Saturday, August 22, 2009
Clothes: the Semiotics of Power
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Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "While the Cat's Away, the Mice Will Play":
These ROSSAC people like Kipley dress the way poor people who somehow climb the ladder and make a little money would dress. They have no clue. You can take them out of the trailer park but nothing changes. Go stand inside the lobby of ROSSAC and see all the frumpy styles you see that pass for well dressed in ROSSAC.
What is funny is that the better dressed the ROSSAC officials are, the more likelihood of their incompetence. They cover up their incompetence or criminal behavior by dressing up.
Same with teachers. The teachers who are dressed to the nines are usually lazy teachers who sit behind the desk and pass out worksheets. The young teachers in jeans and tshirts are working hard and inspiring the students, believe it or not, but ROSSAC wants everyone to dress up in the Cowtown, USA version of what is "professional" dress. All they care about is pretense. Not substance. I guarantee this. Go into any classroom in Hillsborough County and observe. You will see that the best dressed teachers are teaching nothing very well. The worst dressed teachers are working hard, and they have to dress down, because they are busy and getting hot from walking around the room helping students.
Go to ROSSAC and see what criminals they are, yet they are all dressed up.
Don't let clothing fool you. Schools should have substance, not pretense. Elia needs to read this.
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Posted by Anonymous to Lee Drury De Cesare's Casting-Room Couch at 11:09 AM
Lee comments: I post every comment that arrives to my blog. If we don't have free speech, we don't have a democracy.
Occasionally a reader email comes close to my beliefs. The above is one that is close.
The language of clothes is one of my hobbies. What you wear and how you wear it says a lot about your psyche and intelligence. This has been so since the first cave people started draping their naked bodies with bear fur. People are interested in how others dress and are concerned about people's opinion of how they dress. Dress is a highly semiotic political code.
I taught in college. There is a ubiquitous campus dress code that I call academic grunge in colleges and universities worn by too many insecure men with Ph.D.s in abstruse subjects who want students to think they are cool, young, and with it.
The uniform consists of ragged jeans, cutoffs, sneakers or sandals. Too often hygiene is subpar. This situation says in the wistful thinking of the grunge professors that although people who dress in ultra-casual hobo attire may have Ph.D.s in the classics, they are cool dudes who are about the age of the students or want to be considered so and are walking repositories of semen overload macho men.
I knew a guy who had a Ph.D. from MIT who wore jeans with holes all over them showing his underwear and flip flops with socks (I am not making this up) in need of detergents of the more robust sort who was always hitting on coeds. The girls would turn from his overtures and raise their eyes heavenward. Poor ignorant man; he made a fool of himself despite his first-class academic training and sharp mind in his field. After retirement, he has gone to live in Hawaii. I pray the people there are more forgiving about clothes than they are on the mainland for his sake.
Clothes sense distributes itself in a mysterious way. Just because you are smart in theoretical physics does not assure good taste in clothes.
To teach in college, I wore a conservative suit and medium pumps. Looking conservative helped me teach Shakespeare to unwilling freshmen because it made me look like a serious educator. I thought quiet attire gave me the look of authority that a professor should have. Attired in a suit, a power garment, I could also quell any cute comments with a satiric jab of at the reluctant scholar.
Once in a while I wore jeans with a suit top and medium pumps but not often. Occasionally, I affected a pair of whacky Prada shoes that I got at a knockdown in NY at Bergdorf Christmas sales. Good outre shoes from top designers who have the aesthetic insight to come up with them
cost a lot of money . A Nutty shoe display enchanted the students when I wore a pair of Pradas that I got for a mere $300 reduced from $1200 at Bergdorfs on my Christmas visit to NY. They hoped the shoes meant I was finally going crazy mid a Shakespeare quote.
Students like nothing better than to hope and pray that a teacher becomes psychotic right before their eyes. It's best to make the transition to madness in a suit; then only the astute will note it such as the student who wrote on my semester evaluation, "Off the wall but knows her stuff."
I think the above email writer has captured much of the couture ethos of public-school teachers and administrators. I don't know if the well-dressed ones--or the ones who think they are well dressed--are the worst teachers as this writer says, but the writer is entitled to make a case that they are. I believe Candy Olson and Linda Kipley would be disasters as teachers. But these specimens are also probably anal-retentive with all the baleful traits that trait implies.
Good clothes sense does non guarantee sense in other areas. I know that the best-dressed female administrator at ROSSAC made the mistake of not getting sufficient insurance in the case of the school in which a wall fell down after construction. Her degree is in early childhood; she heads a department that should have somebody with a business degree or at least business sense. Of course Gonzalez never thought to mention this insurance need. He looks like he slept in his clothes. There's also the matter of the nut-oil stains and cola blotches drizzled down his front as he eats chips and nuts and guzzles sodas during the formal part of the meeting. That gaucherie deserves a Professional Standards charge if ever anything did. I may send La Kipley one to memorialize his slovenliness.
The college--namely the tax payers--had to pay to rebuild the wall for which Gonzales did not recommend the insurance.
In ROSSAC, clothes are universally tacky except for the one case cited above. The Rossac fashion quidnuncs have no idea of what chic clothes consist and how to wear them. The administrators don't know how to dress to convey elegance and authority. That knowledge is a kind of cultivated intelligence, and they lack it. Their sense of aesthetics is vestigial. Unlike teachers, they make good money, but they can't seem to bring themselves to buy good clothes.
Look at Ms. Elia, who pulls down $300,000 a year. She could get on a plane and go to Bergdorf's in NYC and get some decent duds, but she doesn't. She buys cheap knits locally that make her look like a sack of potatoes. If you are going to wear a knit, it has to be a good one like St. John's, or all your rolls of fat will show unless you are Twiggy.
Sometimes I think the double helix contains our taste levels in clothing as it does in all of our traits and that the taste gene is either good or bad in that master gene. A lot of people in the school administration seem to have inherited genes that have no sense of taste programmed into them at all. This genetic-attire stupidity makes for a pitiful display of ROSSAC ill-dressed dumbasses. The member semicircle on board night is a predictable hoot in the attire department. Minnie Pearl shows more sense of elegance than Candy Olson does. Don't get me started on the rest of them.
Never think that appearance does not count. You could walk into a room with a cure for AIDS, and if you are ill clad, nobody will pay you any attention. Read Sex and the Suit and The Language of Clothes to begin your education in this area. ldd
Posted by twinkobie at 11:59 AM