Cambrian: Slice of Life

My closet is a virtual kaleidoscope of bright colors. I call them ‘happy clothes’

Kathe Tanner
Kathe Tanner

I like vivid colors … in art, in furniture, in our garden and especially in the clothes I wear.

My dear friend Liz Krieger of San Luis Obispo commented on my bright attire recently. We’d had lots of lovely chances to chat at length lately, because our husbands were recuperating simultaneously in a transitional care facility.

Liz said my “coat of many colors” wardrobe makes people smile, makes them happier and makes me seem more approachable, somehow. I’d never thought of it that way before, but on reflection, I rather like the notion. If I can lighten somebody’s day or brighten somebody’s viewpoint, even for a few seconds, then opting to doff a flamboyant jacket is an easy-peasy decision.

Especially since those are pretty much the only choices I have.

My jacket closet is a multi-colored kaleidoscope, with just about every color in the Crayola box in there (except mustard yellow, which makes me look like I’m way past my expiration date.). In the mug shot that accompanies these columns each week, my silky jacket is a splashed-paint fabric of bright royal and turquoise blues, with streaks of emerald green and black. It could have been a peacock in another life. It’s one of the more subtle patterns in that closet.

My other jackets are ablaze with brilliant geometrics, butterflies, flowers, paisley patterns, just to name a few. Some stop just short of glowing in the dark. They make every day a sartorial holiday, be it Easter, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Independence Day, Halloween or Christmas. Through the years, other people have commented on my decidedly flamboyant style.

For instance, Harry Farmer, a director on the Cambria Community Services District Board, often mentions my showy attire. I think he enjoys having a human rainbow at the meetings. Others tease me by saying they really should be wearing sunglasses when I come in the room, but it’s affectionate joshing … at least so far.

Sometimes I wonder: Do I wear showy prints because I’m an extrovert seeking attention, or because I’m an introvert hiding behind the costume? A little of both, I suspect. If nothing else, my jackets are great conversational ice-breakers. But I’m not alone: Another Tanner also is noted for “happy clothes.”

04-28-10 richard and kathe at train depot c.jpg
Cambrian columnist Kathe Tanner and Husband Richard. Courtesy photo

Husband Richard spent nearly two decades as a white-shirt-and-tie-wearing train dispatcher and another two decades as a casino pit boss under the thumb of a conservative-corporate dress code. Now, he says defiantly, he can wear whatever the heck he wants. So, his shirt closet is filled with vivid colors and patterns, most of them in hard-to-find vintage Western styles with snaps, flaps and pointed yokes. (Thank heavens for Ebay!).

Some have flames on them. Others have feathers, flags, car license plates, lightning bolts, Native American or Western patterns, or broad, multi-colored chest bands. One even has running cattle splashed across a brilliantly fiery orange background. All are …. ummmm …. noticeable.

His shirts have been known to stop traffic, or at least passersby who either stare openly or actually say admiringly, “I really like your shirt!” One woman pegged it perfectly. As she walked past Husband Richard, she said appreciatively, “Hello, shirt!”

Interestingly enough, many of the compliments come from guys wearing decidedly neutral colors … a gray button-down, a chino-colored jacket, a dark suit or a beige T-shirt and jeans. So, one wonders if they truly like Husband Richard’s wild shirts or if they’re really commenting on what they perceive to be his bravery in wearing them.

And then there’s the flip side of his wardrobe. On our holiday, he was conservatively dressed, in a Johnny Cash sort of way. As a young family walked toward us, their petite toddler daughter danced up the sidewalk and ran smack-dab into Husband Richard’s knee. Her wide-eyed gaze traveled slowly upward from his black cowboy boots to his black jeans, black cowboy belt with the big buckle, black frontier-bib shirt and trademark black Stetson.

The little girl’s eyes got even bigger, rounder and decidedly alarmed. She quickly ducked behind her daddy’s legs, holding on tightly as she peeked around to look again at that big, tall, fearsome man in black.

The parents laughed and apologized, but the child wasn’t comforted one bit by their reassurances, not even when smiling Richard removed his hat and bent down to her level. Maybe it would have been better if he’d been wearing the happy flames-and-cows shirt.

Right, Liz?

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