All dressed up YOU ARE WHAT YOU WEAR The Key to Business Success By William Thouriby Sheed Andrews and McMeel, 1978, $8.95 By Molly Ivins Denver I had my doubts about this book, but its publisher informed me that William Thourlby is a “respected clothing consultant who has counseled our nation’s presidents.” Could the man who dressed Richard Nixon be wrong? Yes. Thourlby is enthusiastic, nay, messianic about his message. He believes, he tells us, in “packaging” people. But let the man speak for himself. “As you realize that people you meet automatically accept the role you package for yourself, you’ll turn completely around in your thinking. You’ll understand that the way you dress can determine how far you go in life. In fact, I guarantee you this, whether you like it or not, after reading this book your life will never be the same.” mine is. “If you feel this isn’t fairthat a person should be judged not by what he wears but by what kind of person he is and by what he has done with his life, remember this: Life listens only to winners. . . . Now I know there are some who say they don’t care if their friends drive Cadillacs or live in the right part of town . . . but those are a boy’s dreams; we remember those beautiful ideals, but we are talking here about competing in life. “It’s not an easy game. It’s a tough game, this game of life. Life is like football.” Clothing, hell, this man advised Richard Nixon on politics and foreign policy. I was initially skeptical of Thourlby’s thesis that you are what you wear. Is Ronnie Dugger actually old khakis and a pair of Hush Puppies? Could it be that Stanley Walker is just a work shirt and a pair of corduroy trou in sad shape? Would Einstein have gone further if his sweater had fit better? Ah, but then I remembered Rep. Goose Finnell, who is polyester to the bone, and Rep. Joe Salem, who has a doubleknit soul. There are worlds here, friends, of which we have not dreamed. Take the intriguing question: What Do You Want Your Clothes to Say? A harrowing choice, but I have narrowed it down. On some days, I would like my clothes to say, “Fourscore and seven years ago, our forefathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation. . . .” Other days, 1 want my clothes to say: “Knock, knock? Who’s there?” In which I feel a feather boa might be helpful. Thouriby judges people by the way they dress. I have an even more singular habit of judging writers by the way they use language. I am going to report this man to Edwin Newman and to the National Council of Teachers of English. Thourlby writes, “In addition to these philosophies of human nature, we base our criteria for instant judgment of others on the identification of role stereotypes.” Can a man who would write a sentence like that be trusted on a matter of taste? Ah, but the book gives us nuggets of invaluable lore, such as, “The mediumto-dark gray is a likeable yet serious color.” And, “If you have to take your suit jacket off in the office, you’re right that rolling up your sleeves will give the impression that you’re working hard. But be careful to only roll them up twice on the outside.” Three times on the inside will make hair grow in your palms. And some nuggets of not-so-valuable lore. “A plastic briefcase says all the wrong things about you.” It says you run on all fours, suck eggs, have the brains of et, new Stetson, thick glasses. I drink my tea and look secretly at the mystery of his large old rancher ears, the red broken veins in the rancher nose. I leave through the back door and take a walk down Bandera side streetspast frame houses and small quiet yards, past boys and dogs that look at me as I go by, past tire swings and old cars up on blocks and Christmas wreaths on front doors. I go into a cemetery at the edge of town and look at the gravestones and little plots of ground. For a while I stand there, trying to think significant thoughts about the dead, about dying. But I can’t think of anything to think about. I am alive and the ones beneath the grass and dirt are ,dead, and for the moment that’s about the size of it. The dead are just their names and dates carved in granite; we have nothing in common on this mild afternoon. I leave the cemetery and return to my car, listening to the steady, reassuring tap of a basketball being dribbled in the carport of a nearby house. In Camp Verde I buy a bag of peanuts and another beer and then stop for a look at Verde Creek. I get out, walk beneath the trees. Birds are moving slowly through the cypresses, not singing, flapping their wings heavily: cardinals, woodpeckers, robins down south for the winter. There is no windjust sunlight coming strongly in an afternoon slant, the clean smell of the creek. Back in the car I pick up Brighton Rock and read a little. In Center Point, just about dusk, in a clean Wyeth-light, I park beside an unplanted field. Beyond the field, at a twostory stone house, several children are still out in the yard, idling away the last moments before dark. I get out and look around. I see an ordinary stretch of land: trees and small-town houses. It is just Center Point at the end of day. But the light, the light. It is ordinary too, for the Hill Country, for December, yet as I stand there beside the wire fence, with a windmill rising behind the field, with red and green Christmas bulbs strung around the side windows of nearby houses, with unpaved streets wandering off into the countryside, such light is almost like a voice, a soundless, continuous speaking from the sun-haloed oaks. Houses, fields, barns–all are glowing in serene sunlit browns, in a dying winter radiance. Darkness comes; the land shuts down. I drive back toward home, satedhaving feasted on cattle guards, creeks, pecan trees, earth. Elroy Bode is the author of four collections of sketches and short fiction published by Texas Western Press. He teaches high school English in El Paso. 8 DECEMBER 29, 1978
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