Ignore This Image Consultant's Advice, and Die Ugly and Sad

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
June 20 2014 8:52 AM

Ignore This Image Consultant's Advice, and Die Ugly and Sad

Hermann_Hesse
Hermann Hesse, slob.

Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Female attorneys will be relieved to hear that someone has finally published some advice on how they ought to dress in the courtroom, for the first time since … I don’t know. March? This new riff on that old tune comes courtesy of Legal Ink magazine, which commissioned Manhattan Makeovers President William Cane to drop knowledge like “there is nothing that clothes can do to make you lose weight,” and “the only acceptable shoe for a female attorney is a closed-toe, closed-heel pump, with heels no more than two and a half inches,” and “one of the biggest mistakes female professionals make is failing to realize that their hairstyle is sending signals that cannot be shut off since their hair will always be visible, unless it’s under a hat.”

The fashion critics currently fixing their gazes on female lawyers are working under a variety of motivations. Some legitimately believe that they are helping women succeed in the workforce. Others are working out their psychosexual issues in print. But William Cane is just a man with a dream, a dream to improve the appearance of women and men in all professions through Manhattan Makeovers, his image consultancy service based in—you guessed it—Yonkers. I took a tour of his website to pick up a few tips.

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I’m a writer, so I started at the section “for writers.” I found a 2,000-word essay about Hermann Hesse, a celebrated novelist with one fatal flaw: “He looked like a hobo who has found some used clothing and has thrown it onto his wasting and emaciated frame for protection against the elements.” Hesse’s study of Buddhism taught him “to turn from worldly things, like a neat wardrobe and a good haircut,” Manhattan Makeovers tells us. “Unfortunately this negative impact of Eastern religion on his life and appearance has not been explored by biographers or critics, none of whom have been image consultants or even interested in the image of the artist.”

Sadly, Hesse died before Manhattan Makeovers could reach him. If their paths had crossed, they could have done something about his hair, which stuck up from the top of his head, “not in a mohawk hairstyle or with the spiky look popular with young men, but with disarray.” (“This reflects his unconscious wish to fail.”) Or his attire, which was “slovenly.” (“Is it prudent for an artist to be so anti-authoritarian that he ignores good taste in fashion? Of course the answer … is no.”) Or his third wife, who was too short. (“If only Hesse had talked with an image consultant he might not have had so many problems with his wives.”) Sure, Hesse wrote 18 books and won the Nobel Prize. But “he might even have won more literary prizes and written more books had he found the peace of mind that an image consultant can provide.”

Moving on to the section “for artists and poets,” where Manhattan Makeovers considers the case of 19th-century French poet Arthur Rimbaud. “He died at the age of 37 from leg cancer,” Manhattan Makeovers tells us. “But if an image consultant had helped him, would he have lived longer?” This, too, is a tragic question. “While image consultants did not exist in the time of Rimbaud, there were butlers, dressers, and cosmetologists. Had Rimbaud taken advantages of these services he could have looked better, and that image improvement would certainly have changed his life for the better. Whether it would have saved him and enabled him to live a normal full life is an open question.” Modern artists need not suffer in vain. “If you are an artist, you may be interested to know that some of the most successful musicians, writers, and painters of the modern era have used image consultants, including Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and painter Jeff Koons, to name but a few. We encourage you to contact us to learn more about our image consulting services for creative people.”

Manhattan Makeovers also provides a section of advice for those in the “flirty intellectual” business. It consists of 10 stock photos of sassy women in glasses and the subhead, “How to Dress Casual if You Have Dark Hair.”

True, Cane may have only “practiced law briefly in 1986,” but he is “an expert on birth order” whose “unique birth order compatibility analysis” has been “seen on TV,” and he can tell you “what celebrity you’re most like.” Jezebel and Above the Law are instructing female attorneys to ignore Cane's advice, but they do so at their own peril. They may just end up like all celebrated, yet ultimately wasted, talents of centuries past who failed to procure his services: ugly, miserable, and dead.

Amanda Hess is a Slate staff writer. 

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