the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Case: Clothes

Author Tom Wolfe

It shouldn’t surprise you that I spend so much time online.  I can make myself seem interesting just by using the written word, and before you know it, women are throwing me their virtual bras at me.

In the real world, very few people on line at McDonald’s want to hear me read my latest blog post to them.  Believe me, I’ve tried.  I even tried giving away free Happy Meals.  Not one woman takes off her bra.

I fit into this online world.  A clever line is worth a lot.   It is the online equivalent of driving a Ferrari into the valet stand at a Beverly Hills bistro.  And online, you don’t even have to tip.

As much as web designers tell you about the importance of “blog design,” none of us read a blog because of the looks.  We would read a good blog published on a plain white page.

I like this word-based system.  I have fun conversations with men and women of all races and ages, from twenty-something to seventy.  Even when I see your photo on flickr, I rarely think about you in physical terms.  Your words come first.  If you write sexy, you come off as sexy.  I mean, I’m not going to lie.  I do notice what people look like.  Some of you are so gorgeous!  I just don’t think about it that much or treat anyone better because of it.   I’m mean – great – you have amazing boobs — but I’m not going to be touching them, so what’s the point?  I’m going to spend more time hanging with the regular-looking gal who turns me on with her jokes.  I’m more likely to describe you as “that mommyblogger” or “that bitch from Wisconsin” rather than “skinny” or “fat” or “Latino”

Unfortunately, things change in the real world.   You are not going to be as impressed with me when you see me wearing two different socks and I forgot to zip my fly.  I’m not even going to bring up the half-shaven off chest hair.  The first thing we notice when meeting someone is how the person looks.  Before they even open their mouth, we’ve created a whole history for this person. 

After posting about the Nehru jacket, I spent a while reading “The Sartorialist.”  I found the comments fascinating.  Some entries had a hundred comments, each commenter “reading” the photo, infusing the subject with life and meaning.   Commenters seemed to “understand” the people in the photos from what they looked like, especially from what  the clothes “say.”   Readers discuss the personal lives of these online subjects — their inner confidence, their life history, and even their moral character.  All from one photo!  I was half-hoping that someone would write in that they had played a joke — and dressed up a homeless woman as a chic woman in Brooklyn.  Someone even wrote that they want to be “best friends” with a young female subject wearing a green blouse.  For the most part, the subjects are young, good-looking model types.  Don’t ugly people ever dress in interesting clothes?  Or are they too afraid of standing out?  I think I can understand that.  I’ve spent most of my life wearing clothes that would make me fit in.

I did find one older woman in one of the photos.  Everyone loved her.  They wanted her to be their grandmother.   Check out the comments.  I showed the photo to my mother.  Even my mother fell in love with her natural “style” and the fact that she kept her gray hair.  I have a feeling that this woman could probably have been both Clinton and Obama just by appearing in this photo!

(via The Sartorialist)

Call me Scrooge, but I was wondering if this was a nice woman.   How do we know she’s not an asshole?  Because of her clothes? 

Why bother getting a Master’s degree when you can better spend your money buying some interesting clothes?   Or does the Master’s degree enable you to AFFORD these clothes?  

Of course, I picked the wrong Master’s degree.

I don’t spend too much time thinking about my blog design because YOU don’t seem to judge me on it.  Would you like me to have a flashier, Dooce-like blog design?  Would that make my blog seem classier? 

In the real world, it is clear that you ARE judged by what you wear.  People make incredible assumptions about a person’s character and position in society.

It makes me think, that as a writer, I should spend more attention to what my characters wear.  I should also spend more attention to what I wear, especially here in New York.  I might actually have to think about matching my socks.

Question:  Make believe that you meet me for the first time.  You don’t know me at all.  You’ve never read my blog.  I am wearing a Nehru jacket.  Do you “read” anything into this?

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month:  Things Every Man Should Do Before He Dies — #6 Buy a Drink for a Woman in a Bar


  1. Roadchick

    It might make me think that you are quirky . . . and I’d be expecting a stellar sense of humor tending toward the sarcastic/ironic side, because to carry off a Nehru jacket, you’ve got to be pretty sure of yourself.

  2. Leesa

    I have to agree with Roadchick.. I’d be even more impressed if you were wearing the Nehru jacket.

  3. Jane

    I actually like this blog design. It’s clean, simple, and easy to navigate. Those are good things for a manly man blog such as yours. Leave the frills for those who need ruffles and lace to make up for their once a month posts.

