Wednesday, June 4, 2008

You are what you wear

An article in today's paper notes that scientists changed the physiology and behavior of birds by making their breast feathers darker with magic markers. Dark breast feathers are apparently the sign of virility and desirability in this species of birds. Here's the kicker. Not only did the birds behave more like alpha birds and get more chicks (intentional pun), but the levels of testosterone in their blood actually rose. The scientists hinted that the same principle might apply to humans as well.

Think of it. We all know the folk wisdom that you don the persona that your clothes proclaim, but to think of actual physiologicial changes -- well that's something else again. Maybe that's why school uniforms work.

I think this is not only true, but that it expands to other areas of social life as well. For instance, you could say, "You are what you drive." I've always been of the opinion that people who drive high-end BMW's were arrogant jerks, and assumed that the Beemer was simply the arrogant guy's car of choice. But what it the Beemer makes the man?

The implications are staggering. Got a kid with low self esteem? Make him drive a Mustang GT. Got a kid with too much aggression? Make him drive a Ford Festiva. I can see the scene now: Juvenile court. A young man charged with starting fights. The judge looks sternly at him and says, "This is a serious charge, and must be dealt with seriously. I order you to spend six months driving a Geo Metro." Ashen-faced and contrite, the young man is led from the courtroom, his spirit broken.

I trust that conservatives will mount a campaign to have young people drive old six-cylinder pickups and that Liberals will press for everyone to have a Rolls.

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