Frump and Circumstance

At the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association meeting in Toronto in August 1997, I was riding the escalator down into the atrium of the conference hotel with my fellow sociology graduate students Josh Rossol and Black Hawk Hancock. Black Hawk noticed alot of people milling around, so he turned to Josh and me and asked, “How do I know which ones are the sociologists?”

To which Josh famously responded, “They’re the ones who are dressed like flood victims.”

Of course, this flood victim chic is not limited to sociologists, as pointed out by Tim Gunn of “Project Runway” and former chair of the department of fashion design at the New School of Design (interviewed in the Chronicle of Higher Education):

But for so many people in the academic world at large, I really believe that disdain for fashion is something that they are quite proud of, and that they want to demonstrate in what they’re wearing and how they’re wearing it. It’s a kind of an intellectual snobbery that says: My brain is important to me, and how I look is not, because it goes beyond the clothes. They’re poorly groomed, they’re schlumped over and practically drooling. I mean, I’m making some exaggerations here, but when I go to meetings with the rest of Parsons, I look around and think: Just comb your hair!


I think it has to do with the academics’ perception of lifestyle in general, which is that they drive beaten-up, rusted-out old jalopies of cars, they tend to live in environments that are messy, piled high with stuff-mainly books-and covered with dust. I say it comes from a disdain, but in some ways even that can be cultivated, though, so that is looks almost studied, like: Gee, did you buy a bag of dust and spread it around before I came over?


Chicago Shore Leave/Spring Break

I spent half of the spring break in the Chi and have two “shout outs” to those I observed on the bar scene there:

(1) To the men of Chicago: here’s to you, with your untucked striped shirts (open two buttons down) and jeans, your spiked hair and gold chains, and your Bud Lights. That’s a great look . . . for you.

(2) To the women of Chicago: your ability to put back Red Bull-vodkas and Jager shots is impressive and I enjoyed our many conversations at the bar, if only your slurred speech had not gotten in the way of my understanding what the hell you were saying. Delightful. To woman #39, did you honestly tell me that you were on “Bay Watch,” were a runway model, and had your own modeling agency? Perhaps in Van Nuys.

And one for the road: To the two 20-somethings at the airport, very cool the way you were both wearing the same pair of Deisel driving loafers. . . . Very BFF.

It’s good to be home.