“No man ever stood the lower in my estimation for having a patch in his clothes; yet I am sure that there is greater anxiety, commonly, to have fashionable, or at least clean and unpatched clothes, than to have a sound conscience.”
Some things never change. And of course the fashion industry has learned to use this against us, changing styles so quickly that clothes often fall out of fashion before they wear out. (This is one of the things I enjoy about being a middle-aged man, and an editor by trade. I’m pretty much expected to be somewhat rumpled and unfashionable.)
Of course it’s not just clothes. It’s the whole package: house, car, career, all the trappings of status by which we size each other up. It saves time. Otherwise you have to get to know a person before categorizing them, and that’s hard to do. Our brains are wired to love such shortcuts. It seems we’re born to stereotype, born to judge by appearances. We can learn to do otherwise, but it takes effort. And don’t we like to have the mask of appearances to hide behind?
More Thoreauvian fashion tips next time.
(About “A Year in Walden”)