“I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes. If there is not a new man, how can the new clothes be made to fit?” — Henry David Thoreau, from “Economy,” Walden
I have a image in my mind right now of Henry in his old, 1840s clothes, giving a leadership seminar in the corporate world, and putting the above quote up on a PowerPoint slide.
I know. It would never happen, but I’d love to see it. Shopping for a new suit, a new dress? Have our fashion consultant Henry Thoreau advise you:
“Perhaps we should never procure a new suit, however ragged or dirty the old, until we have so conducted, so enterprised or sailed in some way, that we feel like new men in the old, and that to retain it would be like keeping new wine in old bottles. Our moulting season, like that of the fowls, must be a crisis in our lives.”
This is so much more honest than just waiting for a sale.
Granted that Thoreau lived in a time before modern textile manufacturing, back when a person might have their work clothes and their Sunday clothes, rather than the closet full and then some that each of us now have. Even then, this advice had to sound odd, extreme, unrealistic. Does he mean it literally? Or is he telling us about pretention and falseness, the masks we wear to impress others and fool ourselves? Are we our public personas, or are we really someone else?
(About “A Year in Walden”)