Carolyn decided.

"Carolyn decided, again with her relentless logic, that if we won the football game against Stranahan, she'd do it with Larry. We creamed them. Carolyn's face walking off the field of honor was not the usual bright cherry red from screaming her lungs out but an ashen and drawn white. Connie and I went over to her to bolster her.

 From  Take Ivy  by  Teruyoshi Hayashida et al.

From Take Ivy by Teruyoshi Hayashida et al.

Then the three of us went back to the locker room to wait for our dates--all Princeton haircuts, Weejun shoes, and Gold Cup socks." (99)

Brown, Rita Mae. Rubyfruit Jungle. New York: Bantam Books, 1973.

You know exactly who these boys are.

My Ability To Turn Off Whatever It Is That Causes Human Bodies To Reflect Visible Light

"I'm a quirky dresser. I'm absolutely fearless about what it is that I believe in. My shirts are incognizant and my socks: you must be completely unaware of my socks. That's, like, my approach to socks. 

 Chris Farley in a film still from Tommy Boy, 1995. From IMDB.

Chris Farley in a film still from Tommy Boy, 1995. From IMDB.

My pants can be wily or even dishonest on some days* if I just get up and feel that, but I have to feel it. When I wear a tie--and believe me, sometimes I really wear a tie, it can be porcine, straight-laced, odious. I have a certain little boy quality. But there's also that big, fat, sweaty guy thing in there, too."


Gannon, Frank. "I Know What I'm Doing About All The Attention I'm Getting" read on Selected Shorts by David Sedaris, 2013. First published in Yo, Poe (New York: Viking, 1987) and was reprinted in Sedaris' collection of short stories, Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005).


The least cliched ways of talking about one's clothing choices, and a commentary on personality building through dress, the narcissism that ironically comes from being a bad dresser. I think something about the syntax of these sentences is perfect, semi-colloquial and just a bit off:

"It will be me putting on the pants, it will be me pulling up the socks. I know how to do this, I've been at it for quite a while. I dressed myself for a long time before anyone was paying attention, and I'll dress myself a long time after everyone's paying attention to the way someone else dresses themself. I know how these things go."

You must, must listen to the whole story, it's a "short short."


*or Sundays? I can't tell from Sedaris' reading. I like Sundays better.

Above All, Foreign.

"Meanwhile, he stands there. Slowly, deliberately, like a magician, he takes a single book out of his briefcase and places it on the reading-desk. As he does this, his eyes move over the faces of the class. His lips curve in a faint but bold smile. Some of them smile back at him. George finds this frank confrontation extraordinarily exhilarating. He draws strength from these smiles, these bright young eyes. For him, this is one of the peak moments of the day. he feels brilliant, vital, challenging, slightly mysterious and, above all, foreign. 

 Professors Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (Ram Dass), 1960s. From  Harvard Psych Dept. website .

Professors Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (Ram Dass), 1960s. From Harvard Psych Dept. website.

His neat dark clothes, his white dress shirt and tie (the only tie in the room) are uncompromisingly alien from the aggressively virile informality of the young male students. Most of these wear sneakers and garterless white wool socks; jeans in cold weather and in warm weather shorts (the thigh-clinging Bermuda type; the more becoming short ones aren't considered quite decent). If it is really warm, they'll roll up their sleeves and sometimes leave their shirts provocatively unbuttoned to show curly chest-hair and a Christopher medal. They look as if they were ready at any minute to switch from studying to ditch-digging or gang-fighting. They seem like mere clumsy kids in contrast with the girls; for these have all outgrown their teenage phase of Capri pants, sloppy shirts and giant heads of teased-up hair. They are mature women, and they come to class as if dressed for a highly respectable party." (46)


Isherwood, Christopher. A Single Man. London: Meuthen & Co., Ltd, 1964.


Kids these days! A thoughtful and scornful observation of early '60s students. Made me think of Take Ivy, the highly idealized style book by Teruyoshi Hayashida. The distinction between professor and student is the pearl in the oyster here, reinforcing our nostalgic ideas about Berkeley, the American '60s, etc. Also: the word "garterless."

The Whole George

"Staring and staring into the mirror, it sees many faces within its face--the face of the child, the boy, the young man, the not-so-young man--all present still, preserved like fossils on superimposed layers, and, like fossils, dead. Their message to this live dying creature is: Look at us--we have died--what is there to be afraid of?

