Back from the abyss! (or rather, the national AWP conference in Denver): Part 1 of ???

I just got back in town yesterday from an extended weekend in Denver, CO.  I gotta say, I’m exhausted!

The national AWP (the Association of Writers and Writers’ Programs) conference was held April 7 – 11 which ostensibly amounted to my sleeping terribly each night, attending panels from 9:00AM – 5:30PM three days in a row while consuming potentially hazardous amounts of coffee in the interim.

Though admittedly I learned a lot.

But before I jump into the nuts and bolts of the conference itself, I thought I would first take the time to mention certain aesthetic observations with respect to the conference’s actual attendees.  Most of my comments can be summed up with a single sentence: Everyone looks the same!

There are essentially five or so archetypes of conference goer of which I will deconstruct below in a mostly disorganized and lazy fashion:

Berets are still in (seriously, why?).  Sport coats of various fabrics–mostly micro-suede and corduroy–are the new tweed among academic types.

The “Jesus look” = in!

Guys with full beards, glasses and flannel-wear?  Also in.  Al Borland and the guy from the Brawny paper towel commercials and wrappers would be ecstatic.  These writers favor Jack(s) London and Kerouac for their salt of the earth, everyman prose style.

Hobo-fabulous/chic is also in.  This type favors boutique designer wear such as $200 Citizens of Humanity or Diesel jeans, $100 Ben Sherman or 7 Diamonds shirts, the sport coats of the “new” academics and tennis shoes.  Seriously.  Like running shoes.  I’m not kidding.

Women, especially aged 40+ gravitate toward thick-rimmed glasses, shawls and shocks of white hair, an effect which they may or may not have implemented dyes to attain.

Then there are older gentlemen who sport baseball caps, vests and a few layers of tough leathery skin.  Also see salt of the earth literature; though perhaps this type’s is saltier.

Speaking of beards, they were everywhere.  Thick facial hair is trendy again in order to seem truly artsy.

Chuck Taylor’s? Ubiquitous.

Skinny jeans and 80s punk rock hair are back.  Hooded rugby shirts–always too small–accentuate this new punk’s physical likeness to fitted PCV piping.  And you can forget backpacks; they’re out.  Canvas messenger bags are the new black (though I should note that I personally prefer the weight distributing properties that a backpack offers, so fuck what’s hot–give me what’s comfy!).

So everyone pretty much looks the same–not just with respect to each other but to everyone who has ever lived.  They further reinforce the idea that there are no new ideas, just rehashings of old ones.  People trying to individuate themselves by buying into, and thus looking like, how they “should.”  The clothes they wear fit their chosen archetype.  For whatever reason, the harder the individual tries to assume the appearance of their chosen archetype, the more an air of severe hoit and toit emanates from them.

Butch-lesbian-chic?  In.  Whether or not they are all actual lesbians or not, this particular look is fucking everywhere too!  These women at least look like they could kick your ass, the truth likely not far from the suggested appearance; the spiky hair only solidifies their ass-kicking appearance.

Hooker boots: definitely in.

Funky chic?  IN.  Lots of color, crazy boots of varying degrees of height, funky hair?  In, in and in. (And how could I forget the myriad of “patterned tights with boots?  That was everywhere.  And dresses plus cardigans, of course.”  Thanks to Elisa Gabbert for reminding me!)

Short skirts?  In.  I’m not complaining, more like just saying: they’re here, in full effect.

Some people wore a hodgepodge of these looks, which suggested mainly that they simply were trying too hard…to look original… Those who wore bowler, derby and cabbie/newsboy/Oliver Twist hats were everywhere but always gave the impression they were trying to figure out what others thought of their personally wearing said hat(s).

One attendee looked like a terrible goth/emo Crocodile Dundee “mash-up” mishap.

Don’t people use mirrors anymore before going out in public?

Anyway, actual conference news soon to follow!

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11 thoughts on “Back from the abyss! (or rather, the national AWP conference in Denver): Part 1 of ???

  1. Elisa says:

    This was my main observation about the conference as well. Lots of patterned tights with boots. That was everywhere. And dresses plus cardigans, of course.

    • joemowens says:

      It was insane, almost like 5 or 6 people got Xeroxed and the copies were let loose on Denver. It’s an odd feeling to stand out while wearing a hooded sweatshirt and baseball cap. I just wanted to be comfortable!

  2. Stephanie says:

    So many skinny jeans on so many grown-ups!

  3. Lori says:

    So Joe,

    Where did you fit in on this fashion wheel of color and style? How would you describe your look?

    • joemowens says:

      Hooded sweatshirt, jeans I’ve had since about 2005, Cleveland Indians Baseball cap and some trail running shoes [comfy and not stark white]. Simple. I dig simple.

  4. K says:

    So appalling. From your report, it sounds like people were wearing CLOTHES. A LOT of clothes even. Hats, shoes, and haircuts to top it off! God! And WOMEN! Why do we do it, with our skirts and boots?? And aren’t we all either hookers or butch dykes anyway?! Argh.

    Why doesn’t someone tell them all that glasses, a lid, and two-day stubble is all they need. Then again, frat boys have always been grossly underrepresented at AWP.

    • joemowens says:

      I agree! I’d like to make clothes optional at AWP. How can we make this happen, ASAP?

      I don’t really care what people wear, per se. Honestly. My post was illustrating that it was simply the first thing I noticed (personally speaking). The only point I was trying to make is that there were about five or six “archetypes” of what people tended to look like, and almost everyone there [almost everyone, meaning, the majority, but where we writers be without hyperbole?] fit those five or six aesthetic archetypes… to a “T”. In other words, it seemed like [italics added here for emphasis] they were dressing how they [quote] ‘thought they should’ in order to fit the mold of what type of writer personality they saw themselves as. (The lack of David Foster Wallace-esque bandanas really disappointed me.)

      Ultimately, it was just an observation, much the way it’s empirically observable that the sky is blue and 2 + 2 = 4. However, with respect to one of your suggestions, I’m not really sure we need to bring frat boys into the mix. I mean, don’t most writers already drink heavily enough? Though if they can write well [and, of course, not take themselves too seriously] I’d love to see them attend. There’s nothing wrong with looking a certain way; I just personally prefer to melt into the crowd. And I take notice when thousands of people wear one of six (or so) similar costumes. Just sayin’.

      Thanks for checking out the post though! I have to say this is easily the most viewed post on my site, which I thus suppose will probably be somewhat disheartening once I stop to really think about it…

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