Thursday, November 02, 2006

Dressing Down

Last week, I told my students that I would give an extra credit point to anyone who wore a costume on Halloween. One brave soul, Chelsea, dared me to do the same. Now, I've been known to back down from a dare or two, but wearing a costume? Hell, I was just waiting for a good excuse.

I decided that I would dress like a redneck, complete with stained clothes, Red Man, spit cup, the whole nine yards. It's worth pointing out that I tend to get a little uptight about my costumes. In other words, it wasn't enough that I went as a redneck; I had to be accurate. I grew out my moustache for a few days, then sculpted my facial hair so it looked like I had a fu manchu. I dug out my tight jeans, hiking boots, and paint-spattered flannel shirt. I bought a wig, a baseball cap, sunglasses, and a wife-beater. I was on my way.

Before I finalized my costume, I decided to do some last minute research, so I went to Redneck Mecca. Wandering around the Wal-Mart, I played a little game of Jane Goodall, carefully observing my inspiration. As I looked over the young gentlemen in the store, I began to wonder if there was a redneck style guide. How did they all know to bend their caps the same way and wear the same five tartan designs on their plaid shirts? Was this something that Daddy taught them, or was is somehow encoded in their DNA? Regardless, I collected the data I needed and went on my merry way.

As I was driving to the store for a few last-minute items, I saw an older man standing at an intersection, with a sign that said "Need Food." Now, it's pretty uncommon to see people begging around here; in fact, this is the first beggar I've ever seen in the area, and it was clear that he was uncomfortable. His clothes were clean and tidy, albeit typically redneck; he had the military jacket, the dark jeans, the hiking boots and the Chevy baseball cap. Thinking about it later, I realized that he had definitely taken pride in his appearance. His tastes were wildly different from my own, but it was clear that he'd put some serious thought into what he wore. Watching the rednecks wandering around the mall, I noticed the same thing--my extreme stereotype was, simply, inaccurate.

When I got home, I decided to tweak my costume. I cleaned my jeans and boots, bought a brand-new flannel shirt for the ensemble, and added my dad's old Navy jacket. Looking at myself in the mirror, I knew that I'd hit it--mildly disreputable, but clean and tidy. I realized that there were only three sour notes: my jeans flared out at the bottom; my flannel shirt had shrunk, making me look like I had Frankenstein arms; and the only big belt buckle I could find was an old Soviet mariner's insignia. Still, the look worked. In fact, I decided that the too-short sleeves enhanced the costume a little.

The next day, I discovered that it's possible for a costume to be too perfect. I found that the number of flirty glances that I got had definitely tapered off. This isn't to say that I didn't get attention. In fact, in one grocery store, the security guard was extremely solicitous, and the Burger King near school seemed eager to fill my order and get me out the door. The attitudes of my colleagues, on the other hand, didn't change at all; many of them didn't notice that I was wearing a costume. Now, I've been known to let standards slip here and there, but come on! My students figured it out immediately.

So here's what I learned:

1. A wife-beater only looks good if you weigh 150 pounds and have less than 5% body fat.

2. Some of my co-workers are morons.

3. Redneck facial hair is itchy.

4. I still have Catholic guilt, and it still completely rules my life.

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  • That's it...the "too short" sleeves perfected the look uh...perfectly.

    But the Old Navy hat? I coulda loaned you my John Deere hat if I'd have known

    By Anonymous Drib, At November 2, 2006 at 11:42 AM  

  • No, it was a Shlitz hat. Olive Navy coat from the mid-1960's (not pictured). I think any Old Navy clothing would have forcibly ejected itself from this costume.

    By the way, you get some serious redneck steet cred for a John Deere hat. On behalf of my neighbors, I'm impressed!

    By Blogger Crankster, At November 2, 2006 at 11:53 AM  

  • I've always considered Walmart an anthropological field study. A belt buckle of the Confederate flag would have worked better than anything Russian. Rednecks still think the Cold War is going on. No, scratch that. It's the Civil War that overly concerns them if they're Southern rednecks.

    Redneckism is not regional, though. They're everywhere, and in fact, they are now in the majority. Rednecks ARE American culture.

    You're the kind of cool teacher I would have liked to have. What grade do you teach?

    By Blogger heartinsanfrancisco, At November 2, 2006 at 12:05 PM  

  • Hearts-
    That's exactly why I like to shop at Wal-Mart. Where else can you buy food, shampoo, cameras, and tires while watching people who are hanging on to the bottom rung of the evolutionary ladder. I think Wally World needs to market the entertainment value of their stores.

    Regarding the Soviet insignia, I was in good shape, as it was impossible to read from any more than a foot away. Luckily, nobody approached within a foot of my belt. Besides, having grown up in Virginia, I can produce some pretty solid redneck camouflage.

    As far as work, I teach grades thirteen through sixteen. ;-)

    By Blogger Crankster, At November 2, 2006 at 1:24 PM  

  • I see that nobody has asked this, probably out of respect for your catholicism, but where does catholic guilt come into dressing as a redneck?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 2, 2006 at 1:55 PM  

  • D-
    I guess I wasn't clear about that, was I? Thanks for the heads-up.

    I felt guilty because I was making fun of a group of people after I saw a member of that group who appeared to be down on his luck. In some ways, I felt like I was kicking him when he was down. The other thing, of course, is that my stereotype was pretty condescending, even if it was somewhat accurate.

    Regarding the Catholic guilt, I'm the first to admit that it's absurd. I haven't been to mass in a couple of years, but my conscience is still set on overdrive. Ugh. I wish my parents were Methodists.

