While engineers are far more challenged by fashion than most of our species, I don’t believe a lack of fashion sense is limited to engineers. I have the basic rules down, well as long as I’m wearing nothing more than business casual. Throw a tie into the mix and I fall to pieces. Now before I got married I was the epitome of style.
At least that’s the way I saw my world, apparently I was wrong. My purple corduroy bell bottoms, my polyester shirts, my yellow houndstooth suit jacket, all of these items were encouraged to travel to the thrift store after review by my wife.
Her review of my clothes forced me to re-examine my fundamental beliefs and buying practices. How could I have been so sure and still so wrong? That’s when I realized that fashion doesn’t have fixed rules, it changes. Ties go from fat to skinny and back. Colors go from soft pastel to bright and bold and just as quickly go back. Certain color pairing regarded as optimal are quickly replaced by understated color blends.
I’ve come to realize that as an engineer I have a certain latitude with my clothing. Fortunately nobody expects an engineer to have fashion sense. The sad truth is that if I dressed with the same fashion sense I used to believe I had, I would be mistaken for a lawyer or a stock broker, nobody would take me seriously as an engineer.
Still there seems to be no rhyme or reason to why fashion changes. I’m cynical enough that I believe much of the change in fashion is based on the clothing industries desire to sell us more clothes but how do they manage to convince rational human beings that unless you’re wearing just the right tie, you’ll be laughed out of any restaurant you attempt to dine in.
It was Sundae that finally explained why fashion changes to me. Sundae is one of our Australian Shepherds. She believes the rest of us are here to take care of her. As part of our duties we exercise her (and the rest of the pack) with a variety of balls. The dogs are spoiled and we provide them with specialty tennis balls, multicolored, complete with squeaker. The squeaker usually lasts about 10 minutes before Cajun forces me to remove it.
Here’s the thing, there are typically have four or five balls in the field. With the different colors and different amounts of wear, it’s easy to tell the balls apart. At the start of each play session, Sundae will test the balls until she finds the special ball for that play session. Very seldom is it the same ball as the last session. Once she makes her selection, the other dogs know that this ball is the special one. We can throw the other balls but once they realize that this is not “The One,” they stop chasing it or drop it.
What makes this ball special? It’s special because Sundae decided it was. Watching this, I finally realized that the other dogs had as little confidence in making the right selection as I did in selecting clothing. Sundae is the acknowledged expert in selecting the perfect ball for that session. Any ball not selected by Sundae is somehow inferior.
I love Sundae dearly but I don’t believe she has any special abilities allowing her to pick the perfect ball except her strong beliefs in her own choices. She’s the fashion trend setter because she’s passionate about her choices. The rest of the dogs acknowledge her choice as the special one because she made it.
Putting this revelation into human terms, my tie of the day is that special length to width ratio today, not because it matches some special harmonic number in the universe but because somewhere, Sundae’s human counterpart has dictated that this is absolutely the best choice for this week (we’ll have to wait and see about next week).
Thinking about fashion in these terms doesn’t make it any easier for me to select the right slacks to go with my shirt but it does make it easier for me to accept why combinations that worked last week are frowned on this week. There is no mathematical formula, there is no hidden manual on good fashion, somebody out there is telling us that this is the best ball and not having a better opinion ourselves, we believe them.
I’m not going to tell Sundae, she already wonders why I bother throwing the inferior balls.
© Copyright 2015 Byron Seastrunk, All rights Reserved. Written For: Opinion by pen