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Darrell Huckaby - Who Are You Wearing? That's the Question?

I didn't intend to watch, but it was like a train wreck - I just couldn't look away.

I am speaking now of the Red Carpet portion of Sunday night's Academy Awards presentation. The part where Regis stood around awkwardly waiting to ask good-looking women that all important question: "Who are you wearing?"

"Who are you wearing?" means "What over-priced fashion designer did you pay extravagant sums of money to design a dress that makes you look like something that gets tossed on the public docks in Brunswick every evening?"

I'm serious. One woman showed up at the Oscars in a dress that made her look exactly like a great big mullet. Had scales and everything. And she probably paid more for her dress than I make in a year.

As the hour wore on and I heard Regis ask that same question over and over, I started giving some thought to the matter myself. I began to wonder, in other words, whose clothes I am wearing on any given day. We're talking brand names, y'all - off the rack and on sale.

When I was a kid, I knew whose clothes I wore. It was whatever they sold at White's on the square in Covington - although sometimes we did shop at the branch store in Porterdale.

My overalls were always OshKosh, b'gosh! At least I think they were. If they weren't, they should have been, because they have such a catchy slogan - but my jeans were never Levi's. I wore Wranglers.

Why, you ask? Quite simple. Jim Shoulders, champion all 'round cowboy, shilled for Wranglers in the DC comic books I bought every week at the Covington bus station. If they were good enough for Jim Shoulders to wear while he wrestled steers, they were good enough for me to wear when I played marbles on the Porterdale School playground.

I have no idea whose shirts I wore, but I remember that my daddy wore Mr. Van Husen's. White ones with two pockets: one for the pocket protector that held his pencils, notebook and pick glass - a pick glass is a mill thing, you wouldn't understand - and one for his cigarettes.

When I got to high school and had girls to impress, I knew whose shirts I wore, though. Usually it was Mr. Lacoste's shirts - you know, the Izod guy.

Speaking of which, did you know that those shirts were named for a famous tennis player? They sure were. Rene Lacoste - a Frenchman. They called him "the Crocodile" because he played so aggressively and he started making shirts way back in 1929. They didn't make it to Porterdale until the '60s though, and there was nothing worse than having to wear a shirt with a little penguin on the chest instead of an alligator.

Later the alligator was replaced by a polo player as a status symbol, but I still don't have enough money to buy those shirts.

I always knew whose shoes I was wearing, too. Red Goose - because that was half the fun of having feet - and U.S. Keds when it was time to play outside. I always wanted P.F. Flyers because their commercials were better, but I don't think they sold those at White's.

High school brought about a change in my footwear as well as my shirts. I switched to Converse All Stars, because all good Newton Rams wore Converse All Stars, and for Sunday-go-to-meeting, I stepped up to Florsheim wingtips. I will never forget the day I made the tragic mistake of wearing my Florsheim shoes to school.

It was in the ninth grade, in Mr. J.D. Smith's algebra class. Mr. Smith helped us keep sets straight by constantly reminding us not to mix our cows and our chickens - or was it pigs? I can't recall, which may be why I was never any good at algebra - but I do recall arriving at the pencil sharpener in the back of the room at the same time Randal Allen did. He took one look at my feet and said, "That's what I like to see - a guy who's not afraid to show up in a pair of good substantial school shoes."

I went straight to the store after school and charged a pair of penny loafers to my mama's account. It was worth every bit of the grief I got.

Now that's an idea. Next year at the Oscars, NBC could hire Randal Allen to ridicule every person who shows up on the red carpet. He'd be a lot funnier than Regis - and I bet he would work cheaper, too.

And just because I know you are wondering - It used to be Haynes tighty whities, but now it's boxers, by Fruit of the Loom.

Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.