Turtleneck and The Dickies

David McCallum
David McCallum

When this military brat moved to Portsmouth, New Hampshire in January 1966, my wardrobe took a significant change. The t-shirts, blue jeans, and sneakers I wore to school in Texas we not allowed at Portsmouth Junior High School.

Button-down shirts with collars replaced t-shirts. I switched from jeans to men’s dress slack pants. Wingtips exiled my sneakers to gym class only footwear. My cowboys were forbidden by dress code.

I found myself cold in the snowy New England weather. I quickly noticed the cool kids dressed like beatniks (this was before the hippies) with a school mandated exception. The dress code did not allow you to wear turtlenecks as your shirt. A turtle neck required a shirt worn over it.

The character “Illya Kuryakin,” played by David McCallum on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. looked cool wearing turtlenecks. He is who all the guys wanted to be. Later that year Michael Nesmith of The Monkees work a turtleneck in the TV show “The Monkees.” Again, the turtleneck added to the cool factor.

The first month I lived in New Hampshire I started wearing turtleneck dickies and turtlenecks. I wore them everyday to school. I wanted to look cool. I wore them as part of my uniform as a member of the folk rock band “The Younger Generation” where I was a rhythm guitarist. We were cool. We didn’t wear a shirt over our turtleneck shirts. We were rebels.

Did wearing turtlenecks make me a cool kid? No. Did it help me to fit in? Maybe. I think the value was it helped my self-esteem. Plus, my mom liked them and my dad didn’t. I still like to wear a black turtleneck. It still makes me feel cool.

Did you have a favorite dress, jacket or outfit you wore in middle school, junior high or high school that made you feel cool or accepted? Maybe it was a hair style that  helped you fit in or belong. I’d love to hear about it.

Maybe like me you had television shows that influenced you. Shows like The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Laugh-In, The Monkees, and The Johnny Cash Show and  Glen Campbell Good Time Hour were shows that helped me have a fashion sense in the late 1960’s.  What were your programs?


Jimmie Aaron Kepler is a novelist, poet, book reviewer, and award-winning short story writer. His work has appeared in over twenty venues, including Bewildering Stories and Beyond Imagination. When not writing each morning at his favorite coffee house, he supports his writing, reading, and book reviewing habit working as an IT application support analyst. He is a former Captain in the US Army. His blog Kepler’s Book Reviews was named a 100 best blogs for history buffs. You can visit him at http://www.jimmiekepler.com.

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