A man waiting for coffee behind me the other day at the Scottish Bakehouse was wearing a navy pinstripe double-breasted suit and recently shined shoes, and he may as well have been sporting a tutu and a beer hat for the looks he was getting.
You could see the customers’ minds working. He wasn’t en route to a funeral, his suit was too light. But at 10 a.m. on a dreary, rainy Tuesday in early April, a wedding seemed unlikely too. Maybe he was a hired gun, just grabbing a Danish before heading up-Island to rub someone out . . .
I wanted to ask him myself but with all eyes trained on him all I could muster was a sympathetic, “Hi, how’s things?”
“Fine,” he replied. But it was clear that they weren’t. There was only one acceptable answer: the man was seriously, hopelessly lost.
The thing is, while Islanders may pride themselves on casting off the shiny frock and towering heel pretensions of the big cities, there is an underlying set of mores to Vineyard fashion as strict as anything decreed in the pages of Vogue. There are certain things you just don’t wear.
And nowhere is this in better evidence than at town meetings. Personally, working as a reporter at Chilmark selectmen’s meetings for the past six months, I’ve made several fashion faux pas. Wearing a T-shirt with a printed design, a zippered hoodie, or some other nod to modernity I’ve sat cringing at the back, vowing to raid the wardrobe next time for more appropriate gear.
With the Chilmark annual town meeting — the meeting mother lode — coming up in two weeks, now is surely a time to dust off the old glad rags. And an archeological brush may be the best tool. Some do’s and don’ts for the uninitiated: woolen vests, steel-rimmed eyeglasses and checked or plaid shirts are all de rigeur. Corduroy for the legs. Boots or boaters for the feet.
Out are synthetic fabrics — unless one is a water or police department official. In general, steer clear of any pigment not found naturally on land. No brand names — unless it’s a B on a baseball cap. No heels, or hoodies. No trainers. Hair gel? Pah!
Other accessories: a lever arch folder; anything smaller, particularly for a town leader, betrays a worrying lack of familiarity with the issues. Roll up a warrant to help make your point. Bring your knitting.
The color this meeting season is raw umber.