If I had body dysmorphia, I would focus on my hands. My Oma had lived through World War II, and her hands were saving tools that moved instead of raising to ask a questions, and I admired them as I did her, that iron lady. When I had my first jobs at 15, cleaning hotel rooms and working in a metal factory for a summer afterward, I understood why she took care to balm her hands after doing laundry for others, and I wished I'd done it more for her. It's little wonder then that hands have become a motif I am drawn to in art, be it a Farm Security Administration photo of migrant workers by Dorothea Lange, Auguste Rodin's hands sculptures, or the Arthur Levine photo that accompanies this blog.
If I had to pick one reason for deciding on one piece of clothes over another, it would be if I can move in them. I need to be able to touch my toes, raise my arms above my head and out to the sides, and run in them if needed. I need to be able to move my body in the ways I know how to even if I don't need to primarily, and that ease in being able to do so translates into how I move in my clothes, and ultimately how comfortable I am, a kern of style. If you have ever put on the shirt off the rack that's calling your name like Circe, but the neck is just a little too tight when you close the top button, or the sleeve lengths are just a little off, or the chest is a little tight, that shirt is not for you. Don't let that little magnify into having your attention being called to it constantly. Don't let it become a pair of hands.
My Papi gave me my first knife, an Opinel #8 and later a Buck 110 folder. Unless I'm traveling or heading through a scanner, I always have one in my pocket. And yes, I've been that guy who's stashing his knife in some misbegotten corner before a concert because I forgot to leave it in my car. My father raised me to view the knife as a tool, from peeling innumerable apples, to opening a stubborn aluminum can of water in the desert, to opening a door that locked behind me, to pulling an earthworm out of a puddle of sludge to save it with my six-year old. Besides the knife, there's always a bandana in another, a belt, and a carabiner. The potential of these four items working together is incredible, and if I'm missing one, I feel a little less whole.
It's not just the lessons of my Oma and Papi that are reflected in what I think of when I slide my hands easily in my pockets, but the potential of what I can do for myself, for my family, for others. On this Labor Day, take care to clean those items in your pockets, and take an extra dollop of cream to moisturize your hands.
And let us know what you carry in your pockets.