Another mad inventor. Wild hair, thick glasses, a lab-coat with strange items poking and bulging from every pocket. His latest invention—the micro-text suit. See it hanging in its vacuum-sealed display case. He will move it carefully into a garment bag and bring it to the offices of the Board of Directors. They will finally see the fruits of their investment—of so many years and so much money. He will explain to them his brilliant concept and execution, how he has managed—through patented techniques—to molecularly print the text of any desired passage onto the fibers of this comfortable and stylish material.
So here is your new, perfectly tailored suit. Seen through anything less than a microscope, your suit appears merely black (perhaps a slightly fuzzy black). But upon its threads are written the complete contents of the Bible, the Art of War, the Tao Te Chang, 7 Highly Successful Habits of 7 Highly Successful People. Words have power (the slogan might very well be). The unseeable can still suggest itself upon the mind of the unseeing. Such a suit will sell to businessmen and politicians for thousands of dollars. Such a suit, with matching micro-text tie, micro-text socks, and polished patent leather shoes is worth a fortune to all who want the world to sense—if not quite know—something relished or imagined in their character. They who want the wisdom of the ages projected out subliminally and sublimely from the depths of their stylish cummerbund will line up for blocks; they will make deals, stab the backs of old friends, or turn on their families.
The meeting goes well. The Board of Directors is clearly impressed.
Our wild haired mad scientist is handsomely rewarded. Now a wealthy man, capable of indulging his most eccentric tastes and ideas, he moves to his own tropical island. He sets himself up as a king, to be fed fried bananas and fanned by naked native girls. He trades in his bulging lab coat for an outfit woven of palm leaves and fastened with seashell buttons. Let him wile away the rest of his days perfecting the canoe.
Meanwhile the industry grows large without its father. There are plants in Buffalo, Cleveland, and Concrete, Washington; there are designers in Milan and Paris; there are retailers in New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle. You can order your own suit from a TV, computer, or registered dealer. Certain advertisers will pay good money or rebates if you allow the name of their company to appear repeatedly on the cuff or inseam of your trousers. Writers and publishers rake in unexpected royalties (the Bible, the Tao, the Koran, naturally, making no tangible profits for their respective authors). Lovers go on first dates wearing unreadable copies of the works of William Shakespeare or The Tropic of Cancer. Students squint in vain at their Encyclopedia Britannica sleeve. Certain executives have only “Power” sub-visually printed over and over again; while some politicians opt only for the word “Honest.”
There are knock-offs, of course, cheaper suits that when magnified will only reveal blurred gibberish or the texts of out of date dictionaries.
A few people and stockholders grow ridiculously rich in this new industry. They retire early, buy houses on the beach, search the sands with their metal detectors while their black Bermuda shorts whisper all the words of Thoreau.
If you should enter such a world as this after a long trip or sleep, you might be surprised at the sartorial dullness and conformity that seem to surround you. A sea of black suits and dresses moves by on conveyor-belt sidewalks; and you might make broad judgements about the uniformity of product that this civilization churns out. It is not your fault; you cannot be blamed for your logical, yet erroneous assumption. Each person is clothed in the words that mean the most to them. Swaddled as babies in the complete works of Dr. Seuss, they are buried in suits and ties that list all of their friends, families, and accomplishments. These are the things that they loved and held most dearly. It is only you who cannot read the fine print.