    Now, about this silly jacket obsession or, as I like to put it, the total avoidance of real life issues. If I saw you wearing a Nehru jacket, I would think “hey, there’s a fucktard.” I wouldn’t even think of cool, or Mike Meyers, or some long gone era. No, I would just think here’s a single man who is probably being dressed by eBay.

    Now please, get off the jackets and back to the important issues, like the soap opera of your life. Have you called Sophia? Did she answer? Have you even left the apartment?

  4. Neil

    Jane — I thought people were bored with the soap opera! I was trying to focus on the fashion and glamour of me being in the Big Apple, and trying to get my readers in Oklahoma to envy me as I go to all the posh clubs wearing my Nehru jacket.

    “Oh, Neilochka, you just look darlin’! Have you met Tom Wolfe. He loves your blog.”

    (don’t tell anyone that I have hardly left my house except for a walk to McDonald’s for a cup of coffee)

  5. Jane

    Hah! I knew it! Neilochka, get the hell out of the house tomorrow, or I will personally come to NY and drag you out. What will your mother’s friends think when you have an angry lesbian at your door? You will be in so much trouble with Mrs. Kramer.

    The saying is trite, but true: “Write what you know.” You don’t know from Nehru. And you won’t know MORE if you don’t go experience MORE.

    So, tomorrow. Bagel shop by 9 a.m., followed by a long walk in the park. A pastrami sandwich at a busy deli at noon, and then window shopping on a busy street, and then a bookstore. Home for a shower and some writing, then back OUT to shop for dinner at the local market. Walk home slowly.

    If you follow this plan for at least three days, you will be happier, maybe meet some new people, and have new stories! And Sophia will seem just that much farther away.

  6. Elisabeth

    “I am wearing a Nehru jacket”

    I am mentally adding “and pants, and pants, and pants.”

  7. gorillabuns

    I love drama and quite impressed with your fashion trends.

    – oklahoma reader

  8. Loralee

    The online world isn’t that different from in real life. Sure, there may not be the immediate assessment due to wardrobe but there is a similar process online. There are snap judgments, cliques, popularity contests, and people who wrap themselves up in their online “Wardrobe” as a shield, false exterior or simply an extension of their personalities. Much like people do with their clothing.

    Then there are the people who just don’t give a crap and wear yoga pants and a crumpled tshirt with uncombed hair to the grocery story, you also get people that and use a default template and free hosting.

    Much like in the real world, some will look down on those online people and won’t give them the time of day. Others will stick around and try to ascertain if they are just a diamond in the rough and worth reading.

    It’s all a dog and pony show…They just go about it in a different manner.

    Just my 2-cents.

    I like you no matter what jacket you wear. Or what template you use. Here…have some virtual panties to go with all the bras. I’m sure some of them are lonely being single.

  9. better safe than sorry

    when i meet someone for the first time i think i “judge them” by their eyes, you can tell alot from a person by their eyes and the type of eye contact they are willing to make with you. some people i first meet don’t even smile when they are introduced to me, to me even that is such a simple gesture, it says alot. i’ve read that you think you’re shy, i say wear that jacket proudly, put your effort into eye contact and that shy smile, people will pick up on it.

  10. Diane Mandy

    Funny that you chose an image of Tom Wolfe. It’s a great photo and makes me think I’d like to hang out with him.

    But then I also read I am Charlotte Simmon’s and felt disappointed. Brilliant writers can sometimes make great fashion choices, but their words don’t always deliver. Fashion isn’t everything.

  11. Velma

    First, thanks for being gracious about my (wine-fueled yet sincere) mouthiness.

    Second, I’ve learned a lot from shows like “What Not To Wear,” and the key thing is if it flatters and fits you properly, any piece of clothing can look stylish. So, if you found a nehru jacket that fit beautifully and was some interesting texture or color that brought out your eyes, then YES you could certainly wear a nehru jacket.

    (But I would recommend one with pockets big enough to collect all the real bras.)

  12. Finn

    That you’re gay. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  13. Memarie Lane

    Personally I do think that woman looks like an asshole. Can you really see her baking cookies? No. She has a chef for that mundane granny stuff.

    I wrote about men’s fashion today, but concentrated more on the crotch area.

  14. Neil

    Memarie — Why does that not surprise me?

    Finn — So, do only gay men dress with flair? I’ve been to Miami. I’ve seen the Cuban men.

  15. cruisin-mom

    Jane, you are fabulous! Go get Neil outta the house.
    Neil, if you look like Paul McCartney did in a Nehru, I’d say, wear it.

  16. Caron

    Jane’s right. I thought it was bad enough yesterday that you were commenting again throughout the day about that jacket, and Now you tell us you spent all this time on the sartorialist. You’re supposed to be at coney island looking for sea glass, listening to the waves for me.

