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Black, White, and Read All Over

In the third grade, our class held a Show and Tell: Jokes Edition. One of the boys started us off with this classic:

“What’s black, white, and red all over?…A zebra with a sun burn!” Upon hearing this joke, I had two reactions: The first? Confusion, as zebras don’t get sunburns. The second? Panic, as this boy had just used a set-up very similar to my own (hilarious) joke. However, I soon realized that he had actually done me a favour, as he set up my joke in the best possible way. See, I followed his turn with this this head-scratcher:

“What’s black and white and red all over?…A Newspaper!” (Get it? “Red” is a homophone for “read!” Har har har.)

I still think my joke was far superior, and today, I’m dressed as another possible answer. I’m outfitted in black and white, and lately, I’ve been “read” in a few more places that usual. You see, a few Saturdays back, I had my moment in the sun (no sunburns, though) and played cover girl on the Saturday edition of the Hamilton Spectator. Every week, The Spec (my city’s local rag) profiles the style of one local citizen, in the shape of a brief questionnaire and a few photos. They use them as space fillers all across the newspaper, wherever and whenever needed.

Well, lucky for me, there obviously wasn’t a lot goin’ on in Hamilton two weekends ago, so they slapped my silly face on the front page of the GO section (ie: the fun section with all the celebrity gossip and crossword puzzles). This was a great surprise to me, as I had assumed they’d squeeze me in between the classified and obits in a few months from now when their well had run very, very dry. But some congratulatory tweets filled me in on my cover spot, and I set off on a rainy walk to grab the last copy of from the newspaper box down the street.

I was very, very nervous about seeing the feature in print. For one, I now fully appreciate the opportunity to revise, redo, and rehash every sentence on this blog from the comfort of my keyboard. Alternatively, this interview was done in person and recorded on an iPhone, so it was FULL  of “ummms,” “uhhhs,” and “likes.” Quite frankly, I was certain I’d come across as Frankenstein from Beverly Hills. Thankfully, the interviewer kindly edited out my “uhhhs” and I didn’t say anything too embarrassing. (Spanx, though? Really Julie?)

There was, however, one question in the interview that didn’t make it in the final cut. To get the ball rolling, Sheryl asked me to describe my personal style. A wiser woman would have seen this question coming and formulated a nice, succinct response, but I am not she. I, instead, launched into the world’s longest run-on sentence. I described my style as vintage-y, yet modern; that I like colour, but also black; that I’m drawn to clean, minimal styling…and quirky, crazy patterns. I basically piled contradiction on top of contradiction, and called it a personal style.

Well, unsurprisingly, none of that made for a very print-friendly answer. However, while I don’t blame them for omitting it, I’ve come to conclude that it’s the truth.  I don’t have a two or three word answer that describes how I want to look every day. I don’t have a style manifesto that I take with me every where I shop. Instead, I thrift things that I like, and things that I feel good in. Sometimes they’re simple, sometimes they’re bananas, but they’re all me.

The outfit I’m wearing today is not only another punch line to a dorky joke, it’s an example of this oxymoronic approach at work. I like this skirt because it is clean and linear, but I like this cardigan because of the swirly-whirly lines. I like black, but I also I like red, pink, and green. My style isn’t relaxed, tailored, bohemian, or mod— it’s all of those, and whatever else I find at the thrift store. I don’t think I’ll ever confine my style to one snappy little sentence, because I want to continue to pull dresses from the 60s and blazers from the 90s. I want to be both Zooey D. and Michelle O. I want to wear whatever I want, whenever I want. And sometimes I want to wear my cardigan backwards just because I can.

While that doesn’t make for a very good answer in print, it sure makes thrifting much more fun.

Thanks again to the fine folks at the Hamilton Spectator for deeming me interesting enough for the Saturday GO. And thanks to you, readers, who come back to this little blog, whether I’m wearing black, white or something else entirely.


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