As a child and young adult growing up in Pittsburgh, I was blessed to have a number of connections to the legendary Fred Rogers. WQED was our local public TV station, run (shockingly at the time) by a woman who would become my stepmother. Mr. and Mrs. Rogers lived a few blocks from my childhood home. They also had a house on Nantucket Island, my soul home.
I grew up with all the puppets, although I think Daniel Tiger was my favorite. I marveled at Mr. Rogers’ routine of changing clothes upon returning home from his day. Street jacket and shoes off, slippers and cardigan on. In addition to admiring his vast collection of cardigans (all knit by his mom), I loved that Mr. Rogers broke just about every social barrier of the day, as I too was raised in a very open home. Need a meal, some laughs, a little music? Doors open! We were not the norm, per se, but as educators and creatives, that’s how my parents rolled.
I was an eleven-year-old when walking home from my beloved Arts and Crafts Center where I spent endless hours, I encountered a man in a trench coat. I kid you not. He was a flasher. In front of the Rogers’ house. Although home was a mere four blocks away, I ran directly to their front door.
On Nantucket, the Rogers lived on a beautiful piece of land just off Smith’s Point. Serious fisher people would arrive with their long rods, dawn and sunset, hoping to get blues and maybe even a striper. On occasion, I’d ride my bike to say hi. Other times, I’d go with my Mom and brother to visit. Whether I needed to or not, I’d always ask to use the restroom. The loo at The Crooked House (and it was!) had the most extraordinary, unobstructed view of the beach. Nothing but glass. That view will live in my virtual photo album for the rest of my life.
So what does this have to do with menswear? I believe it’s time to bring back the soft, cozy, easy knits that, although less authoritative than sportcoats, are far more in tune with today’s post-pandemic lifestyle and humanistic values. Task your visual team to highlight those shawl-collared, leather-buttoned, cable-knit, four-ply, double-zipped beauties. Why not print out Fred’s face and pop him on top of the mannequins? A hero of young people across the nation for decades, let Mr. Rogers’ messages of kindness, compassion, and inclusiveness reflect who we really are.
Holly Adam is a freelance fashion writer and former men’s fashion director at Bloomingdale’s. She can be reached at email@example.com.