Just for fun, I interviewed Papa about fashion and style for this year’s Father’s Day post. Papa is almost 80 and lives in the Netherlands. He’s a gentle, tactful, quiet, intelligent and charming soul with the best laugh in the world. He’s appeared on YLF several times before here, here, here and here, both in old and recent photos.
Papa spent 27 years living in Hong Kong and Japan working as a Registered Charted Accountant, heading up the financial department of a Dutch Shipping Company. He has never taken a huge interest in fashion and style, but when asked, has rather strong opinions on the subject. I really enjoy hearing his thoughts and you might too. Our conversation was in Dutch so I’ve translated the answers while keeping them as authentic as possible. My Dad laughed his very hearty laugh all the way through this interview.
Angie: What is the most stylish wardrobe piece you have ever owned?
Papa: My gold signet ring, which I bought on Pedder Street in Hong Kong 1959. I have worn it almost every day since then, but over the years I’ve had it made larger to fit my fatter finger. I was very skinny back then. And my 18 carat gold watch, which I think I bought in 1961. Both these things looked good with my MG. Your Mother loved my sports car.
I also count the gold watch with the leather strap, the one you and Greg gave me a few years ago, as one of my favourite items.
What was your favourite menswear trend over the years?
Jeans. I love my jeans and I wear blue, brown and grey jeans. You helped me buy all my jeans! I also like nautical blazers with gold buttons.
What was the work dress code like in Hong Kong in the 60s?
Professional. I wore a suit, shirt and tie every weekday, with good shoes. And my watch, ring and briefcase. I had all my suits custom made in Hong Kong. I used to wear white shirts, but later wore blue, green, yellow and light orange shirts. My ties were conservative and I liked it that way. The people in Japan were even better dressed than the people in Hong Kong, so when I lived there, I wore my best suits with my white shirts so that I looked more formal. Sometimes I wore a hat and coat. We could dress casually when we worked on Saturdays so I wore bermuda shorts with long socks and shoes and a shirt and no tie. But not in Japan. Things were very formal in Japan.
Angie: Was there an item you wore as a teenager that older people thought was crazy?
Angie: Who was your style role model when you were a young man?
I don’t have style role models.
Really? But you always comment on how stylish the old movie stars are.
Oh ya. Ya! That’s true. Well, top of the list is Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. Then Jimmy Stewart, Gregory Peck, and Sean Connery in the James Bond movies. And you know, all the Bond ladies were easy on the eyes too. And of course Shirley MacLain. I spoke to Shirley MacLain at the Peninsular Hotel in Hong Kong and you were with me. Don’t you remember that?
I don’t remember at all. I must have been very little.
You were two or three years old, and you were dressed so nicely in a bright yellow sundress with little red shoes and pigtails. Shirley MacLain was a very well dressed lady and a very good actress.
What do you think of today’s fashions?
I’m not that impressed. Maybe because I’m too old fashioned, I don’t know. Many women wear dress slacks and trouser suits and I don’t find that a becoming look for a woman. In the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, women wore skirts and dresses and it looked wonderful.
Is there anything that you could change about today’s fashion, what would it be?
I’d like to see more woman wearing skirts and dresses. And when men wear formal shirts with suits and blazers, they should wear a neck tie. It just doesn’t look good without a necktie. It’s sloppy. Why don’t they wear a neck tie?
What was your favorite look that Mama would wear?
That’s easy. It’s when Mama would wear a full skirt just below the knee, you know, fitted at the waist and standing away from the legs, with a nice tailored blouse, pantyhose and pointy shoes. And in happy colours and pretty patterns. The skirt was the right length, not too long or too short. I liked the shoes that Mama had custom made in Hong Kong because they looked the best.
What did Mama like you to wear?
Well, you know your Mother. She liked to dress up. She liked it when I wore trousers, blazer, shirt and tie with fancy shoes, and her favourite aftershave. She also liked me to wear my batik shirts from Indonesia and Malaysia.
How would you describe your style today?
Smart Casual! I wear nice jeans with checked shirts and good quality leather shoes every day. I tuck in my shirt and I don’t like to leave it hanging out. My favourite jeans are by Tommy Hilfiger and the Gap. And you told me to match my belt with my shoes, but sometimes I don’t match them because I forget! When I’m cold I wear a thin sweater and I have many colours like red, orange, turquoise, navy, green and I like them all. I also have many jackets with good pockets. It’s important to have jackets with lots of good pockets.
Which item of clothing do you think is a good investment?
Jeans. I love my jeans. And shoes and jackets. Good shoes are important, you know. You have to look after your feet and I walk everywhere.
What’s your choice of metal?
Gold. Of course, gold. I never wore silver because I didn’t like it. And Mama only wore gold. When you wear Mama’s wedding ring and I wear my wedding ring, which is the same ring but in a larger size, we match. That’s very nice!
What’s your favourite colour?
Hmmmm. I always thought that green was your favourite colour.
Oh, Yes! Well, green is my absolute favourite colour. I wore a green suit to work you know. Do you remember that?
I do! In the 70’s.
And we had green chairs in our lounge.
I remember the chairs. You also like happy colours actually, and you don’t like black.
Very true. I like nice colours and I don’t like black.
I like bright happy colours too.
Thanks for your meaningful opinions, Papa. I love you, and look forward to your Seattle visit in September. And I’ll be sure to wear lots of dresses and skirts when you are here! Thanks for being an absolutely wonderful Dad.
We at YLF wish you a very happy Fathers Day.
This picture was taken in Japan in 1967 when my Dad, Mum and brother lived there before I was born. It is Friday night and my Dad is on his way to have an after work drink (a “borreltje”) with two colleagues.