    I agree that it’s partly diversion to avoid stuff, but, I think it might be a new step in your journey too. We acquire new “costumes” for the different stages in our lives. No one comes home from college for the first time in the clothes we left in. We wear different clothes to sometimes represent a different and changing version of ourselves.

    Go buy a nehru jacket, leave the house and walk around and see how it feels to be Neil in a nehru.

  17. sa_scully

    you don’t have to spend a lot of money to be fashionable. Sure, it helps, but it’s not necessary. I get ideas from websites and catalogs and magazines. Then i try to recreate it. I’m glad I put (and am putting) my money into my graduate degree.

    As far as you in a Nehru jacket… the first thing that would come to mind is that there is another resident I work with who wears one. He’s kind of a tool, and people make fun of him for wearing such a “gay” white coat. But then I’d quickly push that thought away because you’re not in medicine, and think you were stylin. Definitely stylin.

  18. iamthediva

    One of the things i love about the blog world is how you can ‘know’ someone so well without ever meeting.

    Also, i regularly wear mismatched socks on purpose… my socks are swingers.

  19. skcitygirl

    hey excellent question since i don’t know you and this is the second time i’ve visited your blog.

    first of all if i saw you in a nehru jacket i wouldn’t have thought “there goes a man in a nehru jacket” because i didn’t know what a nehru jacket was until wikipedia enlightened me.

    if i really examined my perception of you based only on your clothes, as you’ve asked us to do, i would first have to think about the quality of the jacket. second hand and ill fitting? impeccably tailored? wrinkled and worn but still perfectly tailored? as someone said above it all depends how flattering a piece of clothing is which would allow for more assumptions. it then evolves into whether the person has the time, money, resources, and so on to find something that looks really good or they don’t care.

    even then the only information i would have about you would be a possible guess as to the expense of your jacket and a single example of your style.

    what’s this about a soap opera?

  20. Lara

    Umm…I didn’t even know what a Nehru jacket was until I scrolled down to read your last post. Thus, I have NO CLUE what I would think if I saw you wearing one. Except maybe that although I can’t explain how, it reminds me of the guy who said “de plane! de plane!” at the beginning of Fantasy Island. Did he wear one of those? Or am I just insane?

  21. kanani

    I read and comment on Sart’s blog. It’s wonderful.

    I’ve often told him that I glean inspiration from his photos. Over the years as I’ve worked on my manuscript, I’ve wondered what my character is wearing that day. Not that I write it in all the time, but it’s an indicator of where she is emotionally.

    As for you, well, I think I’d be pretty curious about your Master’s degree in …was it literature? Did you ever take a class from Victoria Silver?

    btw…if you can, head up to Portland Maine and go see the Georgia O’Keefe show my cousin curated. Info is on my blog.

  22. kanani

    Oh, yes. And Thomas Wolfe. He’s always dressed this way. It makes him appear quite the dandy, or at least as eccentric as his writing.

  23. TimeCzar


    First, I do not read Dooce and, suffice it to say, probably won’t.

    I think we just talked about this via chat — somewhere between discussion of hanging out for real and how real life is way better.

    I won’t judge you as long as you aren’t stinky, especially if it’s over something as trivial as mismatched socks. (I avoid having to match socks by wearing sandals.)

    Why did you shave your chest, again? Are you planning ahead in case you might need open heart surgery? Please explain.

  24. Jan

    Whoops, that was me, Jan …

  25. TRO

    Try offering them the “Big Boy” Happy Meals. You can’t imagine the hooters I seen since I super-sized.

  26. mp

    I like the woman in that picture because she has style, she is smiling..I wouldn’t have liked her as much if she had on high heels or didn’t have a wrinkle in her skirt.. it’s the details.

    If you had a jacket like that on I would think you were eccentric.

  27. natalie

    i have no idea what i would think if i saw you wearing that jacket. i actually kind of like the way it looks. i would probably think you were quirky and fashion conscious. i like both of those things. of course i also like cowboy hats and chaps so i’m not really picky.

  28. HeyJoe

    I would read “twit.”

    BUT, today I too am wearing mis-matched socks, so what does that tell you?

  29. Bryna

    Pair it with a faux-hawk and some doc martin’s and you are SO cool!!!

  30. Danny

    I actually owned a Nehru jacket back in the 70s during the 20 minutes they were in style. It was lime-green and I wore it to school once. I probably received the same response from my classmates that you’d receive today if you wore one: FREAK!

