The following is the first column I had printed in our local newspaper, The Gladstone Observer. Earlier this year, Amy Glass, the reporter who used to do the Monday column, asked for contributions, so I sent her some samples. Long story short, she used one them, and asked if I was interested in contributing regularly.
“Why, yes. Yes I am.” I refrained from hugging her at the time… but I was pretty stoked.
Anyway, I present it here, as it was printed:
Clothes Maketh the Man
Fashion has never been one of my strong points. My wardrobe looks as if I’m exclusively outfitted by the Dishevelled Gentleman, and my hairstyle has been described as “birds nest chic”.
Of course I like to think that my clothes are functional or practical, well suited to our climate and perfect for a bit of fishing, painting, skidding down grassy slopes etc. One of the things I like about living in Gladstone is that most blokes here dress in the same ultra casual way I do. They also have their ‘at home’ thongs, and ‘going out’ thongs. And on the odd occasion I’ve even strolled through the mall barefoot, and in Summer I can tell you it’s deliciously cool underfoot after galloping through a scalding hot car park.
But there have been some changes. The hairdo went first, followed by a trip to a real clothing store for men, where I was steered firmly past the bargain bin by my wife. After much fussing, fidgeting and fiddling, I appeared outside the shop a brand new, and slightly poorer, man.
I recently read of an ‘experiment’ conducted by a man who lived a dull and lonely life in an apartment in New York. No one took much notice of him as he made his way around town. Then one day he appeared at his building in a tailor made soldiers’ uniform, resplendent with medals, braid and officers cap. Doors were opened for him, people pointed him out in the street, seats in restaurants became magically available as he was ushered past cues of waiting people. Such was the impact of his ‘new look’.
When this alleged experiment was over, he returned to his normal clothes, and to his amazement discovered that people continued to treat him with respect. His entire manner had changed during that brief time. While he was in uniform he looked like someone who deserved respect, and after he took it off, he continued to act and feel like someone who deserved respect. And he got it too. The clothes had changed him. I bet he kept that uniform for the odd occasion when he wanted to feel a little higher than the herd. I would have.
I’m experiencing the reverse side of that experiment. Even though I make an effort to wear shoes in public, my hair is tidy, and my clothes are not only neat, and actually made in this decade, I have a nagging feeling that people watching me know the truth. That under the shiny, well dressed exterior is a bloke who is still wearing his old Gladstone uniform; shorts, thongs, and tatty singlet.
I like my new clothes, but I love my old clothes. Unfortunately, as my old clothes finally become comfortable, or worn in, they also tend to fall apart. Many times I’ve approached my wife with a bundle of rags clutched to my chest, and pleaded with her to sew them back together. She ignores me, until I skulk away. I always end up wearing them for a little bit longer, and it’s only when they look as if I’ve had a serious accident with a bottle of acid, and are the mere ghosts of threads held together with spots of paint, grease and food stains, that I consign them to the rag bin for polishing duties on the car.
But in the spirit of continuous improvement there may be another change soon. If, in weeks to come, you find yourself bumped to the back of a cue by a dapper gent in a flashy foreign Air Force uniform, feel free to smile at him, or even pat him on the back as he passes by. I really won’t mind at all.
Published Feb 09