14 May 2008

Identity As A Construct - Part III: Las Vegas

Identity As A Construct - Part II-b: Fashion & Identity
Identity As A Construct - Part II: Fashion & Identity
Identity As A Construct - Part I

I sometimes like to just sit and watch people as they move about in time and space.

It’s more interesting to go to a larger city, sit in some unobtrusive place and watch people parading past me. Las Vegas is wonderful for people watching. It seems that a great majority of people in Vegas feel free to express facets of their identity in their clothing choices. Some of them become walking caricatures of packaged identities.

In Vegas you expect to see scantily clad women, show girls, street girls, and girls who want to look like show girls or street girls. You expect to see tourists from the boondocks ogling the sights and visitors from other countries snapping photographs. You might, depending on the television you watch, expect to see “high rollers” or movie stars. Vegas always gives you both more and less than you expect.

The first person that caught my eye, and the one I remember best from that first trip to Vegas nearly ten years ago, was a man who was perhaps in his mid-thirties. He had the slight pot belly of a heavy beer drinker, but he hadn’t gone too far yet towards the beer gut that makes men look like extremely malnourished pregnant women (skinny arms and legs, big belly). He’d been out in the sun enough that he was starting to have that tanned leather look to his skin. On his head was a well-worn black cowboy hat. It had a wide snakeskin hat band that held a small fluff of brightly colored feathers on one side of the hat. He wore a sleeveless men’s undershirt – the same sort of shirts that I now see printed and decorated and sold for women’s shirts – stretched tightly across his slightly bulging belly. His was a dingy white, not pink, mint green, or tan, and not decorated with lace or sequins or printed with this band or that band’s name. His pants were tight, peg-legged, black jeans, fairly new, but not so clean, tucked into fancy cowboy boots. The boots were also black, or mostly black. They had engraved silver toe caps (probably not real silver – silver would be too soft to serve as toe caps) to guard against scuffs and scrapes. The upper sections of the boots were immaculately polished – spit-shined I would say - and tall, hugging his thin legs snugly, coming nearly to the knees, decorated with turquoise and red leather, sporting a large oval turquoise cabochon set in silver near the top on the front of the boots.

It was very hard not to stare openly – something nearly as dangerous in Vegas as in any other big city. He was standing in a convenience store feeding coins to the ubiquitous slot machines, just killing time, or perhaps, hoping to hit the jackpot and change his fate.

One has to wonder, if he hit it big, would his wardrobe change along with his identity?


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