This past Saturday began as most my Saturdays begin, with a five mile run around Wascana Lake. But later on in the morning, taking my fat little pencil to Market, I felt a little bit different. I felt different because it was my birthday!
All palmy Saturday I could not stop reminding me that I’m a long ways from my world debut in a birthday suit. Now I have threads! I’ve fifteen black shirts long-sleeved with collars, eleven white shirts long-sleeved with collars, five pairs of blue jeans for work, four pairs of blue jeans for busking, three pairs of boots, one cowboy, one working, one hiking, and two pairs of sandals.
Research has confirmed that the raiment in which we wrap ourselves, our garment our apparel our attire, actually primes our brain to function and operate accordingly. In a line, we become what we wear.
In the 90’s Barbara Fredrickson found that women who were given math tests performed worse when wearing a swimsuit rather than a sweater. Research suggests that a person’s mental agility improves when wearing a white coat. Adam Galinsky referred to this phenomenon as Enclothed Cognition. Galinsky found that when research participants wore a medical doctor’s coat, their mental capacities sharpened; whereas, their performance was not significantly altered when they thought they were wearing a painter’s coat.
Professor Karen Pine had students don Superman t-shirts. And when they did, Professor Pine noted that their self-impressions had been boosted, and they actually thought themselves stronger than those in the control groups. Pine was convinced that clothing can change minds. In her latest book, Mind What You Wear: The Psychology of Fashion, she describes the link between women’s moods and their choice of clothes. Women are more likely to wear jeans when feeling low. Clothing can reinforce negative moods – when we are stressed our world narrows and we dress simpler.
And I remember simpler.
My earliest memory of being in costume was, at six years of age, wearing a coonskin Davy Crockett hat and a leather-fringed Davy Crockett jacket.
At seven years of age a friend, Randy Corbin, wore pink pants to school. Within a week, there were several of us wearing our new pink pants to school.
As an early adolescent my grandma allowed me the luxury one pair of pants and two shirts per week to wear to school. We did not have indoor plumbing at the time.
And I can remember one September, driving into Swift Current and buying several new shirts and jeans and two dickeys, one black and one white. Dickeys were the rage in 1966.
At one time in our town (Vanguard, Saskatchewan), all the guys had BRYLCREEM hair, madras shirts, blue laminate jackets, tight jeans with a rat tail comb in the back pocket, and pointed leather shoes.
Then, by the time I had graduated from high school, grease was out and the dry look was in – no more BRYLCREEM. And my girlfriend had bought for me in the latest of fashion, three Alpaca sweaters, an Ebony, an Ivory, and a Midnight Blue.
My university garb was always a Canadian tuxedo, t-shirt and jeans, and hiking boots, except when I did my teaching practicum. During this four month internship, I sold my International half-ton truck, and bought some sports jackets and dress pants to teach alongside my mentors. (I’ll mention that immediately following this period, I was hired as a high school English teacher, then ditched the dress shirts and dress pants, and reverted back to t-shirts and jeans and hiking boots, but kept wrapped in the sports jackets.)
The notion of Enclothed Cognition demonstrates the importance of symbolic association of garments as being the mechanism for altered cognitions. Clothes change the way we think and feel. I feel much different when dressed up for teaching at the university than when dressed down for busking.
Whilst standing in front of a university class, my attire cap-a-pie, is hatless, with either a black or white dress shirt, a sports jacket overtop, jeans for pants and brown-polished dress shoes for wheels.
Whilst guitar busking, I often wear a Brixton hat, a tight white t-shirt, worn-out faded blue jeans, and polished-black work boots.
My new gig, sketching pencil portraits, I cover my noggin with a black and white checked bowler, my shirt is always white, long-sleeved, and with a collar. And I wear grey cargo short pants and brown leather sandals.
Enclothed Cognition works for me. If I want to feel happier and more confident --- I wear the right clothes. The garb I choose does make a difference. My raiment doth have that ability to advert my attention to the things I am doing. My attire is akin to an Aesopian fable, conveying innocence to an outsider, but a hidden meaning to me. As a busker, I never want to present my image as being a clochard or cadger. With my guitar I like to present windswept and breezy; while with pencil I like to present a bit more polish.
My CHAUCERIAN PARADE this week has got to begin with the voluptuous cowgirl who pulled up alongside me in her black Dodge Ram as I was guitar busking at VALUE VILLAGE.
“Do you know any Janis Joplin?” she asked.
As I thrummed one out, twisting in her knee-high cowboy boots, she gyrated and grinded against me in her tight satin blouse and skin-tight jeans, while singing her unique version of Me and Bobby McGee. I must confess I was mildly aroused … I mean amused (Freudian slip)!
And I must include some pictures of some of my consumers and their portraitures at the FARMERS’ MARKET:
From birthday suit to swaddling clothes to work-a-day duds ...
Last Saturday at the MARKET was just another day in my costume party life! In fact, by midnight, with my brand new leather barbeque gloves, I had transmogrified from busker to boxer!