For the wealthy, clothes are often stand-ins for status. For the poor, clothing is an outward manifestation of their struggle for equality in a world that benefits from inequality. Good, clean clothing is of utmost importance to a poor man hoping to change his fortunes by getting a job, but poverty makes such apparel almost impossible to come by. Unable to secure gainful employment because of their shabby looks, the poor are often forced to pawn their clothing to afford food, further ensuring that poor people will not be able to secure employment. In this way, trying to outfit oneself is a vicious cycle like so many other painful aspects of poverty. Orwell, having sold his last suit for pennies and hobo rags, discovers first-hand the power of clothing to alter one’s sense of self. “Dressed in a tramp’s clothes, it is very difficult, at least for the first day, not to feel that you are genuinely degraded,” he writes. “You might feel the same shame, irrational but very real, your first time in prison.” Not coincidentally, the casual wards of London are very much like jailhouses. Men must shed their own clothing for the night and wear what the wardens give them, which are usually ill-fitting, shapeless garments that do nothing to keep off the cold. Later, they are made to line up, naked, and submit to a humiliating medical exam. If hobo rags are degrading, then forced nudity is worse, and Orwell reminds the reader that clothing is not only a clear indication of class, but also a tool used by the better-off to manipulate and intimidate those below them.
Clothing Quotes in Down and Out in Paris and London
The mass of the rich and the poor are differentiated by their incomes and nothing else, and the average millionaire is only the average dishwasher dressed in a new suit.
Dirt is a great respecter of persons; it lets you alone when you are well dressed, but as soon as your collar is gone, it flies towards you from all directions.