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Jul 22, 2016
Originally published on April 25, 2017 10:37 am
Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

HANNA ROSIN, HOST:

Let's begin on October 31.

HANNA ROSIN AND LULU MILLER: Halloween.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #1: Trick or treat.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Trick or treat.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Happy Halloween.

ROSIN: The sun goes down and all the kids in the neighborhood go under a temporary spell.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #2: Who are you?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #3: Trick or treat.

LULU MILLER, HOST:

And it's not just that they are dressed different.

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL #1: I'm wearing a butterfly.

UNIDENTIFIED BOY #1: I'm wearing a mask.

UNIDENTIFIED BOY #2: I did the Spider-Man.

MILLER: But under their masks and capes and butterfly wings, if you ask them, they will tell you that they feel different.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #4: This make me feel happy.

ROSIN: Like these costumes, give them powers they didn't have that morning, like the power to fly.

Are you afraid of going on an airplane?

FRANNY: Sometimes.

ROSIN: This is 8-year-old Franny. I talked to her while she was getting ready to trick or treat. She says that usually when she's in her regular Franny clothes, the idea of getting on an airplane makes her really.

FRANNY: Nervous.

ROSIN: The few times she's been on an airplane, she really needs her mom's help.

FRANNY: I hold her hand and I hold it very tight.

ROSIN: But tonight, Halloween, is different.

Can you describe your costume?

FRANNY: I'm wearing a leather jacket and an aviator hat and aviator goggles and jeans, boots and an aviator scarf.

ROSIN: Franny's dressed as...

FRANNY: Amelia Earhart.

MILLER: Yep, a woman who ate airplanes for breakfast.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MILLER: Who was...

FRANNY: Awesome and brave.

ROSIN: And as Franny puts on the white silk scarf, the leather jacket, the hat with the floppy ears...

You want to go look in the mirror?

...Guess what happens? The nervous disappears.

If I put you in an airplane right now, what would happen?

FRANNY: I'd feel like a pro.

ROSIN: A pro. Franny says that wrapped in those clothes she'd be able to walk on an airplane, grab the wheel and be off.

Like, how can a costume make you feel different? 'Cause it's just a costume.

FRANNY: It's a costume, but when you look in the mirror, you look like someone else and then you feel like someone else.

ROSIN: She even knew just where she would go without that fear.

FRANNY: To an island, an amazing island. It would have 2,000 pools and everything was a beach and my house had a bouncy house in it. It would be amazing.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Hi, trick or treat. Oh, you're Amelia Earhart. That's great.

ROSIN: The fantasy lasted for a few hours and then...

UNIDENTIFIED CHILDREN: Trick or treat.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: A new toothbrush for you.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #5: Thank you.

ROSIN: Yeah, thanks for being a representative from the world of adults where teeth rot and fantasies aren't real and Franny is not Amelia Earhart and the clothing we put on our bodies does not have the power to change us at all.

MILLER: Or does it?

ROSIN: This is INVISIBILIA. I'm Hanna Rosin.

MILLER: And I'm Lulu Miller.

ROSIN: And today, we're talking about clothes and the surprising powers they have over you, sometimes in ways that you want, like in Franny's case, but sometimes in ways you aren't even aware of and might not even like.

MILLER: And it's this last part we are really interested in, the unintended effects of clothes. How much can they really mess with you? To explore this question, we have something a little different today. We are bringing you six stories, six battles, really, of humans grappling with the power of clothes.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MILLER: We've got the case of the sunglasses...

ROSIN: The silky knickers...

MILLER: ...The doctor's white coat...

ROSIN: ...A hoodie...

MILLER: ...A Nazi's shirt...

ROSIN: ...And a shoe that just might be powerful enough to alter the course of history.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MILLER: Maybe. As you listen, you decide who's really in control.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MILLER: All right. So battle number one comes to us from our producer Yowei Shaw, and it is about a guy who is hoping that a single article of clothing can help him conquer one of the hardest parts of adolescence.

YOWEI SHAW, BYLINE: The first plan he tried was a jacket, one of those olive green Army coats. It was the early '80s and Cass was hoping the coat would protect him.

