well.

Just then the drawl interrupted my reverie. “I really like the looks of your girlfriend’s nice calfskin,” he stuttered. “I mean her ropers … You know what I’m gettin’ at, the low heel … I mean her beautiful boots.”

Unfortunately for him, nobody touches my calfskin. And though I was tempted to send my new friend scrambling for his inner Lone Star, I did let the softer side of my ensemble shine through. “Oh those boots,” I said slapping his shoulder and dropping into a drawl of my own. “I’m afraid it takes a lot of years to get inside a pair of those boots.”

– Will Sands