 Isherwood portrait, 1950s (?). Photographer unknown. Lifted from the  Book Drunk  blog.

Isherwood portrait, 1950s (?). Photographer unknown. Lifted from the Book Drunk blog.


It stares and stares. Its lips part. It starts to breathe through its mouth. Until the cortex orders it impatiently to wash, to shave, to brush its hair. Its nakedness has to be covered. It must be dressed up in clothes because it is going outside, into the world of the other people; and these others must be able to identify it. Its behavior must be acceptable to them.


By the time it has gotten dressed: it has become he; has become already more or less George--though still not the whole George they demanded and are prepared to recognize. Those who call him on the phone at this hour of the morning would be bewildered, maybe even scared, if they could realize what this three-quarters-human thing is that they are talking to. But, of course, they never could--its voice's mimicry of their George is nearly perfect." (8)


Isherwood, Christopher. A Single Man. London: Meuthen & Co., Ltd, 1964.


Writers on fashion theory: dress as identity, identifier.

With the Stuffing Out

"She was a giant of a woman, her face was set not only to meet opposition, but to seek it out. The downward tilt of her large lower lip was like a warning sign: "don't tamper with me." Her bulging figure was encased in a green crape dress and her feet overflowed in red shoes. She had on a hideous hat. A purple velvet flap came down on one side of it, and stood up on the other. The rest of it was green and looked like a cushion with the stuffing out. She carried a mammoth red pocketbook that bulged throughout as if it were stuffed with rocks.

 Vintage photo with attitude (and hats) from the wonderful  Wildfell Hall .

Vintage photo with attitude (and hats) from the wonderful Wildfell Hall.

To Julian's disappointment the little boy climbed up on the empty seat beside his mother. His mother lumped all children, black and white, into the common category "cute," and she thought little Negroes were on the whole cuter than little white children. She smiled at the little boy as he climbed on the seat. Meanwhile, the woman was bearing down on the empty seat beside Julian. To his annoyance, she squeezed herself into it. He saw his mother's face change as the woman settled herself next to him, and he realized with satisfaction that this was more objectionable to her than it was to him. Her face seemed almost grey, and there was a look of dull recognition in her eyes, as if she suddenly had sickened at some awful confrontation. Julian saw it was because she and the woman had, in a sense, swapped sons, though his mother would not recognize the symbolic significance of this. She would feel it. His amusement showed plainly on his face.

The woman next to him muttered something unintelligible to herself. He was conscious of a kind of bristling next to him, a muted growling, like that of an angry cat. He could not see anything but the red pocketbook upright on the bulging green thighs. He visualized the woman as she had stood waiting for her tokens, the ponderous figure rising from the red shoes upward over the solid hips, the mammoth bosom, the haughty face, to the green-and-purple hat. His eyes widened. The vision of the two hats, identical, broke upon him with the radiance of brilliant sunrise."


O'Connor, Flannery. "Everything That Rises Must Converge" from Everything that Rises Must Converge. New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1965.


Read the story or listen to it on Selected Shorts to get in on the joke! Beautiful use of clothing in fiction, underlining the plot and punctuating the moral, that exclamation point of a hat.

In the World and Of the World

"He looked straight ahead, down Fifth Avenue, where graceful women in fur coats walked, looking into the windows that held silk dresses, and watches, and rings. What church did they go to? And what were their houses like when in the evening they took off these coats, and these silk dresses, and put their jewelry in a box, and leaned back in soft beds to think for a moment before they slept of the day gone by?

 The most fashionable. Unknown model and unknown photographer, 1940s.

The most fashionable. Unknown model and unknown photographer, 1940s.

Did they read a verse from the Bible every  night and fall on their knees to pray? But no, for their thoughts were not of God, and their way was not God's way. They were in the world, and of the world, and their feet laid hold on Hell." (32)

Baldwin, James. Go Tell It On The Mountain. New York: Signet, 1963 [1952].

Clothing, the worldly; religion, the eternal. The taking off of clothes enters his religious mental discourse here without sex, but instead a ritualistic aspect.