CASS: You had all of these Vietnam vets returning, and they're all having flashbacks and stuff, and they were unpredictable. So I figured that if I wear this jacket, they're going to, like, start thinking that I'm crazy and you don't want to mess with the crazy guy.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SHAW: And growing up, Cass - Cass Frankenstein - didn't want to be messed with. He was a small kid trying to make it through school on the South Side of Chicago. He didn't play sports, and he had what he thought was a terribly dorky birth name.

CASS: What's wrong with Albert Melvin Frank III (laughter)?

SHAW: Plus, he wore glasses that framed cartoonishly sweet puppy dog eyes. So you might imagine he got picked on a lot.

CASS: There was a lot of tripping and people would take, like, both hands on a textbook and then whack you right in the back of the head with it.

SHAW: Every day was like a game of chess, a series of careful strategies that sometimes went right and sometimes went wrong.

CASS: I would try to make myself invisible by walking behind taller people. You have to see where they are, and you have to be able to see around you the entire time.

SHAW: And then, when Cass was 13, things got even worse.

CASS: Oh, Jesus.

SHAW: A kid was making fun of him, which, OK, wasn't that unusual. But this time, Cass decided to do something about it.

CASS: And I looked at him and said, do you want to do this? Do you want to go? And I throw my bag down, flump, ready to go and he sucker-punched me, pap (ph), right in the face.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CASS: And instead of throwing punches - it's funny. I'm looking at things.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CASS: I'm looking at the light poles.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CASS: And I'm looking at the snow on the ground.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CASS: And I'm getting hit the whole time and I'm, like, looking at all this stuff because I can't look in his face.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SHAW: But this was actually not the worst part. The worst part came later, after he had dragged himself home through the snow and crawled into bed and his mom came in.

CASS: Who'd you get in a fight with?

SHAW: And with a look of disgust on her face, delivered a message.

CASS: You let him beat you up? If you ever come in this house again and you lose a fight, I'm going to get you. You hear me?

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SHAW: And this is when Cass decided to turn to clothes...

CASS: Right.

SHAW: ...Which brings us back to the jacket.

CASS: If I wear this jacket, they're going to, like, start thinking that I'm crazy.

SHAW: Cass had seen a movie about a kid whose classmates thought he was a psychopath. And in this movie, the kid wore an army jacket. So one morning, hoping to scare off his classmates, Cass zipped on his dad's old Army jacket...

CASS: OK, picture this.

SHAW: ...Took a deep breath and walked into school.

CASS: And...

SHAW: And totally didn't work.

CASS: I mean, if you grow up in the South Side of Chicago, the last thing you're worried about is a Vietnam vet. You just look like you're broke. You look like you're poor.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SHAW: But like many of us, he was convinced that the right article of clothing could transform him, make him someone unpickonable (ph).

CASS: Yes.

SHAW: So he tried a pair of motorcycle boots, a pair of trendy Air Jordan sneakers...

CASS: Oh, yeah.

SHAW: ...Even a varsity letter jacket.

CASS: (Laughter).

SHAW: And then, one day, Cass was shopping for new glasses. And he noticed a pair of large tinted frames in the glass display case. They went from dark magenta at the top to warm pink at the bottom. And he wondered, could these be the answer?

CASS: In the black community, guys that wore sunglasses, man, they were sharp. They were cool.

SHAW: A few days later, Cass showed up at school wearing the glasses, and as he walked through the hallways, he heard something new.

CASS: Cool glasses. Man, those are cool glasses. How are you going to get away with wearing those glasses at school? And I said, oh, they're prescription. And that's it. That was it. It ended.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SHAW: Usually, it doesn't work this way. Usually, we discover a hard limit to the power of clothing. But for some reason in Cass' case, all of the tripping, all of the textbook slapping, all of the hiding of clothes in a locker room and spitballing, it just stopped. With those tinted frames hiding his eyes...

CASS: I was like a ghost almost. And I know that sounds strange, but it was like people did not really notice me.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SHAW: Problem solved. But maybe problem solved too well.

CASS: These are good for the night time. These are nice little round ones.

SHAW: Which one is your favorite pair if you had to choose?

CASS: Just - let's see. I would say these - these because these are just like a mask. They're just so dark and...

SHAW: Cass is 48 now, and a lot has changed since high school. He has tattoos. He's an artist, had a somewhat popular underground comic in the '90s. And for many years, his day job was working as a custodian for UT Austin. But what hasn't changed in all these years is the sunglasses.

CASS: Wear them when I'm laying down in bed - yeah, everywhere.

