I have already voiced my opinion in this blog on fashion and fashionistas. It is, as the poet Kipling put it, “Don’t look too good nor talk too wise.” There is a threshold past which you look “too good” and, according to my theory, end up making yourself look silly once fashion has moved on to something new and more baggy or pastel. “Stick to staple clothing,” I have said.
But this past weekend my theory was sorely tested. I travelled up to Kansas City for my cousin’s dental school graduation party, and before the festivities I met my brother at a coffee shop downtown called The Quay. It is in a fashionable part of the city, near the farmers market on a steeply graded hill in an old brick building with faded lettering on its sides. It is the kind of coffee shop that uses locally roasted beans and employs people with beards, flannel shirts and soft voices. It’s fashionable, very fashionable. Its parishoners are no different. To me it looked like every other one was an aspiring artist, writer, mathemetition or architect looking deeply into their Apple computer screens and thinking profound thoughts. They wore mustaches, scarves, oxford shirts, cordwained shoes, peach-tinted shorts rolled at the bottom and watches.
Frankly, I felt like an anachronism—something dragged up out of last decade with my white polo, boat shoes and classic cut jeans (so two thousand and ten). As I sat there drinking my bold (but not bitter) coffee, looking around me at all the vogue clothing and accessoriesI fell into that old sin so neglected in the lists of sins these days: coveting. I thought how I wanted to wear all the latest fair trade clothes and go around with my aluminum Apple laptop, thinking deep thoughts, stroking my beard/moustache and checking my certified chronomiter watch every ten to fifteen minutes to make sure I don’t miss the latest art exhibit downtown. Then the mists broke and I said to myself, “You know, self? If I dressed that way in Newton, I would stick out like a Prius at Sturgis or a granola at a rodeo. And anyway, I can’t grow a beard like that. Even if I could my wife wouldn’t let me. It’s a good thing I live in Newton—much less pressure to look like these people.”
And back in the sunlight of common sense, I sipped my excellent coffee and bathed in a culture not my own—one that, most likely, will be out of fashion within a decade.
-R. Eric Tippin
On Victoria (like the queen) Road in Newton, KS
May 22, 2013