Ever since I was a teenager, the occasional clothing purchase has prompted my mom to say, "I used to have that when I was your age!"
If I recall, it started with colorful Lacoste polo shirts and the pairing of baby pink with kelly green, both of which I used to wear liberally in high school. But some recent purchases, like the penny loafers I bought last year, have elicited the same nostalgia. A neighbor of mine, perhaps 65 or so, studied my shoes in the elevator and said she had the same ones when she was a kid.
Some of those gold star tried-and-true items have actually been distributed by the same brand for years, and they still have just as much of a following. The items below are some of my favorites. They're everyday pieces that are somehow iconic yet totally wearable and affordable.
I really don't know how Levi's has managed to remain cool, but we could all take a lesson. The company was founded as early as 1853 by Levi Strauss, but Levi's denim started really picking up steam in the '50s, '60s and '70s. It's essentially a cheap brand, carried in lower end stores, and yet has ads in Vogue and a staunchly loyal following. There are styles galore and fits for every body shape, plus other novelties like denim shirts and jackets, most at affordable price points.
Although they haven't necessarily enjoyed constant popularity since their initial manufacture in 1935, Sperry Top-siders have had several days in the sun and are back in a big way. They're boat shoes, technically, but look super chic worn with skinny pants or skirts. Original Sperrys are tan, but now you can choose from a variety of colors and patterns. I love the current mint green and tan.
London Fog rain gear
You know you can trust a manufacturer of rain gear when its whole purpose back in the day was to make waterproof garb for the U.S. Navy. London Fog raincoats are the practical gal's answer to Burberry. We can't all have a plaid lining, but we can stay cute and dry. Adweek notes that in the 1970s, two-thirds of raincoats owned in the United States were made by London Fog. I don't know what the number is now, but if you're looking for a raincoat this classic is a safe bet.
Chuck Taylor All-Stars
I had to look up the official name for these, because I call them Chucks or Converse, never All-Stars. But they've more than earned that name, starting as the primary professional basketball shoe and then moving to their status as casual footwear for the average person like me. Chucks are the one apparel item that I will allow to be worn down. I had the same pair for nine years and replaced them only when actual holes so large I could stick my fingers through them appeared. But not immediately. And even then I wasn't happy about it.
Polo Ralph Lauren oxford shirts
An oxford shirt is something every woman should have in her closet, and Ralph Lauren's claim to fame happens to be perfecting menswear for women. With the renowned designer's touch, pieces that are typically masculine are effortless and feminine. The polo label is also reasonably affordable for a piece like this that you can wear with anything.
(E-mail Kristyn Schiavone at Kristyn@simplestyleguide.com, follow her on Twitter at @KKSchiavone or write to her c/o Tribune Media Services, 435 N. Michigan Ave, Ste. 1400, Chicago, IL 60611.)