SHAW: He wears them whether he's outdoors, whether he's indoors, whether at the grocery store or going on a date.

Would you wear them during sex?

CASS: I have.

SHAW: Cass is that guy. He wears the sunglasses all day...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SUNGLASSES AT NIGHT")

COREY HART: (Singing) I wear my sunglasses at night...

SHAW: And all night. And, yes, sometimes when he walks by, strangers sing the song.

CASS: It's annoying, yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SUNGLASSES AT NIGHT")

HART: (Singing) Visions in my eyes.

SHAW: But Cass doesn't care what people think because he genuinely believes that sunglasses have a kind of magical power. He's even written a paper trying to quantify and describe just why they work so well, which is how I found him. In the paper, which he shared with the psychology department at UT, he talks about the ability of sunglasses to protect bullied kids.

CASS: Number one - by avoiding pack placement, you tend to avoid male conflict.

SHAW: It's a careful psychological parsing of how wearing sunglasses changes the emotional dynamics of a situation, how shielding the eyes can provide cover to people who need it.

CASS: You can't see a person cry if they're wearing dark glasses.

SHAW: But also how sunglasses can give anyone special advantages over those who choose not to wear a mask on their face.

CASS: Four - you have the ability to scan your surroundings for females without appearing to do so.

It's like being able to look at the world through a telescope or from behind a wall.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SHAW: It's hard to overstate the belief Cass has in the power of sunglasses. To give you some idea, he's so devoted to wearing them that two years into his second marriage he didn't remember that his wife Beth had blue eyes, not brown, which made me wonder - is there anything about wearing sunglasses that Cass in his conviction can't really see? I asked Beth Wylie (ph), now his ex-wife, and she told me that during her marriage to Cass she had this saying.

BETH WYLIE: The world is only as dark as the sunglasses you see it through.

SHAW: Beth seemed to think that constantly wearing the sunglasses had actually colored the way Cass saw the world, given him a darker view. She said the sunglasses often made strangers and even her friends more standoffish towards Cass, which perhaps led him to seeing more of the negatives in others.

WYLIE: I think that's always there more. I just felt like I just spent a lot of the relationship preparing myself, you know, for people to be [expletive].

KRISTIN BUNYARD: Because it is hard to have a conversation with someone for several hours and you can never really see their eyes.

SHAW: That's Kristin Bunyard, who's been friends with Cass for 20 years. I asked her if it was possible the sunglasses were keeping him in a brutal high school version of the world, imprisoning him there in a way and obscuring the truth that, you know, grown-ups are generally way nicer than kids.

BUNYARD: I mean, at the risk of sounding rude or insensitive, nobody is bullying a 50-year-old guy, especially not in Austin. And I think that the majority of the people that he surrounds himself with now, it's all people that love him. And he is safe with all of us. I wish he felt like he could take them off.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SHAW: Back in his apartment, safe from the outside world, I brought these ideas to Cass, told him that some of the people I talked to, some of the people closest to him, do feel like the sunglasses are a wall. And at first, he denied it.

CASS: The only reason they want to see my eyes is to see if I'm lying to them. That's what I would think.

SHAW: I kept pushing him, though, until finally he got exasperated with me and he came up with his own kind of test.

Do you know what I mean? I don't know...

CASS: Why don't I take the glasses off and I'll talk to you and - so you can see if there's any difference. Now...

SHAW: Cass placed the sunglasses carefully on the bed, and suddenly, there was a transformation. The person I saw in front of me had fluttering eyes with curly eyelashes. The man, who just a moment ago was so sure of himself, now looked naked and vulnerable. Even his voice had changed.

CASS: As I said, that when I try to look at people when I speak, I get kind of flustered if I'm not wearing the glasses, and I don't know exactly what to say. It's 'cause of, you know, my shield is down. So it's a matter of their comfort or my comfort.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SHAW: We talked for 30 more minutes without the sunglasses on, and then the interview ended. Cass put the glasses back on and, once again, everything changed. He was back to cracking jokes, dancing, even singing.

CASS: I love the dark. I adore the darkness.

SHAW: With his glasses on, he stood outside his front door and he seemed prepared, excited even, to venture out.

CASS: Look at that thing.

SHAW: Yeah.

CASS: Amazing (unintelligible) carry my stuff.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ROSIN: So, to start, you think you could do an impression of us?

MILLER: Yes, yes, will you do that?