Bengal Lancer

"Wilson stood gloomily by his bed in the Bedford Hotel and contemplated his cummerbund, which lay uncoiled and ruffled like an angry snake; the small hotel room was hot with the conflict between them. Through the wall he could hear Harris cleaning his teeth for the fifth time that day. Harris believed in dental hygiene. 'It's cleaning my teeth before and after every meal that's kept me so well in this bloody climate,' he would say, raising his pale exhausted face over an orange squash. Now he was gargling; it sounded like a noise in the pipes.

Wilson sat down on the edge of his bed and rested. He had left his door open for coolness, and across the passage he could see into the bathroom. The Indian with the turban was sitting on the side of the bath fully dressed; he stared inscrutably back at Wilson and bowed. 'Just a moment sir,' he called, 'If you would care to step in here...' Wilson angrily shut the door. Then he had another try with the cummerbund.

 Film still from   The Lives of a Bengal Lancer  , 1935.

Film still from The Lives of a Bengal Lancer, 1935.

He had once seen a film--was it Bengal Lancer?--in which the cummerbund was superbly disciplined. A turbaned native held the coil and an immaculate officer spun like a top, so that the cummerbund encircled him smoothly, tightly. Another servant stood by with iced drinks, and a punkah swayed in the background. Apparently these things were better managed in India. However, with one more effort Wilson did get the wretched thing wrapped around him. It was too tight and it was badly creased, and the tuck-in came too near the front, so that it was not hidden by the jacket. He contemplated his image with melancholy in what was left of the mirror." (61)


Greene, GrahamThe Heart of the Matter. Middlesex, UK: Penguin Books, 1962 [1948].


I like thinking of Wilson having watched many movies about Brits abroad in the great Empire and imagining how lovely and well-put-together and not-at-all-sweaty his life would be. The cummerbund, a British trope of Indian origin, is here representative of all of the struggles coiling around him, unavoidable but completely unmanageable.


"Bertrand came out on to the step, glancing from one of them to the other. He was wearing a blue beret, which had much the same effect on Dixon as Welch senior's fishing-hat. If such headgear was a protection, what was it a protection against? If it wasn't a protection, what was it? What was it for? What was it for?" (188)

 Blue beret (and so much more) at  Agi & Sam  A/W2013

Blue beret (and so much more) at Agi & Sam A/W2013

Amis, KingsleyLucky Jim. London: Penguin, 1972 [1954].


What was it for? Why do we wear hats with character? At the time Amis was writing, hats on men were still common--even socially necessary. To not wear a hat would have been significant; what does wearing a funny hat mean?


Amat Levin: Vad är 'svennelökar'?

"Daniel", ordningsvakt: Otrendiga svenskar. G-Star Raw-killar och Gina Tricot-tjejer. Och benämningen är helt könsneutral, jag nekar dåliga tjejsällskap lika mycket som dåliga killsällskap. I de fall stället är inte fullt och jag inte kan utgå från stammisar går jag efter snygga, trendiga människor när jag släpper in, även om jag aldrig har sett dem förut.

 "Mattias Norburg & Timmy Kersmo" matchy-matchy at a party for G-Star Raw, from nightlife website .

"Mattias Norburg & Timmy Kersmo" matchy-matchy at a party for G-Star Raw, from nightlife website

From the article "Krogpersonalen Avslöjar", or "Nightclub Staff Confess" in the newest issue of Nöjesguiden, all about discrimination in Stockholm nightlife. So much of it was about clothing! I thought the above quote was the perfect pull, with its direct naming of two apparently untrendy brands in such a short sentence. What makes those brands inherently untrendy?

AL: What are 'svennelökar' [ed note: I think "crackers" is the closest translation]?

"Daniel", security guard at a hip club in Stockholm: Untrendy Swedes. G-Star Raw guys and Gina Tricot girls. And that nickname is totally gender-neutral, I refuse bad girl groups just as often as bad guy groups. In cases where the place is full and I can't choose from regulars, I go for good-looking, trendy people when I'm working the door, even if I've never seen them before.

It's a really interesting article in general, interviews with people who work in the business. No one they talk to discriminates, personally, but they've seen other people do it. And no one can define what they mean by trendy! Is it the brands that make the people untrendy, or the other way around? And does the typical (under thirty, city-living, liberal) reader get a specific picture in his or her head of what a "G-Star Raw guy" is? Would the guys in the photo above, pictured at a party for G-Star Raw, consider themselves "G-Star Raw guys" or just visiting?

Read it in Swedish here.


