A STYLE-WRITER’S OBLIGATION ON MLK] DAY: [30 DAYS OF WRITING: EPISODE 18/30]
When I was a kid, I’d read the funny papers, eagerly, every Sunday morning. If it was Christmas or Thanksgiving or the 4th of July, most of the comics would know that. Even though, year by year, the round-headed kids never grew up, the orange cat never got old and arthritic, and the boy with the tiger never hit the awkward stage, on holidays, time meant something. For a few times a year, comic-wonderland and our earth-calendar aligned. Turkeys, Santa, Fireworks, even ballots — they all appeared for one day.
And then, there’d be some hanger-on, old-ass comic that would persist in its obliviousness to what day it was.
I feel the need to drop a pin at the point of the connection of style and the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement — because this is a men’s style blog and it’s MLK day and I will not publish the style blog equivalent of four panels of zany army-guys, frolicking on an army base.
Today, the style blogs should stand, remove their hats, and pay their respects.
I recall seeing pictures of MLK in my high school textbooks, and while he has a face both kind and fierce, I recall being struck by the simple, dapper elegance of his hats. I was a teenager, easily struck by such things.
Later, as a high school teacher, bringing students to Montgomery, Alabama’s Bus Boycott Museum, MLK’s hats were the last thing on my mind. There was a message I needed to communicate to my students. It was urgent.
But an online image-search brought that high-school memory back to me.
If I didn’t know who MLK was, if I didn’t know that he was one of the most important leaders humanity has ever known, if I didn’t recognize his face, then this is what I could guess from what he wore:
Some values, like dignity and grace, are worth hanging on to, keeping above the brow, between the eyes. And when doing the most important work on earth, it’s worth being aware that all eyes are on you. Present a persona that lends gravitas to the office.
Sometimes, form is as important as function. The words we choose to use are as critical as the vision they convey. No form is as fine as a fedora, and no one could craft words like Dr. King.
I offer this as a small tribute to this immense figure. All year, let us do the work of bringing his dream into reality.