Dressing for the Part

Oct 07, 2016

Dressing for the Part


Flash of Silver…the leap that changed my world

Question #44
Rite of Passage Sixteen –A Little Larger Than Life–
1960 I am twenty-six years old

Q. Does “fashion” matter? What is the best use of wearing clothes “suited” for the occasion?

For those of you who have followed this blog since its beginning or who have the book Flash of Silver, it will come as no surprise that my life has been influenced by outward appearances.

It’s hard to avoid ‘dressing up’ when your home is in a hotel. From my early years I dreamed of being the Managing Director of the Dorchester Hotel in London. I had seen this elegant man all dressed up in pinstripe trousers, a morning coat (with a moderate ‘tail’) and a pearl grey tie, held in place with a single pearl!

In much the same way as a child imagines himself dressed as a fireman or a soldier, I was caught up in this sartorial image.

I was now confronted with how I should dress in order to go on television as a so-called international gourmet.

It is fashionable to describe a person who cooks on television as a ‘Celebrity Chef’ and many who do are truly chefs. I was not and am not, nor have I ever been entitled to that ‘rank’.

I grew up with chefs and I know and respect them highly and therefore have gone to great lengths not to be given that credit.

I did go to Food School therefore I am classically trained as a chef but I am without the practical application in a large commercial kitchen…hence, no white jacket and apron!!

My ‘outfit’ was the one charcoal grey suit that I owned and a very fancy double-breasted waistcoat (vest) and my old school (that I hated!) tie…oh…and cuff links!

So…what about now?

Last week I received back an older version of that charcoal grey suit from a friend who no longer had need of it. So, I’m back to owning a suit again, with slightly slanting pockets, a double vent at the back (in case I need to ride a horse?!) and beautifully hand stitched by a military tailor in British Columbia, Canada…way back in 1994.

I am obviously delighted that it still fits 22 years later –in fact, that’s me…all ‘dressed up’ in the picture…I don’t have my old school tie any more!

Photo of a young Graham Kerr

There may be a wedding or funeral in my future but otherwise there’s not much use for a ‘suit’ as my clothes are more casual nowadays…but that wasn’t always the case.

I have, in the past, spent many thousands of dollars on ‘designer clothes’ that helped me to appear to be a successful international gourmet celebrity.

We Brits call this “mutton dressed up as lamb”. It’s certainly true that well considered clothing can help one to be accepted, at least initially, in certain circles –where the high price of brand name clothing, pens and watches; is known by those who wear or use them but otherwise it’s simply a waste of money?

Now I feel more at ease in comfortable, clean, well pressed (thanks to my daughter) shirts and pants. I put on a tie now and again –just to be the ‘odd man out’!

If I am ever invited to the White House or Buckingham Palace, I now have the same suit style in which I began my television life…otherwise it will simply hang there…waiting.

This week I read Treena’s poem Potentate


  1. Jean Says: 3:05 am

    Another thought – I love consignment shops – the perfect marriage of quality and thriftiness. And even other thrift shops. Most of us here have the choice of what to wear and where to shop – but – for those who do not – do your best to just be clean. Clean and tidy is always a guarantee to making a good impression. There are two slogans of old that I think are still appropriate today: Cleanliness is next to Godliness” and “How to make friends and influence people”.

  2. Lynn Severance Says: 9:41 pm

    I’ve appreciated mentally walking through decades of remembrances of what hung in my closets and were my choices of what to wear daily. Childhood years’ clothes were often determined by parents. Parochial schools (through high school years) meant uniforms. At home clothes were those conducive for church going (a bit dressy) or for outdoor wear and tear. My sophomore year in high school, I learned to sew and that craft was a joy for years beyond (and many outfits). A person’s career choice determines a type of clothing worn during work hours. One’s personality and how they feel they look best has to be key for their wardrobe choices. Now retired, I tend to stay with what has always been comfortable. There are not as many opportunities needing any “new clothes” so the tried and true (and not worn out) seem to be where I head each day when I go to my current closet!