"'Don't be alarmed, Tantripp,' said Dorothea, smiling. 'I have slept; I am not ill. I shall be glad of a cup of coffee as soon as possible. And I want you to bring me my new dress; and most likely I shall want my new bonnet to-day.'

 Half-mourning dress, 1872-74. From the Brooklyn Collection at the  Metropolitan Museum of Art .

Half-mourning dress, 1872-74. From the Brooklyn Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

'They've lain there a month and more ready for you, madam, and most thankful I shall be to see you with a couple o' pounds' worth less of crape,' said Tantripp, stooping to light the fire. 'There's a reason in mourning, as I've always said; and three folds at the bottom of your skirt and a plain quilling in your bonnet—and if ever anybody looked like an angel, it's you in a net quilling—is what's consistent for a second year. At least, that's my thinking,' ended Tantripp, looking anxiously at the fire; 'and if anybody was to marry me flattering himself I should wear those hijeous weepers two years for him, he'd be deceived by his own vanity, that's all.'" (874)


Eliot, George. Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life. Ed. A.S. Byatt. New York and Oxford: Oxford UP, 1999.

Undying love and devotion doesn't mean you have to be undesirable and unfashionable for two whole years. Plus when one looks so especially good in net quilling...

Thanks Katie for the tip!


"'Oh, I see all right, James. I see perfectly.' This time her voice was flat. She wore a sort of arty get-up of multi-coloured shirt, skirt with fringed hem and pocket, low-heeled shoes, and wooden beads. The smoke from her cigarette curled up, blue and ashy in a sunbeam, round her bare forearm.

 Elaine de Kooning, 1950s. Detail from a portrait of the de Koonings by Rudy Burckhardt. In the  permanent collection  at the Guild Hall.

Elaine de Kooning, 1950s. Detail from a portrait of the de Koonings by Rudy Burckhardt. In the permanent collection at the Guild Hall.


'...What the hell do you take me for? It isn't as if you didn't know what I've had to put up with, all these last weeks. It's intolerable, absolutely intolerable. I won't stand for it. You must have known how I've been feeling.'

She went on like this while Dixon looked her in the eyes. His panic mounted in sincerity and volume. Her body moved jerkily about; her head bobbed from side to side on its rather long neck, shaking the wooden beads about on the multi-coloured shirt. He found himself thinking that the whole arty get-up seemed oddly at variance with the way she was acting. People who wore clothes of that sort oughtn't to mind things of this sort, certainly not as much as Margaret clearly minded this thing. It was surely wrong to dress, and to behave most of the time, in a way that was so un-prim when you were really so proper all of the time." (76-77)


Amis, Kingsley. Lucky Jim. London: Penguin, 1972 [1954].


You are how you dress! Or should be, anyway, right?

Hand-me-up Clothes

Peter Sagal: Brian, Republicans have had a hard time courting younger voters, so they're turning to a new spokesman, a gentleman named Scott Greenberg. He is the first known Republican what?

Brian Babylon: Gimme a hint.

PS: Well, with him, the party platform is, 'Skinny Jeans, but a Big Tent.'

BB: Oh, these are...a Republican hipster?

PS: A Republican hipster! The first one found.

Bobcat Goldthwait: I was gonna go with boyscout.

PS: Scott Greenberg, uh, has got the jeans, the horn-rimmed glasses, he's got the three-day growth of beard, he's the kind of guy who would intern on a public radio show if he didn't want to defund public radio.

[wild applause from crowd that not only listens to radio but goes to see it live]

 Scott Greenberg in a 2014 GOP ad.

Scott Greenberg in a 2014 GOP ad.

BB: I don't even want to know what this kid looks like, because I know he know hipsters wear hand-me-up clothes.

PS: What does that mean?

BB: Hand-me-up-clothes? That a little boy hands up to a grown man. They wear those little clothes, tight, and they have handlebar mustaches, and I'm scared of those...

PS: This is what I mean: he's doing a great job advocating Republican policy positions because just after one minute of listening to that guy, 100% of Democrats wished they owned a gun.

From the March 22 episode of Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me

WWDTM has a way of beating a dead horse, but at least Babylon has a new spin on the skinny-jeans-and-glasses description.

Andy's Joke on the Art World

"In this room that's so antiseptic, where the procedures are so set, and paperclips become museum objects, we're still dealing with a man's stuff. It's very personal.

