Things My Father Taught Me: Clint Nohavec

On my trip to Chicago, I met Clint Nohavec of The Constants Kept. He’s now back in the Pacific Northwest knockin’ it down time and again on his site. He disproves the adage “nice guys finish last.” Clint’s a winner a hundred times over. Must be the spiral toss. See what he has to say about his father.


cn1I can remember raiding my dad’s dresser drawer as a kid in the late 1980s, digging out his faded Nike and Adidas t-shirts that had become accidentally trendy. I’d lay the shirts out on my bed and meticulously plan my outfit for the day which, at that time, typically included tight-rolled jeans and Oakley Frogskin sunglasses. To me, the vintage t-shirts demonstrated to the world my refined 10 year-old tastes. To my dad, they were simply shirts that he kept because they worked well tucked into sweatpants, and there was no need to buy new ones. I still smile when I visit my parents and see my dad in his signature look: sneakers, sweatpants, and one of those old tees.
cn2I have a sense of style, I suppose, but it’s certainly not like my dad’s. Mine is manufactured, but disciplined – sticking to rules like showing a half inch of cuff, and never wearing navy blue with black. His style is idiosyncratic, inflexible, and permanent – the result of 57 years of discovering what works, and sticking with it. As Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “the young man knows the rules, but the old man knows the exceptions.”

Nonetheless, I’ve gone to great lengths over the years to impart my sense of style (and my rules) on my dad. I can recall many Father’s Day gifts – J.Crew shirts, Brooks Brothers coats, Esquire’s “Handbook of Style” – that were well-received but quickly found their way to the back of my dad’s perfectly-organized closet, not to be seen again. His wardrobe is never going to change much and, though it’s taken me a while, I now realize that that’s okay. And while there’s not much I can borrow from my dad’s style, that’s okay too. Because his lessons are less about style, and more about substance.

cn3My dad played football growing up, which is surprising given his small size. What he lacked in stature, he made up for with savvy and a damn tight spiral. Learning to throw a spiral, as it turns out, is not easy. It takes balance, patience, and attention to detail – qualities that my dad has en masse. By high school, he was an All-American Quarterback. He’s fifty seven years old, and still throws the most perfect spiral I have ever seen.

cn4Those same qualities that made my dad a great quarterback stuck with him throughout his life. He found success as a businessman, rising up to become a senior officer of a Fortune 100 company. His professional ascent was never about prestige or accumulation, but about the silent pride that came with creating opportunities for his family. A few months ago, after thirty three years on the job, he retired.

Looking back, my dad’s greatest style lessons come not from his wardrobe, grooming advice, or fashion maxims, but from the steady, workmanlike way that he has lived his life. And those lessons will stick with me: do things right, learn to throw a spiral, and hang on to your old t-shirts.cn5
Clint Nohavec, The Constants Kept