Written by Roger Baylor
Underwear? Just the cleanest pair, I suppose.
Beer-related tees … well, with only 150 to choose from, the top of the stack will do.
Sandals this time? Nah, just sneakers.
Throw in my wallet, iPhone and a Sharpie, and it’s off to the daily grind.
When the Woodstock Music & Art Fair took place in 1969, I was only nine years old, far too young to completely understand what was occurring in America amid the generational upheavals depicted nightly on the boob tube.
And yet, the tumult made an enduring impact on my youthful, evolving consciousness. Something was happening, and just like Bob Dylan’s apocryphal Mr. Jones, I didn’t know what it was. However, it was awfully exciting, if for no other reason than the older generation’s oft-repeated annoyance and exasperation.
This turbulent era was devoted to letting it all hang out, and one of its classic mantras has stayed with me as I trudge through life.
“Never trust anyone wearing a suit.”
Obviously, the powers that be – corrupt politicians, wielders of capital, exploiters of the proletariat – all wore suits (and still do, most recently in Tampa). The flower children of the Sixties held that insofar as the middle and lower classes sought to imitate the mores of their wealthier “betters”, adapting such formal costumery was unwitting obeisance, better avoided than indulged.
But bizarrely, here was a topic upon which both Baby Boom hippies and my Great Depression father should have been able to agree, had it not been for his inability to move past the length of their hair and actually listen to them. If my dad so much as owned a suit, it was reserved for weddings and funerals, and grudgingly donned even then. He was a working man’s populist to the core, and every bit as suspicious of moneyed elites and polite society as any bandana-wearing revolutionary on campus.
In a different country than the United States, one with more than two political parties to channel societal fidelity, his course in life might have been profoundly altered. However, in striving arduously for his place amid a middle class perhaps already doomed, my father inexorably was steered by these very same besuited powerbrokers into emulating them by craving a modicum of their material trappings – suits excepted.
In fairness, a vast majority of the rebellious hippies at Woodstock eventually discarded their youthful principles and veered down the same materialistic path, although arguably diverging from my father’s way in one very important sense: As the Baby Boomers aged, they became steadily more selfish, to the point that they’re now refusing to pay taxes and wearing not suits, but faux Colonial garb to tacky themed gatherings.
To the very end of his life, my father retained his agrarian communal populist instincts. Somewhere else, he might have been one hell of a socialist. We’ll never know, and that’s a shame.
In terms of attire, suits remain a matter of dubious trust, at least for me. It is true that I’ve found it possible to trust some of those wearing suits, but only after verifying their bona fides (thanks for the advice, Ronnie RayGun). Even so, the mere presence of ties, vests and cuff links persists in being highly discomfiting, symbolizing a homogenous, conservative façade that must be torn apart Socratically to extract the masked essences within.
I prefer my books to be open, not shut, and so personal comfort, ideological preference and an active desire to move freely about, unconstrained by irrelevant adornments, have conspired to produce an ongoing absence of suits in my wardrobe. Sartorial elegance is over-rated, anyway.
It’s better to consult with the mirror, know yourself, and dispense with redundant fantasies of a GQ modeling gig. Better to be unbound by convention, custom, prejudice and clothes that actually match. “Unsuitability” is a state of existence almost as liberating as Woodstock, especially since there are times when it still infuriates the unreconstructed Nixonian generation.
This makes me very, very happy.
There are many reasons why the craft beer milieu “suits” me as both job and lifestyle choice, and chief among them is this very casualness, which “suitably” contrasts with prevailing business school assumptions about the genre’s dynamic, expansive business success.
We hear them squirm: “Huh? A 12% growth rate nationwide … during a recession … and none of you wear the businessman’s uniform, so as to buff and fluff the lovable share holders, and look just like the rest of us? How on earth is this possible?”
Because it ain’t the meat, dude; it’s the sweet hop emotion.
Because it matters far less how we look than how we create.
Because if we had conformed to the expectations of what fuddy-duddy, numbers-obsessed, anal-tailored dandies believe beer should be, there’d be no craft beer at all.
As opposed to formal business wear, craft beer creates interest where there is none. It adaptively reuses, and leaps ahead of tired habit. It is vibrant, evolutionary and exciting. It makes you want to live, not whither.
I dress casually – proudly, arrogantly – for my chosen job, and watch as those bankers and lawyers with whom I transact company affairs gleefully change at their first opportunity into shorts and t-shirts, and rush over to drink craft beer. I’m reminded that one wonderful aspect of my job is that I can dress the same way working and drinking. It simply does not matter what I wear, nor should it.
A college professor friend used to greet unsuspecting new sociology students in the guise of a custodian. With the class awaiting the arrival of the instructor, he’d enter the room clad in work overalls, lope around, dust a shelf and empty the trash can — and then begin talking about sociology.
You can imagine the students’ collective reaction, gleaned entirely from conditioned responses to mere appearance, as opposed to content: Who does the lowly janitor think he is? What could he possibly know abut sociology? Naturally, he knew quite a lot.
It would have made perfect sense to a listener with eyes wide shut.
Whether I’m clothed in an Armani suit, Paul Ryan’s loincloth, a hoop skirt or medieval chain mail, it’s all about the beer, and all about another yet marvelous opportunity to remind myself that while aging may be inevitable, attitudes grown old and stodgy can be avoided.
Now, if you’ll kindly excuse me, I have a load of “These Machines Kill Fascists” t-shirts to wash. Speaking of uniforms …