Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Sound Of One Hand (In A Fashionable Leather Glove) Clapping

Spencer Troxell: So, the question remains: How many hats does a man need?

Lodo Grdzak: And what is the sound of one hand clapping?

So, that's like, what, seven?

My relationship with fashion has been very casual. In elementary school, I liked to wear t-shirts and underoos with my favorite cartoon characters on them. When I was in a church play in 5th grade, and all of the guys in the play went into the church locker room to change into our costumes--and I realized that I was the only person with the Tazmanian Devil on his underwear--I abruptly changed my style, and began to wear button up shirts more often, and plain old boxer shorts.

Then I read Jurassic Park in 6th grade, fell in love with the character of Ian Malcolm, and because of the following snippet of text, I decided to adopt his fashion philosophy:

"Ellie said, "Isn't it a little warm for black?"

You're extremely pretty, Dr. Sattler," he said. "I could look at your legs all day. But no, as a matter of fact, black is an excellent color for heat. If you remember your black-body radiation, black is actually best in heat. Efficient radiation. In any case, I wear only two colors, black and gray."

Ellie was staring at him, her mouth open. "These colors are appropriate for any occasion," Malcolm continued, and they go well together, should I mistakenly put on a pair of gray socks with my black trousers."

But don't you find it boring to wear only two colors?"

Not at all. I find it liberating. I believe my life has value, and I don't want to waste it thinking about clothing," Malcolm said. "I don't want to think about what I will wear in the morning. Truly, can you imagine anything more boring than fashion? Professional sports, perhaps. Grown men swatting little balls, while the rest of the world pays money to applaud. But, on the whole, I find fashion even more tedious than sports."

Dr. Malcolm," Hammond explained, "is a man of strong opinions."

And mad as a hatter," Malcolm said cheerfully. "But you must admit, these are nontrivial issues. We live in a world of frightful givens. It is given that you will behave like this, given that you will care about that. No one thinks about the givens. Isn't it amazing? In the information society, nobody thinks. We expected to banish paper, but we actually banished thought."

Wearing all black and gray in middle school was both a boon and a curse: It was a boon in the sense that my decision to wear all black made it easier to make due with only a couple of pair of pants, t-shirts, and big black boots, and because (I thought) it made me look mysterious. My fashion choice also coincided with the rise of Goth-rock, so I became a de-facto member of that clique for awhile (until they realized that I was really just a big, happy-go-lucky nerd, and promplty ejected me).

My next conscious fashion decision came around mid-high school. There was a guy a year or two older than me named Dan Puckett that I thought was profoundly cool: he liked good music, and yet was popular. He had a distinct style of his own, and yet wasn't shunned by the herd. On top of all of these things, he seemed to like me, which was exceedingly rare among the cool kids. He liked to wear crazy, shiny shirts, and--hero-worshipper that I was--I decided to copy him. I don't know how much he minded being copycatted. I distinctly remember asking him one day whether or not he was going to change his style now that a handful of kids (I wasn't the only one) were copying him. His response: 'What, am I going to wear a fucking toga?'

I was still in the end stages of this style when I met my wife. She was a manager at a movie theater that I was working at. I purposefully made sure to wear each one of my five or six shiny shirts each time I came in to watch a free movie in the evenings that she worked, just to display my stylish versatility. She liked them--or at least she said she did because she liked me--and it encouraged me to buy more.

After we got married at the age of 19, I decided my attire needed to grow up a little bit. I began wearing white t-shirts and khakis a lot, and a lot of button up department store shirts. I was also--in an attempt to both elevate myself above other folks and find some kind of workable life philosophy--reading up on buddhism and aesthetic christianity, and thought the more plan look suited this more contemplative lifestyle. What we read and talk about is also part of our personal fashion.

Then I went to college, and stopped really paying attention to how I dressed too much. Function was key. I wore whatever clothes were in my closet, and didn't think too much about it. I stayed in the fashion desert for about 8 years; that's how long it took me to graduate.

Now, I'm graduated, and I find myself thinking about clothes more. I bought a derby, and have recently acquired a pretty nice trench coat and a nice pair of leather gloves. I wear vests, button up shirts and ties, and blue jeans a lot. My favorite footwear is a big, brown pair of wolverine boots. This ensemble may sound like it clashes, but I think it works for me.

I am paying more attention to the way I dress as I grow older. I don't think it's because I'm becoming shallower (although that could be the case), but I think it's because I'm feeling calmer. And more confident. I'm only twenty-nine. The frontal lobes are finished developing somewhere around the twenty-fifth year, so I'm only recently in possession of a complete brain. The hormones have calmed down, and most of the bodies that they left on the battlefield of my late teens and early twenties have been swept up and either buried, or ground up into decent summer sausages. Clothing is fun. Wearing a suit is fun. Because I am still a subversive at heart, the more dressed up I get, the more iconoclastic I feel: I am not someone who should be dressed respectably. Putting on a tie is like going undercover.

So, who knows how many hats a person should own? My guess is that you should either own none, or quite a few.

But that could just be my demon talking.


Jared Williams said...

I own seven hats, most consist of the logo's of my favorite sports teams, and one straw hat I've never worn but bought on a family beach vacation and thought it looked cool. After reading this blog I realized that I too have taken on Ian Malcolm's thoughts of color in a wardrobe. I walked to my closet and noticed that there were four colors represented. 1 blue polo, 1 red polo, and I stopped counting after 23 of the gray and black combination.
I agree with your take on the reason why you're starting to pay more attention to the way you dress. You should be feeling more confident. You seem to be (I'm sure you are, but since I know nothing of your true personal life except for the fact that you moved into Ruthie and Al's old house down the street) a well established late twenty year, which is much more than what can be said for a lot of people right now.

Spencer Troxell said...

Thanks for dropping by, Jared!

You don't seem to be doing too bad yourself. A consistent wardrobe definitely has its benefits. You can pass off the same polo shirt as newish time and again. And khakis? Who needs more than a few pairs?

Imagine how difficult it is for Lady Gaga. "Is that the same meat dress you wore last Thursday?"

Too much work.

Lodo Grdzak said...

Its truly an unanswerable question. But in regards to the whole blowback against men's meterosexuality (sp?) and the rise in men's fashion and whatnot; I would argue that primates in the jungle--particularly chimpanzees, spend over 65% of their days grooming themselves. Its an extremely important aspect of the social structure. Who grooms who is very significant and it seems to me a rather peaceful, productive way to pass downtime. If we still had to grow our own food to live; or had to carry water miles back to our village everyday, then yes--excessive grooming and fashion would probably be moronic, non-productive pursuits. But in todays modern countries; where 80% of the jobs are just made-up busywork and so many of us have large amounts of downtime; why not find your style, express yourself, and please--keep the stink off yourself!

Spencer Troxell said...

Lodo, you had me at 'blowback'.

Lodo Grdzak said...

Ha! Its is a fun term to say aloud--no? Works on various areas of the brain.

Willie Y said...

I think that peoples first impression of you come from the way you dress. Like it or not we are judged by the way we dress.

When I moved from New Jersey to Maine my choice of clothing has slowly but surely changed. Gone are the 4 suits, all but 4 ties, and I have very little use for the 6 pairs of dress shoes.

There are not many places in Maine were you need anything but a sweatshirt and shorts to go anywhere. And that is made perfectly clear when you belly up to the bar and on your left is a millionaire and on your right is someone who is making 8 dollars and hour, and you can't tell which is which.

Spencer Troxell said...

Willie: More evidence that I need to consider moving my family to the northeast