What Writers Wear: Then and Now

Nerd chic checking glasses in car mirror

Photo by: Santiago Trusso

Let’s be clear: there is no uniform for writing. Nevertheless, one summer when I was about 11 or 12, I decided that it was time I started dressing to reflect the writer I truly was. Not one for fashion, I had never before decided to craft a “summer look,” but I was prepared to take myself much more seriously as a writer, and dressing the part was obviously key to that effort! Somehow, somewhere, I got the that writers had a sort of hippie look. They wore woven leather sandals and woodland colors. They lived in shirts like the forest green thermal top I loved, and they wore carpenter pants (obviously, because they have a pocket just for your pens!). So I gathered my wardrobe and prepared for canonical glory. I also needed the tools of the trade, clearly, and my weapons of choice were a yellow steno pad and red pens galore. (Why red? Who knows.) Beatnik clothes, steno pad, and red pen in hand, I was ready to write—just as soon as I sat myself down underneath the most poetic tree I could find.

Imagined writer's kit at 11 years old
I was going to be one stylish, highly functioning writer-lady.

I’d forgotten all about my construction of “the writer” until I saw Maureen Johnson post this tweet. Elle Magazine is having just as much of a hallucination about what writers wear as my 11-year-old self was. You can see that every writer’s response to this writerly construction (“Key item: long-sleeve silk blouse!”) was mainly… scoffing. The practicalities of writing rarely take into consideration what you’re wearing, but MJ invites us in to give our take on #novelistfashion. Her own submission calls Elle out (and is hilarious, as expected).

I’ve sung the praises of working in your pajamas in the past, but somehow, putting on actual pants helps when you need more than just coffee to get going. On those days, I’m less likely to put on my flannel, carpenter pants, and leather sandals and more likely to do the black tee, worn-in jeans, and barefoot look (I guess that hippie vibe is here to stay!). Nowadays, I’ve ditched the horrific yellow steno and red pens in favor of my Mac, black Bics, and field notes notebooks. I’ve also added a few must-haves to my writer’s kit, including a lit candle, chapstick, a hot cup of coffee, and a throw to wrap up in.

Writer's kit and casual outfit

No one works in the same way, and everyone needs different features in their working environment to focus and create. The ideas my younger self had about the ideal writing study and how a writer should look are vastly different to what I want today, but I love seeing what’s different (steno pads and cigars to MacBooks and good lighting!) and what’s the same (that hippie vibe, man).

What about you? How has your writing kit evolved?

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