Cinderella Man II

“An inspirational true story soon to be made into a major motion picture” – Courtney Wilson
Bearded man

From drab to fab, from wallflower to wildflower, from caterpillar to butterfly, from whatever is stink to whatever is cool … who doesn’t love a good, old-fashioned Cinderella story? Or even a little attempt inside Transformation Station oneself? In whatever shape or form, a makeover is always an exciting way to reinvent one’s image. My friend discovered this for himself not too long ago. This is his story, shared so that others may be inspired by the courage and fortitude of one solitary young man. My workmates were touched by his story. If he could make it through, as deeply entrenched in wardrobe malfunction as he was, anyone can.

“Before his metamorphosis,” I explained to my colleagues gathered around the water cooler, “my friend owned a treasure.” Yes, as a woman’s glory is her long hair, so my friend’s glory was his long tresses. His hair cascaded in an abundance of curly splendour that was the envy of all women, and it was more than enough to make up for whatever was lacking in his wardrobe. His similarly-cascading beard (that was not the envy of most women) helped to keep him very different, and very splendid indeed … or so one might have thought. This modern-day Rapunzel forgot one thing – that hair maketh not the man. He needed clothing as well.

The country town where he was born was not the best start. “Can anything good come out of Masterton?”questioned the resident cynic in my office when I told her about my friend. Another declared, “The fashion sins of the town should not be visited upon the children of any generation.” A third co-worker wondered if somebody ought to lead the children to a better place by piping them over the Rimutakas into Style City beyond.

We all ruminated on the dangers of raising someone in a country town – a question that will be better debated in a future issue of Prism – until Lance, our male fashionista, lisped, “The poor daahling can’t have spent all his life there, surely. He must have met somebody to help him along!”

Alas, my friend needed some good fashion sense or a female helpmeet, and Dunedin was not the place to find either.

So what did happen in Dunedin? His hair grew to epic proportions. He wandered in that fashion wilderness, eating chemicals and honey, girding himself in garments of polar fleece and polyester. Four years of Dunedin styles would leave even fashion guru Donatella Versace bereft of any ideas, other than Speights rugby shirts, or maybe an “Otago University” hoodie. If nothing amazing had happened to my friend, he would still be there, wandering around university with his hair and beard mingling. Fortunately, something amazing did happen. He left.

Gasps were heard around the water cooler as I related this to the office.

“Did he find a girl?”

“Did he find his mojo?”

“Did he find a mirror?”

“He found hope,” I announced as grandly as I could. They were all very impressed. Hope. Such an inspiring word. I didn’t elaborate … somehow telling them his real reasons for moving didn’t seem like a good idea. When it came to the city slickers in my office, it was only ever “fashion for fashion’s sake.”

Once in the teeming metropolis of this fair city, he started to blossom. “Like going from winter to spring?” asked the receptionist, who was particularly fond of gardening.

The short answer is yes. The long answer is that, as subtly as winter creeps away, bowing before the slow approach of warmth and light, so fashion ignorance was being melted by the warmth of awareness – awareness that one person did not look like the others. Radical changes toward conformity began. “His hair was shorn – and his beard,” I said sadly. “It was for the best … for the best,” somebody said, patting her own long curls protectively. There was a general murmur of sympathy for the rejected tresses.

He even progressed to a shopping trip to buy clothes that were brand new, from Hallensteines no less (everyone in the room nodded to this important step toward style). Then more trips to more stores, and soon it was jeans, Tshirts – really anything that wasn’t cargos or polar fleece. Within one year of moving to this city he had made the transformation from caterpillar to butterfly.

With sighs of satisfaction, those gathered around the water cooler started to disperse with a renewed sense of hope. They realised they could all make a difference just by living what they believed. Clearly, they believed that one’s style is an important statement: they could each do their part for the world in different ways. Some could contribute meaningfully to the world by dressing in Nike, supporting third world countries. Others could contribute by dressing in synthetics, so as not to waste our earth’s precious resources. Whatever way chosen, they knew that what they wore affected what others wore, and that made their self-esteem grow strong. Like Cinderella’s fairy godmother, they could each make a difference.

So, if you are currently swimming in the mire of stylistic uncertainty, take heart. Stay away from little towns (not to mention big towns at the bottom of the country pretending to be cities). Remember that your choices make a difference.

As for my friend, he has just come back from a modelling session for Gucci in Europe – he was discovered after starring in a world-wide fashion convention in Hungary. Fairy tales really do come true.

Courtney Wilson, otherwise known as Miss Tongue-in-Cheek, enjoys Wellington, well-shorn Bairds, and coloured-rimmed glasses.