January 15, 2010
Have you ever checked out the way professional historians dress?
They have a uniform. Mostly, they wear khaki or blue pants. Also a lot of blue shirts that button down the front. If they have to make a presentation they will put on a jacket (either well-worn tweed, possibly with patches on the elbows, or navy blue). If they are male and making a presentation, they will probably have on a tie (not this year's power color). Regardless of their gender, you would notice their footwear as "sensible."
Walter may be the exception that proves the rule.
We went to San Diego last week because Walter needed to attend the American Historical Association meetings. We stayed in a hotel with thousands of historians. As you walked along at the marina, near the shops, on the Embarcadero, into the lobby bar, you saw historians. They were exceedingly well-behaved and interesting.
On Saturday, a few people started showing up in those places that didn't look like historians. They had really big, well-coiffed hair, very "un"-sensible shoes, and a lot of animal-print clothing. They pulled multiple, shiny wheeled bags, and carried the biggest purses I have ever seen in my life. Every single one of them wore bling bigger than my hand somewhere on their body. By Sunday morning the dribble had turned into a stream, then a deluge.
The convention that was following directly on the heels of the AHA Annual Meeting (which has met since 1884 and who counts among its former presidents several American Presidents like Woodrow Wilson and Teddy Roosevelt, as well as the authors of many books you have read, if you read Pultizer-prize winning histories), was the meeting of the Mary Kay Leadership Team.
The hotel personnel practically gave themselves whiplash making the transition.