On my first book tour, I wore high heels.Â
For a gal who spends most of her days in bare feet, wearing high-heeled shoes is the ultimate torture.Â But it was my first big book, and I wanted to look the part of the â€œsuccessful”? author, so I decided to go all out with an expensive knit skirt suit and nylons and high heels.Â In aching feet, I trudged through airport after airport, looking like â€“ well, like a California realtor.Â I came home with blisters.Â I promptly shoved the suit and heels in my closet and climbed back into my blue jeans.
As the years went by, and I headed out on successive book tours, I began to shed the business attire.Â First to go were the nylons and the high heels, replaced with comfortable, if clunky, black walking shoes.Â I ditched the knit skirt suit and instead wore black slacks.Â I love black because it goes with everything.Â Plus, it hides grease stains, a big plus if youâ€™re as addicted to French fries as I am.
I started paying attention to what other authors were wearing.Â I noticed that most male thriller writers were wearing leather and black turtlenecks.Â I noticed that the female authors were adopting the black leather look as well.Â I was briefly possessed by leather envy, so I bought myself a leather jacket — a stupid affectation, since my tours are usually in September, and I ended up sweltering in my jacket while trying so hard to look cool.
So I ditched the leather jacket.
The ordeals of airport security eventually forced me to leave the clunky walking shoes behind, in favor of slip-on shoes.Â Too often Iâ€™d come out of security screening and find nowhere to sit.Â It felt undignified to plop down on the floor and tie my shoes, so Iâ€™d end up performing a stork dance as I struggled to pull on my shoes while hanging onto purse, reading materials, and laptop. I donâ€™t know how elderly passengers with bad knees and hips manage.Â
The â€œauthor look” has certainly changed over the years.Â Tom Wolfe, in his elegant white suits, is now the exception, not the rule.Â Authors, in short, have become slobs.Â They show up for book events unshaven and rumpled, in tattered blue jeans and tee shirts.Â Theyâ€™re artists, and the public almost expects them to look unconventional.Â Nowadays, when an author wears a business suit to a booksigning, you can be pretty sure heâ€™s either:
1) written a business book or
2) on his first book tour, and still under the impression that he should look as elegant as Tom Wolfe.Â
Letâ€™s take a look at what Iâ€™m wearing for this, my twelfth tour.
Â — Blue jeans.Â Ten years ago, I wouldnâ€™t have dared to wear them on tour.Â But then I noticed that Stephen King lives in blue jeans when heâ€™s on tour.Â Â And all those rich, high-powered computer geeks wear them everywhere as well.Â If jeans are good enough for them, then theyâ€™re good enough for me.
— A travel blazer from the mail-order company Travelsmith, because it has lots of zippered pockets in which to stuff airline tickets, reading glasses, peanuts, you name it.
— Mule-style boat shoes.Â To whisk through airline security.
— White cotton shirts.Â Because theyâ€™re comfortable and can be used to dress up or dress down.Â The downside: they get wrinkly. But thatâ€™s what hotel room ironing boards are for.Â Or you can accept the wrinkles and just adopt the always fashionable â€œrumpled author look.”
— And, of course, enough underwear. I hear that some authors consider this almost an optional item.Â Instead, they simply locate the closest department store or Victoriaâ€™s Secret and buy new underwear while on the road.Â And either dispose of, or mail home, their dirty laundry.
Iâ€™ve pared down my travel wardrobe to fit into a single carry-on bag because one thing Iâ€™ve learned after eleven book tours is to never, ever check in your luggage at the airport.Â Since youâ€™re in a different city every day, your suitcase will never catch up with you.Â
Besides clothing and toiletries, what else do I pack?
— Bookmarks, to give away at signing events.
— A roll of â€œSigned by Author” stickers, to slap onto book covers when I see my books in airport stores.
— A simple wind-up alarm clock.Â Because Iâ€™m too stupid to figure out how to use those clock radios in the Hilton Hotels chain.Â (Does anyone know how to set the alarm on those things?)
— Electronic gear (Blackberry charger, computer charger, laptop, camera.)
Although I seem to pack less and less clothing every year, my suitcase is heavier than ever because of all the gizmos.Â Other authors also seem to be lugging along more electronics while paring down their wardrobes.Â
This trend could point the way to the new â€œauthor look”.Â Naked, but with Blackberries fully charged.