What Writers Wear

August 14, 2012 • On Writing

Get this shirt on Zazzle!As writer, knowing how to dress is nearly as important as knowing how to spell. In this era of social media marketing and personal-branding affecting a credible look has taken on increased importance. These days, writers are as likely to be judged by their profile images as their words, however, few receive positive comment on their sartorial prowess and those that do fail to recognize the sarcasm. Here are some tricks:

Dress to Depress

Wear black – once a defense against ink stains (and wine, for that matter), it also evokes clichés of coffee houses and berets, which are useful cultural shorthand for “You don’t want to talk to me.” No one takes up writing to improve their social life, so let your clothes do the talking and get back to work.

The Action Figure Outfit

After years of experimentation and outright fashion failure, I’ve learned what works (and doesn’t) when it comes to managing my wardrobe. In my case, it’s a classic, dark blazer, jeans, a fitted, open collar shirt and Beatle boots. This ensemble permits me to affect the pose of a “creative,” corporate-speak for “the guy in the office who doesn’t wear a tie.” It also differentiates me from the hipster t-shirt and flip-flop crowd, which I aged-out of in the late 90s (goodbye, goatee). More to the point, it’s easily replicated, which leads to consistency, which is just a notch below “iconic.”

I knew I had achieved success when a colleague dressed as me for Halloween. They referred to their costume as my “action figure outfit,” meaning, when they make a figurine out of me (and be assured, they will), it will be donned in the clothes with which I’m most identified. Does this mean I’m predictable? Perhaps, but I prefer the term “committed.” I’ve been doing this so long, my look has cycled through the vicissitudes of fashion at least twice. I know I’m in when I’m fashion-forward when my interns don’t blanche when I advise them to dress like me. How could I be so cruel? Here’s the thinking: If we all dress in the same action figure outfit it becomes a uniform. If we’re all in uniform, we’re an army, which makes cultural imperialism a whole lot easier to pull off. I’m thinkin’ “franchise thyself,” syndication on a whole new level. Sure, there’s only two us now and we look a little like a ventriloquist act, but someday…

Do your laundry

It doesn’t take much to be a writer – if you’ve got a language, a bit of literacy and a means of recording your words, you’re in. Writing hardly taxes the achievements of civilization (and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise). Doing one’s laundry, however, draws from nearly every corner of modern society – from technology and chemistry to an array of civil engineering projects and occasionally coinage, itself a system that entails whole governments. Washing clothes may seem like a simple act achievable by one but it actually draws on the talents of many. This is where writers often get fouled up for they aren’t intrinsically social creatures and the washing machine, which represents the collective effort of thousands, is a chorus that the lone writer should not lend his voice for fear of being drowned out. The writer and the washing machine are fundamentally and philosophically opposed. At least this is what I tell my wife. Her counter argument is “Wouldn’t you rather be known for your writing rather than your stench?” I concur and send my intern to the laundry room.

Note to self: Make sure the next intern wears a 44 long coat, so I can borrow it.

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