My mom was a fanatic when it came to how I dressed. I’d be heading off to play baseball, and she’d stop me. “Your t-shirt is all wrinkled!” I would try to explain that no one would care, that if it made her feel any better I could execute a headfirst slide to cover up the wrinkles. But she insisted I change into a shirt that was ironed.
This is a woman who actually ironed underwear. “Suppose you get in an accident and end up in the emergency room? What would the doctors think? It reflects on me!”
So by the time I started a career as a television reporter, I was already well trained in how to dress.
That didn’t mean I was ready for my close-up.
All rookie reporters were sent to our makeup consultant. I sat in a chair as the nice woman briefly studied my face, then opened what looked like the worlds’ biggest fishing tackle box and started pulling out various items. Then she set about painting my face. By the time I was done I had something called “pancake”, concealer for dark circles under the eyes (why I needed this in my twenties I have no idea), some blush, assorted brushes and this little triangle shaped thing that looked like a small sponge. I thanked her, tossed the makeup in the glove compartment and headed back to work.
Unfortunately she hadn’t told me that makeup doesn’t do well in a hot car. Some of it melted and ran into the dashboard. For the rest of the summer, every time I turned on the air conditioner my car smelled like the perfume counter at Bloomingdales.
I got a new supply and was pretty good at applying it but felt like my skin couldn’t breathe. (How women wear this stuff all day is beyond me. Hats off to the ladies.) And it was making my skin break out. Finally one of our female anchors shared some of hers. “Try some of my Clinique. It’s very gentle if you have sensitive skin.” I tried it and was sold. (Sidebar: You haven’t lived until you’ve witnessed a discussion among men about the various pros and cons of Clinique versus Estee Lauder.)
Eventually I got used to wearing makeup, and it was no big deal. But then as the decade came to an end, a new trend was hitting my industry.
Color Me Beautiful.
Someone had come up with a theory that you should dress in colors that were appropriate to your “season,” which was determined by your hair color, eye color and skin tone. You could be a spring, summer, autumn or winter. In theory, once you found out your season, you would blow up your wardrobe and only wear the approved colors. This concept created an entire industry as “color consultants” sprung up everywhere. Whether or not any of these people were legit is up for debate.
I already knew how to dress. I had great suits, always had a dimple in my tie, pocket squares and of course, perfectly ironed shirts thanks to Mom. But unless you knew your “season” you apparently needed Garanimals. (A system for fashion challenged kids, which had animal tags on articles of clothing. You had to match zebras with zebras, elephants with elephants, etc. If the other kids in the class found out you wore Garanimals, the ridicule was off the charts.)
Anyway, we were all sent off to the color consultant even though no one wanted to go. Corporate made it mandatory.
This perky middle-aged woman sat me in a high chair, reached in a bag, took out a large, bright orange bedsheet and threw it over me, pinning it behind my neck like a smock when you get a haircut. Then she stood back and studied my face as I sat there feeling like I was dressed as a pumpkin for Halloween. “What’s the deal with the orange sheet?”
“It brings out your true colors.”
Lady, you really don’t want to see my true colors right now.
She looked closely at my face as she moved around the chair. She nodded, took notes, said, “mmm-hmmm” and “aha” a lot.
Finally she smiled. “You’re a winter!”
“I’m a what?”
“That’s your season. Because you’ve got dark brown hair and really dark eyes, but you’ve got pale skin.”
“I can’t handle the sun. Ten minutes outside and I’m a lobster. Anyway, what does it mean being a winter?”
“It determines your color palette.”
“The list of colors that work for you. Like an artist’s palette. Brown is your best color. You should only wear brown suits.”
“So you just match colors to my hair and eyes?”
“No. Because you’re a winter!” She sounded like I’d won a prize.
This made no sense to me. Assuming I could find a brown suit, which I seriously doubted, I had no desire to buy one. Like most guys I had the basics in the closet when it came to suits: gray, blue or black with light pinstripes or a windowpane pattern. I didn’t own a single piece of brown clothing. “Okay, thanks.”
“You’ll look great in brown.”
Yeah, right. Just for the heck of it, I hit a few men’s clothing stores and didn’t see a single brown suit anywhere.
The visit to the color consultant didn’t go over well in the newsroom, as she apparently did not get the memo that women do not like to be told they are not well dressed. (Every guy knows this. We are taught at an early age that the standard answer to, “Do these jeans make my butt look big?” is always, “No, you look great!”)
To this day I still don’t have any brown clothes.
As for makeup, well, I’m way past my on-camera expiration date since high-def shows wrinkles down to the molecular level.
Not sure Clinique has a cure for that.
Randy Tatano is the author of more than 20 novels, writing political thrillers under the pen name Nick Harlow, and romantic comedies as Nic Tatano. He spent 30 years working in television news as a local affiliate reporter and network field producer.