The lost A List

As A List Hol­ly­wood stars come out to tell their Har­vey Wein­stein couch harass­ment sto­ries, I have to won­der about those who didn’t make it through after say­ing no — actress­es who saw their roles evap­o­rate and left act­ing. The New York Times head­lines pro­fil­ing Wein­stein accusers touts Gwyneth Pal­trow and Angeli­na Jolie but also intro­duces us a woman who is now a psy­chol­o­gy pro­fes­sor in Col­orado. How many bet­ter actress­es and strong-minded women would there be in Hol­ly­wood if so many hadn’t been forced out?

I thought of this after read­ing by a tweet from the actress Rose Marie. She’s best known as one of the jovial side­kicks from the 1960s’ Dick Van Dyke Show. Not to dimin­ish the rest of the cast, but Rose Marie is one of the best rea­sons to watch the show, espe­cial­ly dur­ing those rare moments she’s allowed to step out from her character’s wise­crack­ing spin­ster per­sona and sing or act. On Twit­ter, she shared that she lost a music con­tract in the 1950s because she wouldn’t sleep with a producer.

What if a tal­ent­ed actress like Rose Marie had been giv­en more oppor­tu­ni­ties and wasn’t just known for a sup­port­ing part in a old sit­com? What if the psy­chol­o­gy pro­fes­sor had got­ten the Shake­speare in Love lead? (Imag­ine a world where Pal­trow was only known to 800 or so Face­book friends for too-perfect fam­i­ly pics and memes from dubi­ous health sites.)

Dis­claimer: This is a minor point com­pared with any actress­es who weren’t able to deal with the harass­ment and the indus­try silenc­ing machin­ery. I’m sure there are tragedies that are more than just career pivots.

Wheat planting at Howell’s Living History Farm

We’ve got­ten into the habit of vis­it­ing Howell’s Liv­ing His­to­ry Farm up in Mer­cer Coun­ty, N.J., a few times a year as part of home­school­er group trips. In the past, we’ve cut ice, tapped trees for maple syrup, and seen the sheep shear­ing and card­ing. Today we saw the var­i­ous stages of wheat – from plant­i­ng, to har­vest­ing, thresh­ing, win­now­ing, grind­ing, and bak­ing. I love that there’s such a wide vocab­u­lary of spe­cif­ic lan­guage for all this – words I bare­ly know out­side of bib­li­cal para­bles (“Oh wheat from chaff!”) and that there’s great vin­tage machin­ery (Howell’s oper­a­tions are set around the turn of the twen­ti­eth century).

Hammonton Food Trucks

From the first Ham­mon­ton Food Truck Fes­ti­val. Cool stuff but the lines are way too long for a sin­gle par­ent with four antsy kids.

One of our friends said the line waits were up to 1.5 hrs. I could just about have jumped on the express­way to Philly, got­ten some Fed­er­al Donuts, and made it back in that time. I like that Ham­mon­ton has made then edges of a hip­ster map but this is a bit sil­ly. We end­ed up get­ting frozen treats at the Wawa around the corner.

Gohn Brothers, broadfalls, & men’s plain dress

A few years ago I felt led to take up the ancient Quak­er tes­ti­mo­ny of plain dress­ing. I’ve spo­ken else­where about my moti­va­tions but I want to give a lit­tle prac­ti­cal advice to oth­er men who have heard or even got­ten ahold of the “Gohn Bros.” cat­a­log but don’t know just what to order. I cer­tain­ly am not sanc­tion­ing a uni­form for plain dress, I sim­ply want to give those so inclined an idea of how to start.

Just as back­ground: I’m a thirty-something Philadel­phia native, brought up with­out any for­mal reli­gion in a Philly sub­urb. I first start­ed approach­ing Quak­ers (Friends) back in col­lege. In my ear­ly twen­ties, I start­ed work­ing at a collectively-run paci­fist book pub­lish­ing house and liv­ing in what was then the sort of down­scale hip­ster neigh­bor­hood of West Philadel­phia. In 2002 I attend­ed a week-long work­shop that had some plain dress­ing Friends and felt the nudge to exper­i­ment. I’ve left Philadel­phia to become a res­i­dent of a small farm­ing town in South Jer­sey (what love will do) but I still spend a lot of time in the city and in decid­ed­ly urban set­tings. I don’t aim to be his­tor­i­cal­ly cor­rect with my plain dress and I don’t want to sim­ply “look like an Amish” person.