The girls know that Andy's dry cleaner's name was Danielle, and that she was always sending him bills, which he ignored. He did the same with the surgeon who saved his life after he was shot, who they found a note from that read, 'Pay up, you blowhard.' But they also know that, along with the unpaid bills, he would send art donations to charities. They know there are letters from fans, asking him to sign an enclosed photo, and the photo will never be there, which means he sent it back to them, signed. They know what he looked like without his wig on; that he had a comb-over.

 Andy Warhol with mother in LIFE magazine, 1960s (?).

Andy Warhol with mother in LIFE magazine, 1960s (?).

They know there is a whole box he made devoted to his mom, and how that one felt extra personal, because some of her clothing was inside, and that can connect you to a person more than anything else. They found Andy's clothing in the capsules, too. They know there are certain things you can't know about a person just through reading, like the actual size of their waist."

Spot on! A thoughtful but playful piece by Starlee Kine. Collections in Pop Art and popular culture. Please disregard the idiotic voices of the collections people, why do we let girls talk like that?

Listen to the act here, in Episode 514.

Kings Of Leon

"So last weekend that happened, and I walked up to the bus and I said to the bus driver, like, 'Hey, the subway is off, but it said that I could take the bus to the subway, do you know where I can get off?' And the bus driver said to me, and I quote, he goes, 'I don't know anything about the subway.' I was like, You don't know anything about the subway? You're wearing the same outfit as the man running the subway! 

 Nathan Followill from Kings of Leon wearing a Burberry t-shirt, 2009. What could he say about other tattooed men in snoods? Photo from  My Many Bags , where you can see many celebrities and models in this shirt.

Nathan Followill from Kings of Leon wearing a Burberry t-shirt, 2009. What could he say about other tattooed men in snoods? Photo from My Many Bags, where you can see many celebrities and models in this shirt.

If someone said to me, 'You see that guy walking down the street with the khaki shorts and the Kings of Leon t-shirt? You know anything about that guy?' I'd be like, 'Yeah, I'll tell you a few things about that guy. I know that he could use somebody.'"


Birbiglia, Mike. Excerpted in Episode #515 of This American Life, "Good Guys." Listen to it here--it's obviously much better when he tells it.


Occupational Dress vs. Tribal Dress. All the people wearing the same things know the same things! I wonder what he was wearing on that tour, maybe some khaki shorts?

Emotional Couturiers

"SOCRATES:  ... Good evening, Sandra. You look stunning, as always. Who are you wearing?

SANDRA: Valentino.


 Essential, holistic, from  New York Daily News . Photo: Jason Merritt, 2010.

Essential, holistic, from New York Daily News. Photo: Jason Merritt, 2010.

SANDRA: And? There’s no “and.” I’m wearing Valentino.

SOCRATES: Yes, obviously, your trainer-hewn physical form is draped in tangible designer fashions but, in a more essential, holistic sense, are you not also wearing, or, to be less metaphorical, bearing, the values, the views, the emotional residue of all—father, mother, siblings, peers, teachers, The Ex Who Must Not Be Named, et cetera—who have figured significantly in your life? Shouldn’t one’s emotional couturiers receive equal acknowledgement on this night?"


Woodiwiss, Bob. "Socrates on the Red Carpet" from McSweeney's Internet Tendency.

There's an academic article's worth of sartorial word-play in this piece: read more of it here!

Public Exhibition

"Wilson liked poetry, but he absorbed it secretly, like a drug. ... His taste was romantic. For public exhibition he had his Wallace. He wanted passionately to be indistinguishable on the surface from other men: he wore his moustache like a club tie--it was his highest common factor, but his eyes betrayed him--brown dog's eyes, a setter's eyes, pointing mournfully towards Bond Street." (12)

 Colonel Richard Meinertzhagen, certainly no shrinking violet. But what a mustache! From  here .

Colonel Richard Meinertzhagen, certainly no shrinking violet. But what a mustache! From here.

Greene, Graham. The Heart of the Matter. Middlesex, UK: Penguin Books, 1962 [1948].

That passionate interest is so far from what I am interested in personally that I can't understand it, but it's such a wonderful description of this character. What kind of mustache does he have, what "club" does he belong to? What is a nondescript mustache in British West Africa in the 1940s?