We love fashion at fish camp. Our outhouse is stacked with our favorite magazines---Vogue and, since this is a camp of mostly men, GQ.
I am here this week to show off our fish camp chic, a brand that may include, at any given moment, fish scales, bandanas, 30 year old jeans, torn raingear, patched boots and a host of other add-ons, and to include lots of photos, which will quickly reveal the baldness of my lie in the first sentence.
I’m going to show you all this to make you smile, to embarrass myself, and to plead with all of us to live better, wiser, more beautiful lives. But let the tour begin:
Our fashion sense for innerwear (under raingear) boils down to a simple rule: if it’s comfortable to bend and lean and work in, wear it. Hence daughter Naphtali and I just coming in from fishing one night: (I’m actually wearing my pajamas.) Never mind Miranda Priestly, stretchy fabrics only, please!
And don't even think about making us smile.
The rule for outerwear, however is quite different. Comfort is out, waterproof and safe is in. The best-dressed fishermen and women gear up in multiple layers of vinyl, plastic and rubber to stay dry, and the most essential accessory, of course----the lifejacket, to stay afloat.
Worn by all ages, in all stages of water work and play, it’s really the bow atop the package.
If we’re outfitting ourselves for another, rarer diversion---say, the occasional birthday party, or a bay-wide picnic, there is likewise just one rule for looking good: wear clean-er clothes.
And, if possible, take a banya (steambath) the night before. We try not to go out and socialize at another camp with 8-days-since-our-last-bath hair, as Melissa, my lovely assistant is modeling here.
And, of course, since we are 80 air miles from any hair dressers, we must cut our own during the summer. I cut my own hair, from start to finish throughout the summer. Here is one of my less fortunate efforts.
You can see here how crucial good hair is to happy fish camp living.
Other than that, it’s anyone’s game. Here’s mine: I wear a lot of "vintage" clothing. These jeans are 25 years old:
This shirt is around 30 years old, if I have the geneology right. (Another rule---every article of clothing looks better with fish attached.)
My younger boys are wearing shirts that have traveled down every one of the four above them. Duncan wore one “lucky” sweatshirt for more than 32 years of fishing.
Fashion never dies out here. There’s are several reasons, but the most compelling is this: We have no magical trucks to drive away our garbage. We must dispose of everything ourselves. And so we are careful, watchful, and yes, even miserly with our goods. Before they even get here, most of what we bring out---clothes, appliances, furniture, pots, shoes---have already lived a full life elsewhere. We bring out the tired, the slightly worn, the dying-out, and they go on to live a long, full and ugly life out here.
Boots join the reverse evolution: beginning as hip boots, when a leak springs in the knees, they're cut down to calf boots, and when those leak, then ankle boots. When all else fails, a tire patch, or, of course, duct tape.
This is our island and we make the rules, fashion and otherwise. We pay no attention to marketers, to advertisers, magazines, or anyone else telling us what to buy, how to dress, how much to bathe, how to look, what to weigh and how to smell. We look like workers. We act like a family. We smell like human bodies. And we smile like people who know how to be happy.
But I do not want you to think more highly (or lowly) of me than you ought. I’m not always so earthy. I am not a material saint---or an immaterial saint. In my other life, my “town” life and my travel and speaking life, I haunt thrift shops and buy used clothes like they’re going out of style. I buy lots of (used) shoes. (I grew up getting one pair of shoes a year, the same ugly lace-ups every year. I continue to overcompensate. As Marilyn Monroe said, "Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.")
What is the point of all this? Yes, by all means, consider the lilies who neither toil nor spin yet was anything more beautiful? And consider that the average American spends between $1,000 and $2,000 on clothes annually, many of which end up in the landfill the next year. And consider the utterly foolish things some fashion designers say:
"To reinvent a newly impeccable you in the most modern of outfits, don’t skimp on makeup and be sure to have flawless skin and hair. That will have more impact than expensive clothes."
— Karl Lagerfeld
(Oh yes, Ladies, DO be sure to have flawless skin and hair!
You can see the impact this statement has on me.)
And then there is the incomparable Coco Chanel,
who would have a heart attack if she came out to visit.
But maybe not . . .
"Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening."
— Coco Chanel
Exactly right. Ideas, the way we live, what is happening.
These people, who live and fish in Uyak Bay, are some of the most fashionable people I know:
Chanel says as well, "Fashion has two purposes: comfort and love.Beauty comes when fashion succeeds."
When you love what you do, and you wear whatever you need to do it,
you are chic,
you are beautiful,
and you are loved for everything that has nothing to do with what you wear.
Be confident of this.