OPINION COLUMNS

Casual attire is good, but icons stick in my mind

By Willis Webb | Published Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Men’s wear has evolved to mostly casual dress these days and that’s okay with me. However, don’t ask me to name any well-dressed “casual guys” because most dressers who stand out in my vision choose other than my own favored “jeans and a button-down shirt” look.

In addition to retirement allowing a more relaxed approach to my sartorial image, there has been a strong trend in at least the last 10-15 years toward casual dress at the office in most professions. Many businesses today allow the casual look, which means less necktie wear for men as well as being able to shuck a suit or sport coat.

Willis Webb

Willis Webb

Today, in Texas community newspapers you will see all manner of clothing styles. Gone are the days of visors and elastic arm bands for long-sleeved dress shirts (arm bands were necessary in the first three or four decades of the 20th Century because shirts only came in one sleeve length, ordinarily too long for a majority of men).

A great deal of that diversity of dress depends on what roles a community editor-publisher may play. Generally, it tends to favor a relaxed but still professional look, particularly if the publisher is involved in news gathering and/or advertising sales. However, if the editor-publisher is heavily involved in the production process, you may see older, rumpled clothes stained with printer’s ink.

I can’t come close to knowing how many of my shirts and trousers and, yes, even occasionally shoes, have been ruined by the ink many say flows through our veins.

Some of the young turks in my field go to the office in shorts and polo shirts.

My mid-life fashion trends still tended to coats and ties in the 1970s-1980s. After all, our peers told us, even small-town editor-publisher types needed to look “professional” – whatever that means. And, in those days I tried to emulate those who stood out and made a fashion statement for men.

Yes, despite disclaimers, macho types really do worry about whether they match up with others in their professional, work-world lives.

The most bold, suave and debonair fashion statement I ever saw by a newspaper man came in 1972 at a South Texas Press Association convention in Kerrville. That statement was made by a man who had an iconic look, not only in the way he dressed, but in his general appearance and demeanor.

Cap Henkel (I never knew his real first name) looked like the owner/captain of a luxury yacht. First, there was his white hair, mustache and beard. The first time I saw Cap, he was wearing a skipper blue double-breasted blazer with brass buttons, white trousers, white shoes, a white shirt and a bright red ascot/scarf neatly wrapped and folded in the open neck of the shirt.

He punctuated that look with a curved meerschaum pipe, packed with a pungent tobacco blend.

Cap looked like someone you’d call “commodore” or, at the very least, “captain” (which, of course, we did). He was distinctive in the way he dressed and distinguished in the manner in which he carried himself.

I can remember every detail of how Cap was dressed but I can’t remember if he was still publishing in Refugio or had already moved to Port Aransas, where his daughter, Mary, and her lifemate Murray Judson now publish the South Jetty. However, Cap was already a successful newspaper icon and a leader in Texas publishing, someone that upstart young publishers, such as I was then, looked up to.

Obviously, many community newspaper publishers are great dressers, but none so distinctive as my early newspaper hero, Cap, who published newspapers that matched his fashion splendor.

I think I’ll dig in our old clothes closet and see if I still have a navy blazer.

Willis Webb is a retired community newspaper editor-publisher.

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