Everyone knows how to dress fancy: put on a tie or a dress or something else you buy at the store. But dressing like a hobo – as opposed to a disgusting, friendless slob – requires energy, discipline, and a number of other things we pretend to console ourselves with when we no longer have money.
If you carefully follow our advice, you can arrive at The Brick’s Shantytown Ball on Saturday looking and smelling like you just stepped out of a boxcar.
STEP #1: Hats
We cannot stress this enough: Hobos Wear Hats. If you do not have a hat, you are not a hobo, you are a bum, and will be given the eponymous rush. Hats need not be literal hats: tin cans, burlap sacks and pie plates attached to the head with fraying strands of rope will do nicely.
STEP # 2: Proper Sizing
The hobo’s clothes cannot be “just right” – they must be either painfully small or comically large. A random combination of the two is preferable.
STEP # 3: Personalized Accessories
Inexplicable totems – such as carefully whittled figurines of long-dead statesmen (William Jennings Bryan, Daniel Webster, et al) or bent forks worn on a string around the neck – are excellent conversation pieces and can provide a wonderful excuse for a knife fight when touched without permission.
STEP # 4: The Hobo Rag
Every time a hobo needs to wipe something off his mouth, brow or elsewhere, a hobo rag must be pulled from deep within a pocket. This rag must have gone unwashed for at least two election cycles, and be so well-used that it actually leaves excess residue on one’s person whenever it is applied.
STEP # 5: Patches
At least three per garment – and if any of them use floral fabric be prepared to be called a pansy.
STEP # 6: Shoes
Footwear should either A) not match, B) be full of gaping holes (particularly in the big toe area) or C) cause the wearer to repeatedly groan “Oh, my corns” or “Oh, my bunions” or “Oh, my goddamn corns and bunions.”
STEP # 7: Hair
The more there is, the more dogged and futile should be the effort to contain it. If pomade is unavailable, it’s easy to make your own: just find something sticky (this shouldn’t be difficult) and rub. If a hobo is trying to make a big and ultimately futile show of respectability, a grueling cold-water shave can be attempted on whatever party of the body is relevant.
STEP # 8: Stains
Yes. Each one should have its origin in a different substance and come with a long, complicated backstory that can while away the entire trip from Duluth to Cincinnati.
STEP # 9: Sentimental Letters
They can be from potential employers, former lovers, innocent little sisters who may or may not still be alive, mothers who believed in you back when you still had a shot at being something big, or the Archduke of France – but every self-respecting hobo needs an oft-folded missive of some sort that is pulled out and stared at wistfully during moments of relative calm.
STEP # 10: Confidence
You know what? Everyone else can go to hell – cuz you’re a hobo, son.
Hopefully these easy-to-follow will help you prepare an ineffable costume that will make you the belle of the Shantytown. Remember, pre-purchased tickets are $20 - TWENTY MEASLY DOLLARS - so use the discount code "earlybird" and come on by Saturday dressed as a hobo (or as a flapper or dandy, fine, but that’s a copout). Galapagos, Dumbo, 8pm to midnight. Buy your tix at http://bricktheater.com/shantytown
And if you’re not currently in NYC - aka The Big Dirty, Palookasburg, the City of Brotherly Punching and Stabbing - do please consider sending us a donation, which will allow us to provide sartorial guidance (and do theater and stuff) for another year. Be a home-baked pie cooling on an unguarded windowsill - support The Brick.