  3. Alan Marks Says: 10:02 am

    Well Graham,
    Having grown up watching your first show as a child, I was sometimes taunted for “dressing up” when the trend of the day was a t-shirt and blue jeans. As I have grown older, I have learned that good taste in all things never goes out of style, whether it is cuisine or haberdashery. Now in my middle 50’s, I’ve returned to college to complete my degree and the younger folks often comment about this sense of style. So, thank you for showing a kid from the Chicago suburbs how to dress well and live life to it’s fullest.

  4. Dia Says: 5:28 am

    What is the best use of clothes suited for the occasion? Attention to detail, conforming, with a flair of individuality, comfortable in your skin as well as in lambs clothes. Wearing a suit of clothes can give one an apparence of confidence and that extra something you add, tells the world something about you without saying a word. You look impressive in that picture and the vest really shows your attention to detail. That attention comes out in your craft as a chef and writer, in my opinion.
    I was told growing up, that I should always dress better than I feel. So if on the verge of a cold, I would dress with more attention to detail. I would wear a snappier pair of shoes and my hair would be just so. Working in a male dominated field at the time, I wore a shirt and tie to fit in, but my almost fetish for shoes was apparent, the shoe always stood out. That was my way of saying, yes I’m one of the boys but I am also comfortable being a woman and I go the extra step to improve upon ” norm”. Now that I am past the stage of proving myself to others the tie has come off and the shoes are more soft soled yet still stylish. I still have a classic pair of pumps and little black dress for special occassions, but clothes don’t tell my story anymore, I do. And I feel more free to just be me. With age comes wisdom and with wisdom I have found that appearance help you knock on a door, your character gets you in the room.
    I often wonder if people were blind, what would they see in me? Or in anyone for that matter? I have been told most of my life how beautiful I am by men and women. My father always stressed beauty is on the inside as well as on the outside. That outer beauty has afforded me some advantages and also some disadvantages in life. Men accepted me before knowing my ability and women have gave me lots the labels and some never let me in the room. Once, I was told “The first time I saw you, I thought you were a bi+ch, I’m so glad I got to know you.” That woman was my dear friend and confident until she left this world.
    I can not change my bone structure, my skin color only tans for a short time, my weight has fluctuated with child birth, but none of those things are who I am. None of those things can revel my heart. I’m glad to get to know a bit about you Graham, through your blog and writings and learn a few things about myself in the process.

  5. Brendan Blaylock Says: 10:41 pm

    This has to be amazing, Graham: Just last evening I was considering my own wardrobe–and actually looking at gray suits by Brooks Brothers! I watched an interview with Gay Talese, you see. Now who wouldn’t go shopping after seeing that man?! But I’m pleased to report that the temptation has passed. The clothes I own are of good quality, and my wardrobe remains larger than necessary. That means it’s time to make a donation–a practice I have followed for many years, and most fortunately.

    Please know beyond any doubt that you always look excellent on television! When I wear a suit, it is always with suspenders–and it was your Minimax series in the early 1990s that inspired me to try them. I have not worn a belt since–so in addition to learning a great deal about food from you, I also learned how to wear dress trousers properly!

    “Flash Of Silver” was, and remains, a fantastic addition to my library. You might remember me from your signing at Mill Creek (or maybe even KING5 studios!)…I’m the guy that won the Scanpan, and all while resembling Bruce Willis! I look forward to Saturday mornings a lot more these days. I do hope you’ll continue blogging, as it’s always good to read you, Brendan.

  6. Caren Says: 8:09 pm

    Graham – Very much enjoyed and had a hardy laugh reading this week’s blog. Clothing is only the outward appearance of man to which humanity should not judge by its cover. I’m very blessed to be reading your thought provoking blogs, makes me reflect upon what is important in life. Thanks again for sharing.

  7. Karl Says: 4:43 pm

    Oh this strikes a cord.Growing up in Bavaria in the home where my mom and sister where both seamstresses
    I was off course always dressed to the hilt
    This carried in until just recently
    I tried to use my Bavarian style clothes as an external message of who I am,professional looking,showing myBavarian heritage and after coming to the US it also gave me the feeling a piece of my home is with me
    I did spent too much money on clothes and now I’m no longer as concerned as before
    I think I have enough clothes for ma y years to cone

  8. Gary Gillman Says: 3:51 pm

    First, I agree 100% with Richard. A pity you are not on the air with a contemporary food show. Perhaps a focus on the great food resources of the Pacific North West? Second, your sartorial style was noticed by viewers of the Galloping Gourmet and, I’m sure, other shows you have done. Clothing changes with the times but never loses its importance.


