On A Summer Evening

Four female journos played in a mini golf charity event this summer – yeah, that’s one of the differences between the publishing side of media and the edit side, one plays real golf, the other is much better at mini golf. Having to come up with a team name for a tournament happening on a steamy July day on the Great Lakes, there was really only one choice – the Lilly Pulitzers, not only a play on the profession, but also a way to make the team uniform (a mandatory task) fairly easy. As summer winds down, people across the US are lucky and safe enough to enjoy these last days of summer,  sipping their G&Ts during happy hour, getting a couple of last wears out of their favorite linen outfits or Lilly.

The Summer Good Life.
The Summer Good Life.

The funny thing here is that all of these bastions-of-the-good-life symbols have some pretty basic roots. Lilly Pulitzer famously created her colorful and abstract prints with the direct purpose of hiding her children’s juice stains. It works. Some Lilly shorts (which, yeah, I did have before the tourney, I’m woman enough to admit) participated an unfortunate fully-loaded hot dog incident on the Fourth of July and neither the ketchup or mustard stains are noticeable, unless you know where to look. And, I’m not telling.

About the gin in the G&T being sipped on a porch by someone thinking, dang the British were smart for inventing this stuff, so crisp, so refreshing? It was probably brewed in the UK but that is not its country of origin. Asked to name a gin and you’d probably think Tanqueray, Hendricks or Beefeater – even the marketing and packaging wants you to think it is a classic British product.

Gin was brought to the British Isles by foot soldiers who had served in the Netherlands during the 30 Years War. Gin was the original “Dutch Courage,” given as medicine (yep, a tonic all by itself) to weather the harsh winters and damp campaigns of the war. Sold by chemists and others, gin in the UK became “a firm favorite with the poor” as by the reign of William of Orange, it was cheaper than ale and beer. Starting in the 1700s, a series of licenses and duties made gin prohibitively expensive. Eventually a repeal of some of the most outlandish duties and fees left the spirit only moderately expensive, but certainly no longer the drink of choice of the masses.   Beer production, on the other hand, had none of these fees levied on it, and thus remained a drink for all, eventually being much cheaper to brew or procure than gin.

Like beer, linen comes to the world through Egypt and Asia. Swatches of the fabric dating back to 30,000 BCE have been found. Over time the fabric has gone from the tunics and sails of the ancient world, to undergarments (lingerie is a cognate of linen) to table and bed covers to a highly starched symbol of summertime and selectivity. While the fabric always had a certain level of elitism, mummies were wrapped in linen to show purity and light (and if you had the money for a mummy, you were obviously pretty well off. . . ), it has also had a household basic use. And now, the extra bonus of keeping steam iron production companies in business.

If by any chance you wore your Lilly or linen to a polo fundraiser where you sipped a refined gin based cocktail, you’ve got the trifecta.  Polo was brought to Asia by slaves from Persia, and to the West from colonization of India during the British Raj.

Food Trucks in the background, polo in the front.
Food Trucks in the background, polo in the front.  It’s like a social mullet.

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