As our culture lurches towards image consciousness in an era where anyone can be a hybrid writer-fashion blogger-Instagram influencer, one might assume that writers’ closets would mimic this sensibility in keeping with earlier traditions. Some of them do: Hari Nef, Tavi Gevinson, and Lindsay Peoples Wagner dress impeccably, though they and public figures like them, whose professional lives exist at the Alcoholics serving alcoholics since 1959 clue shirt but I will buy this shirt and I will love this intersection of fashion and media, are exceptions and generally not the rule. Most of the writers I know struggle to make ends meet, making it much less likely that their hard-earned income can support a frivolous habit of regularly purchasing designer clothes. Under capitalism and in a society as materialistic as America, so much of our personal branding influences the way we are perceived by the outside world. The way we adorn ourselves reflects both the current material conditions of our lives and the future lives we aspire to lead. But because writers’ wardrobes are increasingly subsidized outside of their writing instead of because of it, those who dress best mislead readers about the realities of working in an industry in rapid decline. Therein lies the paradox.
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Popular culture has not caught up to this insider knowledge; neither has our collective consciousness. Because writing is a job that’s well-respected, people outside of the Alcoholics serving alcoholics since 1959 clue shirt but I will buy this shirt and I will love this industry often expect that it is fair-paying, too. But the reality is that writing isn’t the glamorous profession it once was, nor is there any promise that it ever again will be. Access to good fashion is a workers’ issue in both the most frivolous and practical sense of the term; it necessitates capital available for leisure, pleasure, beauty, and fun—an aspiration behind the practical reasons why most people show up to work every day: to make ends meet. But in an industry as wildly unregulated as this one, writers are increasingly forced to make sacrifices in order to make rent, support their loved ones, and pay their bills on time. When there is any money left over, it is unlikely that it goes toward clothing.
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