I don’t know how to dress myself. Now that’s a sentence I didn’t know I’d write this morning. Have you ever looked at your closet and wondered who the person is that would wear such things?

I’m creeping up on half a century on this Earth and have obviously worn clothes most of the time. I’ve bought clothes, worn them, replaced them, and curated a certain style, though there’s no unifying theme I can tell. For example, hanging in my closet I have:

  • a charcoal suit, because it works for everything
  • a tuxedo, because it’s cheaper than renting
  • a selection of oxford button-down shirts to conform in
  • a selection of short-sleeve polos that make me a faceless worker bee
  • three short-sleeve button-downs with serious weekend dad vibes
  • three pairs of slacks, but only one still fits
  • two flannel shirts that aren’t redneck or grunge
  • one wool shirt that always makes my inner left elbow itch
  • two flannel-lined canvas shirts that took a decade to properly break in and will certainly outlast me
  • three fleece-lined hoodies, because my wife can’t steal my heat if I’m already cold.
  • two light hoodies, in case there’s a draft or I have to fly on a plane
  • a Mandarin collared shirt paired with a paisley vest circa 1994 that will come back in style one day.

Who is this guy? It’s a mix of formal, business, business-casual, suburban dad, 90s retro, and Northwoods redneck. What it’s not is something you’d expect an author to wear.

Now here’s a tricky question. What do authors wear? When you go to a reading, book signing, or convention, what do you expect the author to look like? Because if I had to describe myself, I’d say I’m a t-shirt and jeans guy that’s regressed to athleisure around the house since Covid. If pressed to dress up, I’ll put on a button-down shirt, but I don’t think I look like an author, I look like every other middle class white guy out with his wife on date night.

What the heck am I going to wear to an event where I’m wearing my author persona? What’s authentic and what’s an obvious costume? Would an obvious costume work in my favor?

Maybe I’m too worried about image, but it’s all marketing, isn’t it? I worry about my book covers because despite the adage of never judging a book on its cover alone, we all do. It’s so important indie authors are told time and again to invest in the best covers you can afford. Does the same apply to the clothes of the man behind the desk? 

I’m planning on going to more live events next year and I have to think about how to both grab attention and appear approachable. I’d love the excuse to buy a replica stormtrooper or Mandalorian costume, for example, but that’s not going to work for readings (or would it?).

I’m torn between Sean Connery and George RR Martin models. Connery as James Bond wore suits like no one else, apocryphally so comfortable and at ease that he could wear them to bed. It helps having those custom-tailored suits paid for by a movie studio and having movie-star looks to complete the ensemble. Neither applies to me, so that’s out.

If you don’t have the looks, you can go for the iconoclast look of “I don’t care about fashion” like Martin, whose signature look amounts to a Greek fisherman’s cap and suspenders. You get the sense he didn’t craft this look, that’s just how he likes to dress. It certainly helps communicate his personality and doesn’t appear artificial, unlike the author who throws on a blazer but clearly doesn’t find it comfortable. I feel stiffness and self-consciousness bleeds through in conversation. Formal and semi-formal clothes are social armor keeping us safe from judgement and embarrassment, but that’s antithetical to the art. Art is all about the feelings and judgements, so who trusts the author projecting distance and conformity to social norms? Not me.

Though perhaps Martin’s dress is also a smokescreen and he secretly wants to walk around in 3-piece suits every now and again. 

I know I’m overthinking this. I’m probably fine to just show up in jeans and a themed tshirt to whatever event I’m scheduled for and it’ll be fine. I’m me, you know?

My investigations turned up another problem. By poking around into what other artists are wearing in public, I’m now getting clothing ads across social media. The hardest pushers are for selvedge Japanese denim, heritage work boots, vintage flannel, and waxed cotton trucker jackets. I get the feeling the ad bots have targeted me as a hipster from the Pacific Northwest, circa 2010 or someone cosplaying as a 1950’s day laborer, I’m not certain. It’s all very nice stuff, I’m sure, but am I really going to shell out $800 for what’s essentially a costume?

I’m going to be paying the price for my curiosity for several months until the algorithms decide to bombard me with some other product. Maybe I should start researching products I have no interest in so I can go back to ignoring ads.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

Reader Goodies

Jurassic Park meets Godzilla in this sci-fi adventure that follows Jamie Gray, a man down on his luck after getting fired from his job at the beginning of the pandemic. He’s offered a job for the titular Kaiju Preservation Society, where he learns Godzilla stories came from actual events following 1950s atomic testing. The Kaiju live in a parallel dimension whose barrier thins when atomics explode, and cross over to investigate the blast because they use nuclear energy as food. KPS crews take turns living on the Kaiju side, studying the Kaiju and making sure they don’t break through to our version of Earth.

Scalzi writes nerd culture and action into his stories without getting pedantic about things unless doing so would be funny. This story is like that, following a group of scientists plus Jamie around as they discover what makes Kaiju tick and how to survive on a planet where everything is trying to kill you. I felt he struck the right balance between making the science plausible and leaving the explanations aside to focus on the characters and investing a sense of wonder into the world. There’s a sense that the story is meant to be a fun romp, like the Godzilla movies that inspired it, and at 270-ish pages is a pretty fast read.

Recommended. Also available as a Kindle Unlimited borrow.   

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