  9. Bradley Campbell Says: 11:47 am

    Graham, when I was growing up in the mid to late 60’s, I was a shy skinny only child looking for my identity. I decided early on that I loved to cook, especially for my loved ones. I spent a lot of time watching television in those years, and I had two special role models that influenced how I dressed and acted. The first was Patrick Macnee, who was the actor who played John Steed in “The Avengers”. I loved his tailored suits, shiny shoes and boots, umbrella, and fancy car (a Bentley). The second was you – I watched all your shows, and practiced some of the easier recipes on my parents. As I grew older, I continued to dress like you, with suspenders (braces) and ties, as I began my career in the hotel business. While it may have been a little flashy in the 70’s and 80’s, it must have had some positive impact, as I captured the heart of a beautiful auburn haired girl, who still helps pick out my ties and suspenders almost 40 years later.
    While I’m not in the hotel business any longer, my co-workers and staff in local government still comment on my style of dress, and it sometimes acts as a good ice breaker, when trying to get to know others. Hopefully, when I am able to retire, I’ll be able to simplify my dress, but for the time being, you have a doppleganger in Central Florida, complete with gray goatee, glasses, bow ties, and braces. Thanks for helping a shy kid find his own personal identity and style, and for enabling me to share my love of food with those I Love.

  10. Richard Says: 7:20 am

    Graham I wish you would do another cooking show on TV you would blow all the rest of them out of the water….
    I think you were wonderful and meals were great and so was your humor

  11. Jennifer Maydole Says: 7:05 am

    I sell school library books for a living. I wear “nice” clothes but ONLY shop at Ralph Laren Polo Outlets stores and find some Ross/Marshsls/TJ Maxx. I buy my carry all bags at Coach – Outlets only. I save a lot of money but buy goood quality clothes. And I take good care of what I have. So I will be a good steward of what God has given me. Treena told me that many years ago when I bought a 1976 MGB. “God doesn’t care what kind of car you drive, just be a good steward of it.

  12. Jean Says: 5:45 am

    Clothing is an ad that describes who you are – your taste in art – colors, casual relaxed, serious, hard working, etc. Clothing becomes part of the décor of the occasion – would you hang velvet draperies in a garage? Clothes do affect your self esteem – i.e. – when I was first married I was a perfect size 7 from head to toe and anything I put on was stunning. My mother was a seamstress and I a budding fashion model. I could walk into any store, pull anything off the rack and feel like a million bucks. I was addicted to sales and getting a real bargain. Now – 100 pounds heavier – I feel horrid in almost anything I wear. I am now severely limited in not only what looks attractive but generally in what fits – no more waist line, no more dresses, pantyhose or skirts, no more heels or boots – thank God for slacks, polyester, and athletic shoes. As for fitting in – yes as for any team member – the “uniform” displays a message of unity, purpose , and pride. I always wondered why chefs wore such high hats and then I discovered why when working in food service in a hospital kitchen – I was jolted in the back by a baker’s rack because he did not see me around the corner. That tall hat allows you to see who is scurrying around the aisles of tables and appliances. Designer prices – yes, I agree foolish – but, I suppose, everyone has to make a living and if you have it share it. I was recently impressed of how blessed and fortunate I am as a retired person to be able to survive with what I have and to be satisfied with what I have and not suffer for what I do not or can’t have. I have the greatest asset in life – security. I saw a documentary on PBS re: minimum wage jobs and the benefits denied these people in lie of corporate profits. It broke my heart and bowed my knee to give thanks for all the grace the Lord has bestowed upon my life. When I see a young man with his pants barely hanging on to his rump my immediate first impression is not one of an intelligent caring productive person but one of an idiot fool. Should we be judged so harshly because we want to “fit in”. Fit in is good as long as you are fitting in to something good. Good is pleasing, comforting, caring, productive, attractive, purposeful, respectful, encouraging, uplifting, pleasant.

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