Things My Father Taught Me: Pieter Van Winkle
Because we shared a year in the trenches of one of New York’s oldest acting conservatories, because he’d occasionally let me sing harmony when we’d play Townes Van Zant’s “Rex’s Blues” in the school basement, because we’ve managed to run into each other every now and again in the years since we left school, because we’ll occasionally share what we’ve learned from devoting our adult lives to our passions, the bond Pieter and I share is a special one. As soulful a man as you’ll meet, it’s with great pleasure I share the words of Pieter Van Winkle.
“I’m too poor to buy junk,” my dad always says. This he learned from his father, the Reverend Kingsland Van Winkle (Trinity Church, Hartford, CT), who went by “King” or “Rip.”
My father, Edward Scott “Rip” Van Winkle, believes in buying a nice thing once. As an advertising man in the 80s (at firms like BBDO, Y&R, and Saatchi & Saatchi), he bought nearly his entire wardrobe at 346 Madison Avenue. Years later, when I entered the workforce and needed to borrow a jacket or tie, I remember leafing through 20-30 Brooks Brothers woolen blazers, ties and shirts (embroidered above the heart with his initials ESVW) in his closet. A familiar memory from early childhood is my dad getting ready for bed, removing his collar stays and cuff links, standing at his tall dresser in his blue Brooks Brothers boxer shorts (which he bought by the box, I remember), the smell of 4711 cologne in the air, his gabardine slacks hanging on the open pants-press. When he came to my room to give me a kiss goodnight, his face would be scratchy from a day’s growth of beard.
While my Dad loved the Golden Fleece, for him, the truly discerning man would only be clothed at Paul Stuart, on Madison Avenue at 45th Street. Though his salary as an account executive never justified such luxe expenditures, my father knew and appreciated that you always get what you pay for. He loved, as I do, to walk into a men’s store (whether it be the men’s department at Macy’s, at the Sport Shop in Darien, CT, where I was fitted for my first blazer, or at Paul Stuart in Manhattan), and be treated like a king.