Unfortunately, we are in the midst of a family emergency here. My father is quite ill and for a brief period of time, we were not sure if things would go his way.
He has recovered a bit and while his prognosis improves, dad is still very much in the thick of the woods. Being the sons of this retired physician, my brothers and I each understand the reality of life but also the vital importance of a positive outlook. I am very confident that he will recover and get back to a slightly less busy schedule.
At the same time this was all unfolding, I was also engaged in several reader discussions on the importance of personal style and finding one’s own sartorial voice. As a small tribute to the man who shaped much of the person I am today, I am reposting an article from several years ago on this very topic.
The most significant impact on my personal style is without a doubt that of my father’s. While there have been many other influences, from magazines and movies to managing a Ralph Lauren store, it always comes back to him.
My father has a timeless sense of taste and a respect for quality. He is, at heart, a J. Press man. He attended Yale College and then Yale Medical School back when young men were required to wear coat and tie to class, so Press was very much a part of his life. Beyond that, though, he is a true to form OCBD kind of guy.
To my knowledge, as long as I have been alive, he has never owned a pair of jeans.
He has always been without pretense though, never believing that any advantages offered to him by life made a whit of difference. He lives life very much as he dresses; comfortable and classic without being stuffy or off-putting.
To the contrary, he has always been an approachable guy, which is very important given his profession. In fact, he recently wrapped up a teaching position at his alma mater – educating medical students on how to actually interact with people.
Grandpa with his granddaughters
While he is a conservative dresser, my dad is by no means a sartorial wallflower. From white tie, tails and top hat for an annual dinner dance to creamy flannels, blue blazer, and a panama for a summer’s concert under the stars, he most certainly exemplifies great personal style.
I have many many mental snapshots of him that have helped to cement my love for clothing and its power. But one memory stands out because it was less about what he had on and more about who he is.
I was with a friend who worked in the hospital’s emergency room and we had stopped by so that he could drop something off. I tried to stay out of the way and unobtrusively stood in a corner watching the commotion.
Unexpectedly, I saw my dad come around the corner wearing a seersucker suit and white bucks – downright natty. In the emergency room no less! He has always held a strong personal belief that as a physician his patients always deserved to be treated with dignity because of the trust they put in him. Dressing well is a simple and visible show of that respect and affection.
What will forever hold a special place in my heart is what happened next. Not seeing me, he walked over to a man lying on a gurney along the wall, gently leaned over him and began to talk. Their heads close together, I could see the body of my dad’s patient relax a bit. To him, that man was the only person in the world who mattered.
At that moment, what he had on was irrelevant; he was there to comfort and help this sick person. In that instant, the style on the outside was eclipsed by the man on the inside.
More than any glossy magazine or celebrity, that image will always be my definition of true style.