The Clothing Speech

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Would you think this man intelligent? Would you think him trustworthy?

한국어 원고를 보시려면 여기를 클릭하세요.

(I am wearing an old sleeveless shirt, a worn out pair of athletic shorts and no shoes. My hair is disheveled and messy)

Hello everyone and thank you for listening to my speech. Since we mostly know each other already, I decided to introduce my clothes rather than my person.

Right now, I don’t think I’m wearing very nice clothes. My shirt is tacky, my shorts are unattractive and I’m not wearing any shoes. If I were to go to a job interview dressed this way, would you hire me? If I asked you for a date, would you agree to see me? If I went to a party, would you speak with me or, if we made a study group, would you think my contributions worthy of consideration?

I rather doubt it.

When I was 22 years old, my nicest clothes weren’t much better than what I’m wearing now. I wore second-hand socks, I bought my shirts from thrift stores and, sometimes, I stole the clothes left in locker rooms.

During that time, I remember feeling a continual sense of embarrassment. I remember people laughing at me, I remember the benign condescension of my rich acquaintances and, most of all, I remember hating other people an awful lot.

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How about this guy?

(I put on a nice, collared shirt and a pair of designer blue jeans.)

When I was 24, I came to Korea for the first time. With my first paycheck, I immediately purchased a $50 shirt, $30 worth of sashimi and the most expensive leather gloves I could find – unimaginable luxuries just a month before. I noticed how, suddenly, my interactions with other people changed. Where before I’d had to fight and claw for respect, my overpriced shirt and soft leather gloves meant that respect just sort of floated to me.

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How about a chunk of this guy? Would you trust him?

(I put on an expensive suit coat, fashionable Reebok shoes and matching fedora.)

Last year, I returned to the United States. I had a closet full of $50 shirts and $300 dollar jackets and, when I visited the same editors and publishers with whom I’d never previously been able to gain audience, I found the doors wide open. As if by magic, my opinions regarding literature and culture interested these people immensely. All of a sudden, my rich acquaintances wanted to me visit them at the country club.

Between the ages of 22 and 29, what actually changed? My personality is largely similar, as is my skill-set. I think, if you’re honest, you’ll say the biggest change was my packaging.

It won’t be long before you are conducting job interviews and deciding who to fire. You are already deciding whom you will grant admittance to your study groups and audience on your date nights. When you make these decisions, I would ask you look at more than clothing.

Special thanks to Profession Oh Yong-sun for editing the Korean version of this script.

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15 comments

  1. […] Click here for the English Version. […]

  2. Yong-Sun Oh · · Reply

    I think we can completely understand your 옷 연설 by the English version. Even though your 한글 연설 was awesome, you’d better offer your Korean and English versions at the same time^^. And what I like the most about your 한글 연설 was your acting from almost naked to all dressed up status^^. You looked like a famous actor whom we can see in TV drama. You did a nice job.
    Yong-Sun Oh

    1. Thank you for your help, Professor Oh.

  3. Wow, eloquent (even the Korean one)! I’ve been asked myself a question like this: Do you think such realizations can come before having experienced nice clothes and so forth, like you were talking about dictators and democracy the other day? Or is that not possible.

    1. Hmm, interesting question. My social status growing up basically went lower-middle-class as a kid, upper-middle class as a tween, lower-middle class during high-school and grindingly poor all through college. So I don’t know. One of the things that made my “used socks, stolen pants” stage so difficult is that I knew exactly what I’d lost.

      As for the eloquent Korean version, that’s very much thanks to Professor Oh’s editing. I don’t think he had trouble understanding what I originally sent him (in Korean), but he certainly made me sound a lot smarter.

      1. Yeah, that’s the worst feeling. But at the same time, I feel it allows a person to perhaps have a “new-found” respect, if regained? Anyway, great work! I wish more people would not judge others by hair or hoodies, etc.

      2. Thanks for the kind words.

        I certainly got a new found respect! One of the things that my journey up and down the economic ladder taught me is that what’s inside, to most people, literally doesn’t matter. The people to whom it does matter, though rare, are the ones to keep a hold of.

        I also think that knowing what I’d lost, while painful, was also helpful. I really doubt I would have worked as hard or sacrificed as much to an abstract notion of “better life” as I did for a concrete remembrance of exactly what that better life felt like.

  4. Yong-Sun Oh · · Reply

    한가지 수정해 드립니다.
    “한국어 각본보면 여기서 클릭해 보세요” –> “한국어 원고를 보시려면 여기를 클릭하세요”

    1. 수정됬어요. ^^

  5. Kathy S Garrido · · Reply

    Sadly very true

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  6. The old “Clothes make the man” thing. Sad but true.

    1. Or even more basically, money makes you good. I’ve seen this principle applied to kindergarten kids.

      1. Seen that one enough times. Just want to reach for the nearest air-sick bag.

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