    By Blogger Crankster, At November 2, 2006 at 4:50 PM  

  • Wow, you do have powerful Catholic guilt, don’t you? Say a few Hail Mary's or something. That should take care of it. ;)

    Great costume, by the way. You would have had me totally fooled. :)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 2, 2006 at 5:16 PM  

  • Oh, and I meant to ask -- What are grades 13 - 16? College? Or high school for people who stayed back a lot through the years? :)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 2, 2006 at 5:36 PM  

  • You look a lot like my ex husband. If you were 20 years older. And shorter. And not as nice looking. And had an IQ 5000 points less than you do.

    But if you want to compare religious guilt, I was raised Pentecostal. Holy crap is that hard to get over... but I'm doing my best.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 2, 2006 at 5:59 PM  

  • You shoulda checked out mulletsgalore for hair tips!

    Sorry about that Catholic guilt business. I gave it up for sneering intolerance. ;)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 2, 2006 at 6:08 PM  

  • If it wasn't for you, I would never have known what 'wife-beater' is!

    Anyway, I have a question. Are all cowboys, redneck?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 2, 2006 at 6:48 PM  

  • that is a really good question Ramo, and I haven't the slightest idea.

    The scariest thing about crankster's costume is the slack-jawed jokel thing he had going on with it to. Somehow he managed to get the same unhinged jaw thing going on that the rednecks do. It instantly lowers the IQ to about 70. I mean, you can't help be be stupid when you do that with your face.

    So yes, for me, this was an immensely frightening costume.

    By Blogger misanthropster, At November 2, 2006 at 7:20 PM  

  • ramo - no, really real cowboys are HOT!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 2, 2006 at 8:18 PM  

  • Parlancheq-
    With the facial hair and everything, I felt like I couldn't get out of the costume. A little scary. 13-16 are college, although I'm not sure about some of my students.

    Mullets are wonderful, aren't they. The best one is the "Lesbian redneck mullet," which may be a SW Virginia special. It's truly amazing.

    If you take a cowboy, get rid of the cool clothes, remove the mystique, put a few pounds on him, and stick him in a La-Z-Boy chair, then you get a redneck. Wait, that's mean, isn't it?

    By Blogger Crankster, At November 2, 2006 at 8:31 PM  

  • Where's your PBR?

    By Blogger mist1, At November 2, 2006 at 9:35 PM  

  • Just D-
    You're a recovering Pentecostal? I tip my hat!

    You got me--the costume's incomplete. Since I wore it in the classroom, allowances had to be made.

    Given my druthers, of course, I'd have brought in a bottle of Old Crow. Special NASCAR edition.

    By Blogger Crankster, At November 2, 2006 at 9:52 PM  

  • You did nail the look!

    By Blogger Nihilistic, At November 3, 2006 at 2:20 AM  

  • What's your field? Let me guess, Sociology. Or maybe Mass Marketing. :)

    Would you believe the nearest Walmart to us is about 40 miles away across SF Bay. I've noticed that no matter where I live, which has included NY, MN, MA, VT, NC, FL, TN and CA, the people at Walmart are exactly the same. How can this be?

    I miss it. Nothing quite compares with buying toilet paper, space heaters and potting soil in the same store.

    By Blogger heartinsanfrancisco, At November 3, 2006 at 2:25 AM  

  • You're missing a coupla other accoutrements: the faded circle imprint from the Skoal tin on your ass and the chain that attaches your belt to your wallet like it's got somethin worth stealin' in it. A big-ass folding buck-knife would be good too, 'cept your school probably wouldn't have gone for that.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 3, 2006 at 9:38 AM  

  • What Lee said. Show me the chain and you live in the farm country five or six miles away from me. I hate being ignorant, but what's a wife beater? Is my wife missing out on something good?

    And what's wrong with a Buck knife? I had a Gerber for years. I wouldn't leave the house without it.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 3, 2006 at 11:17 AM  

  • Hearts-
    I know exactly what you mean about Wal-Mart. It's as if they import the customers. I think it has something to do with all the stores selling the same clothes.

    And I thought I was obsessive! Clearly, I need to seek your advice next time. However, it's worth noting that, in this area at least, chain wallets are more of a lesbian accessory.

    A "wife beater" is an A-line undershirt. I think they got their name from Marlon Brando's wardrobe in A Streetcar Named Desire.

    As far as knives, I'm with you. I keep a pocketknife in my messenger bag. A Buck knife, though, is seriously redneck. Gerbers, on the other hand, are decidedly un-redneck. The same goes for Kershaws.

    By Blogger Crankster, At November 3, 2006 at 12:13 PM  

  • ok..i'm a day late..but i keep getting interupted at work every time I try to read a blog!
    Pretty funny that your co-workers didn't even notice.

    By Anonymous Odat, At November 3, 2006 at 2:11 PM  

  • Maybe they thought you were undercover with the FBI.

    I guess Swiss Army knives don't even make the cut, huh?

    By Blogger heartinsanfrancisco, At November 3, 2006 at 3:01 PM  

  • Sorry for being late on this one, but it just occurred to me: you nailed kilgore trout's author photo.

    By Anonymous John, At November 3, 2006 at 6:02 PM  

  • Odat-
    Good to hear from you! Funny...and sad.

    I'm not sure they thought about it that much. Swiss Army Knives...I dunno, aren't the Swiss lahk...uh, French? I only buy Amurrican.

    Nice to hear from you again. Well, I've never been accused of being a Venus on the Half-shell, but you never know...

    By Blogger Crankster, At November 3, 2006 at 6:25 PM  

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