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Friday, April 19, 2024

Literary Lessons: Fashionable Reading

I would love to be an artist. I would go to a pond with my easel and beret and I would oil paint still-lifes of the ladybugs and water lilies. I would also have to learn French and dye my hair jet black with short bangs. It would be the classiest version of myself that I could possibly attain.

Unfortunately, I can neither draw nor pull off jet-black hair without looking surprisingly similar to a vampire, so my dreams of being absolutely and utterly cultured are out the window. And in terms of art, because stick figures are about as good as it gets for me, I have found that fashion is a good middle point for my artistic endeavors. Someone else makes the art, and I get to piece it together and put it on display.

I have to admit I put a lot of value on what other people do and do not wear. Every morning, a person makes a decision on how the vast majority of people are going to perceive them. I personally know about 0.1 percent of people at UC Davis. That means that when I’m piddle-paddling around campus, 99.9 percent of people only know me based on what I’m wearing and how I present myself. What we put on tells others a surprising amount about our values, what we find important, what kind of a phase we are going through and our general aesthetic of life. Whether it’s actively choosing not to get nicely dressed up in the morning, needing to wake up at 5 a.m. to get everything in order or somewhere in between, the way we look is a big part of the impression we give to others.

I also think that certain outfits are drawn to certain books. When I see what someone wears, I often categorize them under a genre of literature. Not that I have done anything close to an experiment on this; it’s just that I often bring up the topic of books during conversations, so I’ve had plenty of opportunities to associate fashion with genre choices.

So, for everyone who wants to make assumptions about other people without getting to know them, here is my list of literary genres according to people’s fashion choices.

Exciting leggings: This person likes confusing books. She last read Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom and was one of the few people who knew what was happening the whole time. Her exciting leggings are an ironic metaphor for the banality of regular existence: in a world void of imagination, her leggings with intergalactic kittens contrast the sea of jeans and white T-shirts. Just like the twisted tale of a civil war patriarch, her leggings — and her outlook on life — are intense.

Clothes with holes/stains: Dude, he just finished Hesse’s Siddhartha and he’s realizing that his old attachment to early objects is really ruining, like, his vibe, you know? Everything is just so contrived and he wants to move past materialism and place greater importance on the real issues — like how to keep his kombucha from dying. Real talk.

Uggs with shorts: Whatever books these people read must not have any seasonal settings, because it seems as if they’ve never run across an explanation of winter, and how that’s different from a thing called summer. Or maybe they just have really cold feet and then really warm legs. I heard humans lose heat from their extremities, but I’m still pretty skeptical on the mismatched combination.

Super expensive clothes: This person just finished Tina Fey’s Bossypants and found it super relatable. She also just bought Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?. She’s really smart, but for whatever reason she just refuses to read substantive books. Not saying that Tina Fey isn’t substantive, it’s just that this person is selling herself short. She would probably like Bronte’s Wuthering Heights if she gave it a chance, but she won’t because the copy you gave her was from a thrift store and smells like old cigarettes.

Interesting glasses: After finishing Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions, this guy couldn’t trust his girlfriend anymore because he was almost convinced she was a robot. Like his glasses, he’s a little strange, and he reads sci-fi because it fills his need for weirdness.

I hope that instead of relying on my very comprehensive list, you go and actually talk to these people before deciding a bunch of things about them. On the other hand, if during this conversation they tell you their favorite book is The Catcher in the Rye, let the judgment commence.


To make clothes out of books with EREN KAVVAS, you should email her at ebkavvas@ucdavis.edu.



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