Thursday, November 3, 2022

Dressing Up


Here they came. In van and pickup, in Benz and BMW, peopling our streets and stores and cafes with strangers. Interesting strangers, though, despite the costumes.

Yes, costumes. Have you noticed? Apparently, toward the end of 2022, we have a need for costume when we travel certain places, even without a specific party to attend.

I was in Santa Fe last month, where the urge to dress up like someone you’re not became a national fashion in the Eighties. Santa Fe Style still rules, when you visit there.

We’ve got a Style of our own, though, don’t we? Call it Junk Gypsy? That’s certainly a part of it.

I watch the young women strolling along the road or street in cut off denim and cowboy boots, draped in various trailing decorations—feathers, scarves, necklaces, artistically torn shirts—topped by western hats, often black, even when it’s hot. They look pretty great, if not particularly comfortable.

Old(er) women wear long(er) pants. Long(er) skirts, blending into the Santa Fe look.

It reminds me of the Urban Cowboy fad in the 1980’s. When I met my husband, his entire wardrobe consisted of a denim jacket and blue jeans and a checked shirt. Ranch clothes for a man who actually builds fence, although he didn’t. His reason for the garb was a difficult divorce, nearing conclusion in its second year.  

But because of Urban Cowboy fashion at the time, he looked very cool to me. Happy coincidence.

Our Round Top Style today, if you’ll let me call it that, is more ornate. You find it on display often in PaperCity, and at the events held so often during Antiques Showtime. You can see how everyone enjoys wearing the (sort of) Western Look.

It has its own capacity for leveling social differences. In fact, all that matters is one’s ability to select and accessorize.

What got me thinking about this was a tall man at Farm and Ranch this morning, a stranger, who carried a sack of birdseed to the car for me. He had style in the way he volunteered. He did it just right.

In the fifteen or twenty seconds it took, I noticed a well-used western hat, muddy boots, round glasses—tortoise shell with a glint of gold at the bridge—and a white mustache. He looked real, not in costume at all, but also not a local person, quite. A local person most likely would have worn a cap. And different glasses.

How quickly we send our messages, now.

I wonder how many of us spend time thinking about it.

In the nearly twenty months I’ve been alone, I think about about it frequently. I still wear a mask pretty often, so I don’t have my smile to convey myself to those I meet. Also, I wear glasses, and big sunglasses. With that mask I might as well be Iron Man, for all the nuance conveyed.

How do I communicate, other than with muffled speech?

Clothing is an obvious answer. But which comes first? The clothing or the message? That Round Top Style I refer to above has a consistency that hides personality. It focuses attention on the jewelry, the workmanship of boots, the art of assembly in how it all fits together.

Who’s underneath?

Who are you, really?

That fellow who helped me stood out, first, for an authenticity—dried dirt on boots—and then became defined by those spectacles. I’m guessing he’s a city person who has a place around here. I did call back to find out his name. It was Tom.

Thank you, Tom.

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