Monday, March 24, 2008

The Clothes Make the Man

The sun is out and the air is warm, or getting there, anyway. I am relieved not to have to wear my wool coat, lovely as it is. Instead I throw on a sweatshirt or my old, old fleece. That sea-green fleece: I remember wearing it in seventh grade and finding a tootsie roll in its pocket. Now the elbows are thinning, and little pills have sprouted all over the jacket. It's not very dignified, particularly when dark strands of hair cling to it like ivy that no amount of tending can detach from a wall. . . Perhaps I should stop wearing it. Move on, grow up.

I don't think I will, though. I am the sort of person who just keeps things. As long as something works, why abandon it for the risk of having to find something new? The familiar has perhaps too strong a hold on me, for caution and conservatism are not so clearly distinguishable from cowardice and small-mindedness. I do not wish to be a victim of pusillanimity. I do not want fear to fence me in.

Then again, I also don't want recklessness to cause me undue pain.

Clearly, the matter of an old jacket is not this significant. But I like my clothes like I like my people: comfortable, colorful, inexpensive (which translates to a low cost in emotional turmoil). I hate to lose what I know and love. Life is an infinity of investments. The trick is learning which ones are going to pay off, and which should be abandoned before things get worse.

Clothing doesn't say much about a person directly, just like the About Me doesn't directly tell you much about me. The message from clothing is not inherent, but contextual: the choices the wearer has made, the impression he/she seems to want to cultivate, the amount of awareness of the impression he/she makes, . . .

I'm not sure what my clothes say about me; or rather, what conclusions people draw about me from my clothes. When it comes down to expenditure of time and money, I find that I mostly don't care. To me, the significance of clothing is as Mark Twain put it: "The clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society."

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