Penny loafers by Sonya Clark
I first found my own style in the ’80s. My hippie parents held an unflappable allegiance to flower power fringe jackets and bell-bottoms, but I found inspiration in one of that era’s top TV shows, Family Ties, starring Michael J. Fox.
Fox’s character, Alex P. Keaton, represented the ultimate in preppy stylishness. He was a poster child for those of us who one day wanted to attain great financial success and power—the kind that came with education and innate coolness. While my parents were more concerned with maintaining their organic vegetable garden than amassing great wealth, I aspired to become a “preppie” like Alex.
My first grade back-to-school-night is my earliest memory of style embarrassment. My mother showed up wearing a long denim skirt depicting a patchwork mountain scene with a flock of flying geese and a peace sign hovering over a pink sunset. She paired the look with the aforementioned-fringed leather jacket. My father also brought his Agame: oversized aviator sunglasses, shoulder-length hair held back with a red bandana, brown leather jacket and a scuffed pair of work boots. So not preppy 80’s style…
In an attempt to create some distance from my weird parents, I scooted to the far end of the chalkboard. Maybe my classmates would assume they were with some other kid? My lively Italian mother quickly revealed the truth by shouting my name. My nightmare worsened when my parents walked around saying things like, “What a trip!” when I pointed out the house I had painstakingly constructed from Cheerios and Elmer’s Glue… Even now as “official” senior citizens, they still use this phrase to describe anything mildly thought-provoking, though I’m fairly certain it’s been at least forty years since they’d been anywhere near an actual “trip.”
Pretending to seem engrossed by a row of jars filled with colored pencils, I insecurely motioned I’d be over in a minute. I slid a red pencil into a jar filled with other red pencils. I longed to fit in somewhere so neatly. I’d carefully chosen my outfit the night before: knee-high socks worn with a Laura Ashley dress and a pair of patent leather penny loafers. Alex would certainly approve. I reflected on my crush and remembered that he also had parents with dated tastes. I wasn’t alone after all. What would Alex do? I knew that both his parents and mine, although fashionably challenged, cared a great deal for us. I figured Alex would recognize this as a tremendous fortune and proudly march his penny loafers over to his parents and introduce them to his friends. I decided to do the same.
Looking back, my parents were rather hip even if their style didn’t exactly fit the times. Like the Keaton family, there was an abundance of love and attention in our home, which many may argue is the only abundance that matters.
I recently wore a pair of penny loafers to my own daughter’s Parent Night. She chose a pair of Doc Martens and a pink lace dress. I assume it’s her broad view of abundance and not my hip sense of style that kept her hand in mine all evening.
When working with the intention of abundance, I slip on my penny loafers and imagine my inner preppie flipping up her collar before she links arms with Alex P. Keaton. Though I’ve long forgone the big hair of the ’80s and tend to an organic garden of my own, the penny loafer remains a reminder of all of the ways abundance may show up in my life.
“What a trip!”