Gohn Broth­ers is a store in Indi­ana that sells “Amish and Plain Cloth­ing.” It is cur­rent­ly cel­e­brat­ing it’s 100th year in busi­ness. It’s known for it’s sim­ple print cat­a­log, which is updat­ed every few months. It does not have a web­site. You should get a copy of the cat­a­log to get cur­rent cloth­ing and ship­ping prices. It’s address is:

PO Box 1110, 105 S. Main St., Mid­dle­bury IN 46540
Phone: (574) 825‑2400. Toll-free: 800 – 595-0031

When I first start­ed “going plain,” I sim­ply wore reg­u­lar dark pants with sus­penders found at a gener­ic depart­ment store. It was impor­tant to me that I was wear­ing clothes I already had, and I want­ed to be “Sears Plain,” by which I meant I didn’t want to go to any extremes to find plain cloth­ing. When I first bought a pair of broad­falls (the zip­per­less pants favored by plain men), I didn’t wear them for months. Slow­ly I start­ed start­ed wear­ing them out and feel­ing more at ease in them. They were made of rugged den­im, wore well and were quite comfortable.
As my pre-plain clothes have worn out, I’ve start­ed replac­ing them with Gohn Brothers-produced broad­falls. They’re just as inex­pen­sive as any cheaply-made jeans from Old Navy but they hold up and are pre­sum­ably made in Indi­ana by seam­stress­es earn­ing a decent wage.


Gohn Broth­ers offers many dif­fer­ent weights and fab­rics for their broad­fall pants, num­ber­ing them for ease of order­ing. I have bought two pair, both of which I like:

  • #66: 10 oz. sol­id grey den­im, 100% cot­ton: $22.98
  • #92: 100% cot­ton blue jean den­im (11 oz.): $24.98


Gohn Broth­ers pro­duces a num­ber of coats, also called “over­shirts.” In these pur­chas­es I have tend­ed to be more dis­tinct­ly Quak­er. I have two Coats:

  • #225: 9oz. Poly, cot­ton. $41.98 at the time of this post. I have opt­ed for a few alter­ations: A “reg­u­lar cut” for $3.00, a “standup col­lar” for $2.00, “but­ton holes with met­al but­tons” for $3.00 and a “quilt­ed lin­ing” for $5.00.
  • #125 9 oz. Black drill den­im. Poly/cotton. Unlined Jack­et, black drill. Alter­ations: “standup col­lar” for $2.00. (for this I had the default “snaps” in place of but­tons and the default “full cut”).

I’ve pref­ered the spe­cial­ized “reg­u­lar cut” coat over the stan­dard “full cut.” The reg­u­lar cut feels more like the stan­dard suit jack­et that most pro­fes­sion­al men wear to work, while the full cut felt more like a wind-breaker. I also pre­fer the but­tons, as the snaps con­tributed to the wind-breaker feel.


Also known as “braces,” all you need are dark broad­falls and sus­penders to real­ly look “plain” to the world. “Tabbed” sus­penders fit over but­tons in your pants, while “clip-on’s” use alli­ga­tor clips to fas­ten onto stan­dard pants. Tabbed look bet­ter but I can’t help think­ing of Michael Dou­glass in “Wall Street”; a lot of ordi­nary anabapist men I see have clip-on’s.

I’ve heard the sto­ry that there’s a good-hearted rib­bing between the Iowa and North Car­oli­na Con­ser­v­a­tive Quak­ers about whether thin or wide sus­penders is more plain. I’ve start­ed to throw my lot in with Iowa and have got­ten the three-quarter inch sus­penders. (Fash­ion­istas will remem­ber that thin sus­penders were pop­u­lar with a cer­tain kind of high school geek in the mid-1980s – think Cameron in Fer­ris Beuler’s Day Off; fair dis­clo­sure requires that I admit that I wore them around Chel­tenham High). Again Gohn Brothers:

  • #550T 3/4″ tab. Black: $7.98
  • #552C 3/4″ clip. Black: $6.98


While Gohn Broth­ers does hats, I haven’t bought any of theirs. Instead I’ve gone for the Tilley T3 hat. I’m not com­plete hap­py with this, as Tilley’s seem to be asso­ci­at­ed with a cer­tain kind of clue­less trav­el­er, but I’ve noticed that there are a lot of men in my year­ly meet­ing who wear them, I think as an uncon­scious nod toward plain­ness. The Tilley is also friend­lier to bike com­muters: its tie-down strings wrap eas­i­ly around bike han­dle­bars, and it’s very crush­able and washable.

