Jon Anderson’s Fashion Tips for Young Men
My late father was a sharp dresser, especially when he was younger. In retirement he sort of let it all go—something he claimed the semi-tropical Florida climate did to him.
When baby brother and I were children, we were thoroughly scrubbed raw in hot baths with lots of soap and water, and rigorously towel-dried so we could be dressed in the nattiest little toddler outfits. Somewhat traumatic, “bath time” was on the list of Dad’s household chores—probably because he personally wanted to make sure we were always squeaky clean. It didn’t hurt that I had a natural inclination toward neatness—something little brother seemed to lack: when my hands were dirty, I disgustedly thrust them out in front of me, as if handing off a stinky diaper.
Dad’s fashion sense was entirely button-down: blue blazer, Oxford shirt, striped or wool ties, wingtip shoes (photo below left from maternal grandparents’ 40th wedding anniversary in 1971). After all, he was a Depression Era baby. My personal fashion sense began watching The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. Even though the Fab Four wore matching suits, the incongruity of their “mop-top” hair was startling. As the 1960s morphed into the ’70s, and hair got longer, clothing got louder.
I, of course, wanted in on the action.
So sometime in the mid-1970s, when the Family Project gave me a clothing allowance for new school year shopping at the mall, I took a page from one of my rock star influences—Jon Anderson of Yes. Although my first prog rock LP was Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s Brain Salad Surgery, its follow-up was likely The Yes Album, Fragile or Close to the Edge. It was on the latter’s back cover that I was first influenced by what Jon Anderson wore.
To describe his outfit is somewhat difficult, since all the members of the band had a sort of mythology built around them. It was otherworldly, almost a sort of anti-fashion statement. I was drawn to that place—entirely different from the 1970s—worlds away from Watergate, Vietnam, conservatism and consumerism. It was simple, earthy and, well, somewhat transgender.
I wanted to try that look on for myself.
A look is more than a look when it encompasses a feel. Clothes being an outward extension of the body, and me being a preteen figuring out my own, buying into the “otherworldliness” of “the Jon Anderson look” promised a change of feeling—more sensual than sexual, since it was neither masculine nor feminine. At least, that was the vibe I got.
So with the aforementioned clothing allowance I bought a long-sleeve, dark green crewneck pullover shirt with the slightest fringy material at the neck and sleeves. It instantly said, “Yes!” to me and I proudly took it home.
Dad’s reaction was swift. He declared it “too feminine.” I had to take it back to the store.
I don’t know. He may’ve been entirely right and saved me a world of grief had I worn it to school. But I think of it now because I was young and experimenting with how I wanted to connect with the world. And when you’re experimenting, you’re bound to make mistakes.
Probably good advice to anyone at any age, actually.