Spats-less society means chilly ankles for Bob

Spats-less society means chilly ankles for Bob by Bob Karolevitz We were talking about the dumb things that men wear – like neckties and buttons on coat sleeves, for instance – when somebody mentioned "spats."

Well, I hadn't heard the word in that context for years, and right away it sounded like column material.

From crossword puzzles, I knew that a spat is a trivial quarrel or the spawn of an oyster, but spats (plural) were something else again.

They were, my trusty dictionary said, gaiters and as such were part of the male wearing apparel of another generation.

Actually, I learned that spats were really a shortened version of spatterdashes, which, in turn, were long leggins used to protect stockings and trousers from mud and water when streets were dirt and carriage wheels splashed a lot.

(Now you didn't know that, did you?)

Anyway, spats slipped over men's shoes and were a fashion item when guys in the Andy Gump era had to wear them to be in style.

Me? I never wore spats, and � come to think of it � I never wore garters to hold up my socks either. Gee, I must have been a real clodhopper on Saturday night when I went out on the town half-dressed, as it were.

Spats � I should tell you if you aren't of that vintage � were in their heyday when men sported derbies, had suits with a belt in the back and carried gold-headed canes when they didn't need them. Ladies wore bustles then, too.

Phyllis's dad had a pair of spats, which I'm sure colored her thinking. That's probably why she suggested: "You ought to get some to keep your ankles warm." (She's always looking out for my comfort that way.)

I thought her suggestion was a good idea � until I went into the store to buy them.

"Spats?" the young clerk said. "What's that?"

I tried to explain what they were, to no avail. She finally called the manager, another 20-something person.

"Spats?" he repeated. "What's that?"

And right away I knew that I had created another generation gap. Maybe two!

At any rate, I did not get my spats at that store. Nor at Wal-Mart either.

I guess I'll have to undergo chilly ankles after all.

Spats, I now understand, are like buggy whips and high-button shoes. They are available, not at stores, but at museums. They went the way of whiffletrees and rumble seats, and I guess that's good.

Now if the passage of time will do away with neckties and those nonsensical buttons on coat sleeves, then my faith in evolution will be restored.

On the other hand, maybe spats will come back. After all, hula hoops and yo-yos did. And so did hip-hugger jeans which our daughters wore in high school several decades ago.

Anyhow, I'll keep looking for those little shoe-covers. Maybe I'll even start a style trend; however, I won't go back to that store where I heard:

"Spats? What's that?"

© 2003 Robert F. Karolevitz

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