Consistency is important.
At my eighth-grade graduation I wore bulky, cheap, grey vinyl sneakers with a full tuxedo. We couldn't find dress shoes my size. The tuxedo was the only suit that came close to fitting. It had been on sale. Apparently not many midgets had call for tuxedos that year. There was some angst when we couldn't find the shoes, we were only days away. Still, I was cool, I told Dad it'd be all-right, I had something I could wear with the tux.
Consistency out the window.
Consistency isn't just uniformity. I couldn't create the perfect suit, the flawless, coherent, beautiful expression of conformity. I could create a completely different order at a higher level. An organisational principle of a higher level, an idea which transcended a mere suit. A statement which included the coherent and made a statement about its import, its value. I would wear my neon orange Converse® high-tops with the tux. I'd worn them for ages, they were a part of me, a part of my personality. It would be cool. Everyone would say, "yeah, look, man wears Converse® with a tux, gotta be cool, gotta know where he's from."
My father was an engineer. Well, not really, he was a scientist, but back then I thought he was an engineer. I never tried to debate art with him. He looked at my shoes, my statement, and saw that I was out of spec. Looking the situation up in his table of solutions, he noticed that I had another pair of shoes (albeit a pair I had seldom worn). These shoes were not so loud as the Converse®, so, since they were closer to spec, they must be better. As long as the overall effect was as close to the consistent, flawless, coherent mechanism as possible, we would be blameless. We'd tried. As long as the effect was close, almost, just about, within tolerance, no-one would notice. I'd years earlier given up on debating with my father.
Of course, the grey vinyl $10 shoes were no closer to really matching the tuxedo, they were inconsistent with the idea of tuxedo, but had no idea of their own. The sleek lines and balanced shape of the converse were a delicate mirror of the close-cut tuxedo. The chunky, overt lines of the vinyl monstrosities were an insult to the image, they spoke of cheap manufacturing costs, of shoes that could be bought, worn out and thrown away without a thought, but even that was spoken in a whisper, the shoes pretended to be half dress-shoes. They were muddy, though they'd never been worn, buried in half-realised ideas. When combined with the strong, expected idea of tuxedo, they were unable to make their own order felt, they were unable to set up a relationship between themselves and the tuxedo.
As was expected, the shoes were immediately noticed. A teacher asked me point-blank why I was wearing "those", obviously I had enough money to buy new shoes, was I so stupid that I didn't realise you wear dress shoes with a tuxedo? Going halfway, I'd failed. The ideal of perfection which the tux required wasn't met by a half-assed close-enough attempt. The organisational scheme which is tuxedo doesn't allow for grey vinyl $10 shoes. The people looking at me could see immediately that I didn't fit the one ideal, and there was no other ideal, no overriding idea which would let them resolve the image to anything other than "asocial cretin who doesn't understand the first thing about high society." I left as early as possible that night, even though I'd changed to my Converse after the first hour, the image still lingered, the mark had been made, the idea was lost, the hope dashed.
Consistency is important.
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This work is Copyright (c) Mike Fletcher 1997