    Hope you don’t fiddle with your blog design, especially to make it look more like Dooce (shudder!). The only thing you should add is a preview button on your comments feature.

    And I agree with the previous commenters: get thee on the subway and start exploring the nooks and crannies of Manhattan!

  31. Neil

    Skcitygirl — Normally, I’m weeping over women on the blog, so writing about fashion is an attempt to hold on to something tangible.

    Lara – glad to educate you about fashion.

    Kanani — I saw your comment on the post about THIS well-dressed woman. You seem well-versed in fashion. I have been to the O’Keefe Museum in Santa Fe… and wrote about how New Mexico made me thing of women —

    Jan — I tried to fit in with all the surfer dudes I saw in Redondo Beach who didn’t have a piece of hair on their body, and only got to shaving the upper part of the chest when it got all itchy and Sophia laughed at me, so I just stopped. But of course, I took a photo first to show you.

    Danny — this blog template is from WordPress 1.5. We are on 2.8 now. They didn’t amke any of those fancy things three years ago. But I will do that preview someday. I promise. What should I see on Broadway since you have seen anything? Do you still have that Nehru jacket? Does it fit?

  32. Danny

    Neil, I don’t have my Nehru jacket anymore but I’m sure it would NOT fit since back in high school I had a 28-inch waist and wore extra small t-shirts. Oy, how depressing.

    You should rush to see Patti LuPone in “Gypsy” (how gay do I sound?), the revival of “South Pacific,” and the play “August: Osage County.” Don’t let me hear that you were spotted near the vicinity of “Phantom of the Opera.”

  33. Kathy

    I think you’re design is fine. One of my biggest pet peeves is flashy (read: anything that sings, jumps or glitters) blog design. Says the woman with the cluttered sidebars. 😉

  34. ellediem

    i still want to meet for lunch.. nice try.. 😉 i never match my socks either… must be a blogger thang.

  35. sweetney

    unvarnished honesty, because i like you like that: i’d probably think something along the lines of “trying too hard” with a touch of “non sequitur” and a pinch of “eurotrash”. that’s my gut reaction. but the rest of your clothes would flesh that out — good glasses, good shoes, and jeans that say “not trying too hard” could definitely turn that right around.

  36. miguelina

    ooh, a pun! Yes, you definitely have a future in fashion blogging.

  37. Jenny, Bloggess

    Nehru jacket: Do you smell like patchouli? If so I’d think you were a hippy. If not I’d suspect you were gay. Unless you looked at my boobs then I’d just think you were interesting.

    PS. I totally just took my bra off while reading this post.

  38. Black Hockey Jesus

    Dude dude dude dude. Wait a second. Dude. Chicks throw their bras at your blog?!? I’ll be back.

  39. Dagny

    My first thought? You are hopelessly trapped in the 60s. And how the jacket was a total flop back then. (I wrote a paper my senior year of college on fashion trends of the 60s — for a lit class. And did loads of research.) I would then think that you have no sense of what is contemporary. You are hopelessly trapped in the past, or more correctly, your romanticized vision of the past. Of course, this has affected your current relationships — your ability to not really deal with the “now” of things.

    Sorry if that seems harsh but over the last couple of days, I’ve been embracing honesty — even if it is brutal.

  40. Jane

    Beautiful analysis, Dagny. Better than anything Neil’s therapist has said!

  41. Annie

    I would have to agree with Dagny(I usually do :-), however, I would say that if you are wearing this jacket you are also BRAVE :-). I think it is sad to be judged by anything other than your behavior. What is wrong with us that we judge people by so many surface
    things? And I agree with Loralee too.
    I adore you and read you whatever you wear or the color of your template.

  42. kanani

    Stuck in the 60’s?
    Last time I was in Delhi, I saw several men wearing Nehru jackets. Not sure if you’ve been there, but believe me, coupled with contemporary accessories, Neil would like very hip, very cool, very ready to go into Manhattan and make a book deal for me.

    Neil, yes! I love fashion. Right now I’m trying to decide whether or not to go ahead and cover MBFW NYC in the autumn. If you’re still there, we’ll meet up. I’ll probably stay with friends in Chelsea.

    I love New Mexico. It’s one of my favorite places. I love the landscape, the sky, the mesas, the food and the houses.

  43. Annika

    Neil, I really love this post. And I admit, I like that woman based on the photo. But it’s not just her clothing. Her posture, her expression, and the fact that her sweater looks handknit are also factors.

  44. Pearl

    What color is the jacket? any custom buttons? embroidery? pressed? crumpled? linen?

    even if “standard” yes, I’m likely to give a second look. I love the mandarin collar.

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