Graduation season 2018 taught me two lessons.
I learned that a political spouse is required to possess totally astonishing skills unknown to normal humans, and also that graduation robes and short pants are not the best male fashion look.
It was a long graduation season, starting with Early College a full three weeks before wrapping up with Mount Airy High School with Franklin Elementary in between. The paper doesn’t routinely cover elementary school graduations, but the governor’s wife was going to be the guest speaker at Franklin, and nobody’s house was on fire, so I thought it might be worth a look-see.
Her speech was not particularly memorable, but watching her greet the kids as they were about to get their diplomas (or certificates, or whatever you get when you finish fifth grade) was an amazing thing to see. She greeted each and every one of the 102 pre-teens, one right after the other, turning on a thousand-megawatt smile for each and every one of them.
Now, mind you, this was not just one pasted-on Miss America smile that kept her face peeled back in a Joker impersonation for half an hour. No. Each kid got his or her own, fresh, individual smile accompanied by an enthusiastic greeting and handshake.
It was fascinating to watch her dial it back as each kid passed out of her line of sight so that when she caught the eye of the next child as the kid’s name and accomplishments were being read out, her face positively lit up with joyous glee to welcome the kid into her circle of acquaintance. It’s an astounding skill that doesn’t come across on television or in print. You literally have to be there and see it for yourself.
As far as lesson number two, I discovered that the penchant for short pants exhibited by young men these days on all occasions and for all seasons extends to pairing them with graduation gowns, a fashion choice I find perplexing.
Are hairy legs and driving shoes or sneakers peeping out from the bottom of a graduation gown really a good look? I have my opinion on that question, but apparently, it differs from the majority of the younger males of the species in the Mount Airy High School graduating class of 2018.
The look is reminiscent of old geezers flapping around in bathrobes. It’s a little disturbing. But new fashion always is. Maybe if I’d covered a few more graduations, it would have looked perfectly normal by the end of the season. But somehow, I doubt it.
My friend Dena tells me that shorts at Surry County graduations are nothing new.
“Back in 1972, we rocked the boat wearing our hot pants under our gowns at North Surry,” she told me.
Apparently, The Mount Airy News preserved the moment for posterity with a photo. But Dena tells me that fashion moment was a ladies-only phenomena more or less hidden by correct shoes and there were no hairy legs involved. She reminded me, tongue firmly entrenched in cheek, that in those post-Woodstock years, leg-shaving was considered a sexist plot and avoided by some women, but not the young ladies at North Surry.
Quite frankly, I was concerned by my inability to adapt to changing tastes without indulging in an old-person rant until I discovered my niece Lyndsey, who is half my age, finds the practice of wearing shorts under graduation gowns as disconcerting as I do.
She even went full-on “back in my day” before the discussion was over. Of course, her day is 2004, but even so, as recently as Lyndsey’s graduation at the beginning years of the aughts, girls wore a dress and black shoes and boys wore a white collared shirt, tie, black trousers and black dress shoes to graduation.
I don’t know if I’d want to regress that far. The girl in the bubble gum pink Chuck Taylor high-tops looked pretty spiffy, and it would be a shame to lose that.
But when Lyndsey pointed out she had seen a fellow at the East Wilkes graduation this year sporting cowboy boots and shorts under his gown — a fashion choice that was thankfully not embraced at the Mount Airy graduation — I realized things have gone too far.
After breathing deeply and thinking about it, I’ve decided the problem is not so much the clothes under and around the graduation gowns, but the gowns themselves. The ridiculous things have remained virtually unchanged for 900 years. How can we expect them to blend with modern garb?
They have shortened a bit over the centuries though. They used to trail the ground. So if somewhere along the line, it was okay to pull them up out of the mud, why not jack ‘em up just a little more? About fingertip length should do the trick, and get some pants leg showing at the bottom. It’s all a matter of proportion, and we could totally lose that creepy geezer in a bathrobe vibe.
I haven’t asked my niece what she thinks about this idea, but I think she’d be on board.
Her last words on the subject were “I’m usually all for people defying the norm, but this looks like a hot mess.” I couldn’t agree more.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.