Rendered Fat Content


Gordon W. Gahan:
Untitled [man in white shirt and fedora] (1965-1968)

" … clearly styling."

Success seems to attract symbols of its presence, none more prominent, I suspect, than wardrobe. We 'dress for success,' as if our manner of dress would quite reasonably attract Success to us, and I suppose that this practice even works, after a fashion. I know I subscribed to 'dress for success' magical thinking during my tenure at The Insurance Company. I'd carefully shop the sale racks at the "better" haberdashers and spend every Sunday evening ironing my week's shirts, heavy on the starch. I arrived at the office each morning in costume and ready to perform the role of an up-and-comer, poised to impress myself, if nobody else. And I suppose those strange attractors worked, more or less, for my fortunes steadily rose there, and that Success could not possibly have been related to any particular talent I possessed. I might as well blame that Success on the vests.

Others possess lucky underpants, socks, and tee shirts; some even carry a "lucky" rabbit's foot on their keychain.
We seem to need to have some tangible symbol of our Success to maintain its presence in our lives. Mine's a fine fedora I bought on our honeymoon in Rome, one afternoon when I'd gone roaming around hoping to get lost and then found, as one does when hanging around any ancient city. I knew I'd paid way too much for the thing, but I could not bring myself to purchase any but the very best once I'd tried on that one. A fine mouse grey and finished perfectly, it was far above my then-current station, but I felt like the million bucks I’d never see when wearing the damned thing. I returned from that excursion with my head in the clouds.

I'd taken my possession to a hat shop in Denver for cleaning, and the fellow there came close to ruining it. He was experienced, I guess, in torturing cowboy hats, which hardly qualify as headgear in my book. The cowboy models get starched and stiffened and never were designed to be shaped and softened like my SuperBorsolino should be treated. He returned from his back room with a sodden bucket about as shapely as a saturated shopping bag. I was equally heartbroken and furious, for he had mangled my most obvious evidence of Success, trampling my social status and running me into a deep ditch. He shipped the poor thing off to his corporate headquarters for treatment, and I received a much subdued and chastened fedora via return mail. I've remained quietly furious since.

Yesterday, visiting Portland, I stopped into the haberdasher of record, focused on finally refinishing my SuperBorsolino. Showing due deference, the clerk directed me to a hatter who had set up shop to create custom hats and rework classics. I called the guy and made an appointment. His office, replete with dog, resembled a bespoke tailor's, with hat forms lining shelves and curious equipment. He, himself, seemed starched and straight, an evident gentleman's gentleman, patient, deferent, and understanding. Here was a fellow who clearly understood a man's symbolism, one who could be trusted with one's most sacred object. He reverently fingered the brim and the crease, suggesting various treatments. Finally, he agreed to perform his magic overnight. I left his premises impressed, my head back into its original cloud, just as if it was wearing its Success again, returning to well above its station where it belongs. Thank God for an authentic artisan!

If my story seems silly, I insist I'm deadly serious here. This hat, this lid, represents all of the very best contributions I've ever made to civilization, my Success. It says more than I can report, for it exclusively communicates in silent code, which has no representative dialect. It speaks volumes, though, to those in that particular know. Those who know the meaning of true craftsmanship and style, those who appreciate design and finish. This ain't no ball cap turned backward, which seems to me to represent a certain slackishness. If one cannot even be bothered to center their hat, I distrust them to make consequential decisions or choices. I wear my Success like a fine fedora, a little out of date, perhaps, but clearly styling.

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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