The ’70s look with my friend Mike Rogers (left)

By John D. Pierce

Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot of personality traits and behaviors explained in terms of birth order — though such interpretations have been around for a long time. While some patterns are obvious, there tend to be quite a few exceptions as well.

Although born the second of four sons, I see some first-child tendencies in my own life. However, those on the upper side of the birth order agree that the brats always follow us.

So while I’m less of a believer than some in the impact of birth order there is one principle to which I hold firmly: For those raised with limited resources, used clothing stores are for firstborns only.

You’ll never find me digging through the rerun clothing at Plato’s Closet or ordering “gently-used” or even “like new” clothes on eBay. We had another word for those when I was growing up: hand-me-downs.

As a teen, landing a job at the newly-opened Days Inn at the northernmost exit of I-75 in Georgia provided my first opportunity to own clothes that came with price tags on them. That summer my friend Jimmy Redwine, a year older and with a car, and I would spend many mornings at the new Northgate Mall in Chattanooga before he’d drop me off at Days Inn.

Jimmy would then go on to the Georgia Welcome Center where he’d clean toilets — an experience that surely led to his eventual Ph.D. in geology from Penn State and an expertise in groundwater.

Our primary morning destination was the J. Riggins store at the mall where bell-bottom pants, pointed-collared shirts and two-tone, platform shoes abound. Most of the $1.60 per hour pay (minus taxes) that I received each week went for new clothing. It was a special delight to make my own choices about colors and styles rather take whatever came out of my brother Rob’s closet.

Reflection is helpful. Often we see factors that shaped our personalities, beliefs and attitudes. And, surely, some of those are rooted in the place one assumes in a family.

However, when I pass Plato’s and Goodwill on my way to search the “Take an additional 50% off the lowest price” shirt racks at Dillard’s, one thing is sure: “It’s a birth order thing.” I’m looking for clothes with price tags with red ink — but tags on new clothes nonetheless.

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