Before we get started, let’s be clear that by “Man” in the title of this post, I mean men and women. The aspect of our clothes…their importance to who we are, their freeing and constraining virtues are the same in varying degrees for both sexes. “Varying degrees” is clearly the key term here, and I’ll let you define that one for yourself.
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My mother used to say, Clothes make the man. It’s a quaint expression, an old-fashioned expression, perhaps with some element of truth in it. Just how much truth is what got me wondering about myself and the clothes I might wear in a given week. It made me think also of Thoreau’s warning, Beware all enterprises that require new clothes…
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FishermanI like to surf fish along the ocean shore. To do that I get dressed up in my waders and my SPF #50 hat. I was fishing a couple of weeks ago in this get-up and noticed some little kids staring at me. I thought they were interested in my fishing pole or just hopeful that I might catch something. Then I realized I was their object of their fascination or the subject of their worry. Who was this old guy in the boot-in-pants-thingy their expressions said.
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SailorWhen I lived in St. Thomas and sailed, I wore a different kind of outfit, long-sleeves to keep the sun off and boat shoes to keep my feet on board. Shorts to keep cool. Shades to avert the tropical sun.
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In some sense, I traded sailing for golfing and now have a new set of clothes for the course.Birdie
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Father of GroomAs many of you know, my wife and I recently escorted our son down the aisle for his marriage in Cabo. Another set of new clothes.
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To the left, you’ll see me with my friend Paul putting in a new engine in a 1947 Chevy I restored many years ago. I’m the one with the butt patches and ponytail. Both are attributes of the mechanic in me that has long since left my personal style, one by choice, one by nature.Mechanic
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Fish NetI came upon a rather rare photo of me in the 60’s when cameras were scarce and iPhones were unimaginable. Fishnet shirts were supercool then, weren’t they? I’m not sure now, but I do remember loving this shirt of mine and the freak flag it let me fly… There are many more me’s, of course. Many incarnations, though facial hair does seem to be a constant.
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I set the photo down of fish net me…and thought again of Henry David Thoreau…Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes...
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The phrase impressed me the first time I read it in Walden decades ago. I’ve repeated it to myself and to others as a cautionary guide against losing oneself to the necessities of new clothes for a new job, new clothes to please a girlfriend, new clothes to fit in with the in-crowd, or a host of other cultural priorities that might change us more than is good for us.
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Yes, I’ve repeated it often, but somehow I’d forgotten the end of Thoreau’s guidance, which turns out to be the key part. The full quotation is Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes and not rather a new wearer of clothesIn other words, don’t change your clothes unless you, yourself, have changed. Then by all means, change your clothes. In this sense, the clothes don’t “make you.” Rather it is you who “makes” the clothes.
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Change, of course, is a good thing. It keeps us moving forward, keeps the oil fluid, keeps us stretching rather than shrinking.
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So I’m going to keep Thoreau’s whole statement in mind from now on. I going to continue to embrace change as much as I can, even though lately changes seem harder to accept as the years pass. Nevertheless, I’m going to invite the changes in and then style my clothes to fit the new person I’ve become. But…
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HalloweenI don’t know if I’m ready to shave my beard off yet. Maybe I’ll just wear a mask.
 

3 Responses to Do Clothes Make The Man?

  1. Gary Maxwell says:

    And of course clothes are optional sometimes and what do we make of that?

  2. John n Elaine. says:

    Don’t change your hair for us !!!!Not if you care for us !!! Stay litle valentineStay! !!!J n E

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