The Well-Dressed Writer (1 of 3)
Did everyone already know I write about clothes? You can find me over at Real Men Real Style on the regular, and I crop up in a few other places here and there as well. So with all that going on you should count yourselves lucky that it took me more than a year to start talking about writers and clothing on this blog (A Portrait of the Artist as a Raging Alcoholic does not count). And I’ll do it in three short parts instead of one massive, eye-rupturing post. The fact that this guarantees me content for the entire week has no bearing on my decision…so if you don’t want to hear about clothing and the writing life, come back next week, because this week is
THE WELL-DRESSED WRITER
Day 1: Casual Encounters
If I were to actually give serious advice on how writers ought to dress — which is exactly what I’m about to do — I would start it out with a great big fat caveat that everyone is going to have different expectations. Ask a lot of people what a writer looks like and they’re going to come up with something that involves cardigans or pipes or both.
Alternatively, readers of obtuse modern fiction may have been led by jacket photos to believe that all authors have scraggly beards, mullets, and entire closets full of black T-shirts.
And frankly, you can probably get away with either look once you’ve written a few bestsellers. It’s the rest of us that can still benefit from “looking the part.” There’s probably no outfit that will make people stare at you for a moment and go “wow, that guy/girl must be an author,” but you can at least strive for people nodding and saying “oh, sure” when you introduce yourself as a writer.
The Importance of Dressing the Part
Now, many of you may not necessarily want to “look like a writer.” You may in fact be hiding your shameful career from your friends and loved ones. But you should stop, because you never know when someone at the bar (of course you go to bars) is going to need a wordsmith on short notice. It’s worth looking like someone creative but not completely crazy when you shake that person’s hand.
So Look Creative (Without Actually Being a Creative Dresser)
The way you do that is cheating. People’s brains are really, really dumb about visual cues. A busier visual impression reads as one that took more effort, and is therefore more “creative” — even if people never stop to think about what that really means. If your outfit features more layers, contrasts, or details than the going average, you get to be the “creative dresser” by default.
Now, you can go horribly wrong with this approach. Layers and shinies are not inherently helpful, though they can certainly be, uh, “unique.”
So some restraint is probably called for. But you want to think about the sorts of casual encounters you’re having (not that kind) and the sorts of clothes other people are wearing at them. Use that as a baseline, and look busier than that. Throw a jacket on, wear a patterned belt with a flashy buckle; spice a blouse up with a brooch. Whatever it takes to stand out from the crowd.
Girls have this part of the look easier in general, but men will always have the sport coat as a handy added layer, and the recent hipster craze for vintage clothes (to say nothing of “steampunk” fashion influences) has brought the standalone vest back into the realm of possibility for gentlemen as well.
If you’re really anti-layers, your second-best best is contrast. Wear dark and light colors against one another, and don’t be shy about mixing patterns. As long as the general scale of the patterns is different — big stripes with little checks, and so forth — you shouldn’t have too many clashing issues. Just be cautious not to overdo the contrast, especially if you don’t have much in your natural complexion. If you’re fair-haired and fair-skinned or dark-haired and dark-skinned, sharply contrasted clothes are just going to wash you out.
And we’ll leave it at that today and come back Wednesday for the hard part: Meeting the Public. Until then, what about you? Do you even try to “look like a writer”? Does it sound anything at all like what I’m describing? Tell us all!