Not a Uniform

Again, let me stress: I am not try­ing to spec­i­fy a mod­ern plain dress uni­form. The only time you should adopt plain dress is when you’re feel­ing active­ly led by it. Some­times that lead­ing is an intu­tion, which is fine, but you need to fol­low it on your own terms. My prac­tice has evolved over time and yours should too. I’ve become more plain since I start­ed this wit­ness sim­ply because I had to replace worn clothes and couldn’t see spend­ing more mon­ey for shod­di­er clothes than I could get at Gohn Broth­ers. You don’t need to get broad­falls to be “plain,” as “plain­ness” is as much a state of mind and an atti­tude toward God and your spir­i­tu­al com­mu­ni­ty as it a set of clothes. I think of it now as a spir­i­tu­al dis­ci­pline, one very fit­ting for our con­sumeris­tic times.

I’d love to hear from oth­ers about their plain dressing.

Confessions of an Anti-Sactions Activist

There are a bunch of fas­ci­nat­ing rants against the con­tem­po­rary peace move­ment as the result of an arti­cle by Charles M. Brown, an anti-sanctions activist that has somewhat-unfairly chal­lenged his for­mer col­leagues at the Voic­es in the Wilder­ness. Brown talks quite frankly about his feel­ings that Sad­dam Hus­sein used the peace group for pro­pa­gan­da pur­pos­es and he chal­lenges many of the cul­tur­al norms of the peace move­ment. I don’t know if Brown real­ized just how much the anti-peace move­ment crowd would jump at his arti­cle. It’s got­ten play in InstaPun­dit and In Con­text: None So Blind.
Brown’s cri­tique is inter­est­ing but not real­ly fair: he faults Voic­es for hav­ing a sin­gle focus (sanc­tions) and sin­gle goal (chang­ing U.S. pol­i­cy) but what else should be expect­ed of a small group with no sig­nif­i­cant bud­get? Over the course of his work against sanc­tions Brown start­ed study­ing Iraqi his­to­ry as an aca­d­e­m­ic and he began to wor­ry that Voic­es dis­re­gard­ed his­tor­i­cal analy­sis that “did not take … Desert Storm as their point of depar­ture.” But was he sur­prised? Of course an aca­d­e­m­ic is going to have a longer his­tor­i­cal view than an under­fund­ed peace group. The sharp focus of Voic­es made it a wel­come anom­aly in the peace move­ment and gave it a strength of a clear mes­sage. Yes it was a prophet­ic voice and yes it was a large­ly U.S.-centric voice but as I under­stand it, that was much of the point behind its work: We can do bet­ter in the world. It was Amer­i­cans tak­ing respon­si­bil­i­ty for our own people’s blind­ness and dis­re­gard for human life. That Iraq has prob­lems doesn’t let us off the hook of look­ing at our own culture’s skeletons.
What I do find fas­ci­nat­ing is his behind-the-scenes descrip­tion of the cul­ture of the 1990s peace move­ment. He talks about the roots of the anti-sanctions activism in Catholic-Worker “dra­matur­gy.” He’s undoubt­ed­ly right that peace activists didn’t chal­lenge Baathist par­ty pro­pa­gan­da enough, that we used the suf­fer­ing of Iraqi peo­ple for our own anti-war pro­pa­gan­da, and that our analy­sis was often too sim­plis­tic. That doesn’t change the fact that hun­dreds of thou­sands of Iraqi chil­dren died from sanc­tions that most Amer­i­cans knew lit­tle about.
The peace move­ment doesn’t chal­lenge its own assump­tions enough and I’m glad Brown is shar­ing a self-critique. I wish he were a bit gen­tler and sus­pect he’ll look back at his work with Voic­es with more char­i­ty in years to come. Did he know the fod­der his cri­tique would give to the hawk­ish groups? Rather than recant his past as per the neo-conservative play­book, he could had offered his reflec­tions and cri­tique with an acknowl­eg­ment that there are plen­ty of good moti­va­tions behind the work of many peace activists. I like a lot of what Brown has to say but I won­der if peace activists will be able to hear it now. I think Brown will even­tu­al­ly find his new hawk­ish friends are at least as caught up in group-think, his­tor­i­cal myopia, and pro­pa­gan­da prop­a­ga­tion as the peo­ple he critiques.
Voic­es in the Wilder­ness has done a lot of good edu­cat­ing Amer­i­cans about the effects of our poli­cies over­seas. It’s been hard and often-thankless work in a cli­mate that didn’t sup­port peace work­ers either moral­ly or finan­cial­ly. The U.S. is a much bet­ter place because of Voic­es and the peace move­ment was cer­tain­ly invig­o­rat­ed by its breath of fresh air.