WILL FRANKEN: Oh, yeah, clothing. What does clothing - you know, Lulu - I mean, clothes. I know, I wear them sometimes, too. Our voices are really similar. I know. We might as well just be the same person. And then there's some soft piano. There will be some soft piano.

MILLER: OK, I'll get you going.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FRANKEN: (Imitating piano).

MILLER: This is comedian Will Franken. He's from Missouri but lives in London now. And he's a tall guy, about 6 foot 5, known for doing these absurdist impressions that are almost like a stream of consciousness. It's like being inside his head with a lot of characters.

FRANKEN: (Imitating British accent) A recent study put out by NPR News shows that the majority of people who listen to NPR News don't know what's being talked about or discussed or even care. I just thought it was something nice to put on when I did my yoga.

ROSIN: Ouch.

MILLER: (Laughter) That might be true.

ROSIN: Ouch.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ROSIN: And as you just heard with that NPR impression, one of his favorite targets is the media.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

FRANKEN: Today, we are talking to survivors, survivors of tragedy and survivors of grief. With me today are three very, very brave survivors who are going to show us how they have survived and how we might learn from those who have surviven (ph) survived.

(LAUGHTER)

MILLER: What is it that you're getting at? Like, is it about the sort of just faux empathy that's then used to, like, emotionally exploit - like, the - I don't know. Like, what is it...

FRANKEN: Oh, absolutely, absolutely. I mean, I sanctimony is a big enemy of mine. Hypocrisy, sanctimony, the Hollywood tears - you add in the internet, you add in the media standards having slipped so much. I mean, the job of satire is not really to change anything, but it is to state this is the way the world is. If you want to keep it this way, then keep being this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

FRANKEN: Last guest is Charles Davis (ph), one of the fathers of one of the children who was burnt to death in one of the fires in one of the schools in one of the cities of this country.

(LAUGHTER)

FRANKEN: The book "Dealing With The Death Of His Son Charred Beyond Recognition" is...

(LAUGHTER)

FRANKEN: ...Due to hit shelves this Friday. Let me start by asking, if your son could be here with you today, what would you say? Oh, my God, I thought you were dead.

(LAUGHTER)

ROSIN: Will can't stand the whole cycle of the media. It really bugs him the way people shamelessly volunteer their pain for consumption. And then the media takes that pain and stuffs it into this tidy narrative for ratings, which brings us to our tidy packaging of Will's pain for a show about clothes. Lulu, you want to do this?

MILLER: Fine.

FRANKEN: (Imitating piano).

MILLER: So it begins one day when Will was going through a breakup. And he had been through a divorce a few years before that.

Will, can I have a soundbite of how you felt?

FRANKEN: I was really, really lonely.

MILLER: And he had just stepped into a new apartment, opened his suitcase and began unpacking all his clothes.

FRANKEN: My knickers and my tights and my bras.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FRANKEN: High heels, skirts, dresses.

MILLER: See, starting at a young age, Will has liked to privately dress as a woman.

FRANKEN: Yeah. I think it was just a sense of excitement, a little bit of eroticism, definitely the forbidden.

ROSIN: Will grew up as the only boy in a family of four kids. And he says his father, who was his model of manhood, was really stressful to be around. So when his sisters wanted to play with him and dress him up when he was 5 or 6 years old, Will says it felt good.

FRANKEN: A switch went off, you know, and it was associated with safety with women and with laughter with comfort, with all these nice things, and I think the clothes, you know, kind of stuck. It stuck.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MILLER: As Will got older, he kept thinking about women's clothes. He started buying them in private and wearing them - laces, tights, silks.

FRANKEN: It was a feeling of this feels really good but at the same time you shouldn't tell anybody at all about that - you liking it. And now you've got this secret that you've got to keep.

MILLER: Is it kind of about, like, feeling like, oh, I'm touching the girl or is it, like, feeling like you become a woman or you're getting this intimate access to a woman?

FRANKEN: That's - I think that's what - intimate access to a woman as well as feeling a side of the world that by virtue of your biological sex you're not supposed to. For me, there was a lot of excitement in the fact that this was, like, taboo, and I like the deviant aspect of it.

ROSIN: But that day, with his suitcase open and his clothes spread all around the apartment, Will wondered if there might be more to it, if the clothes might be able to do more for him, soothe this feeling that he had of being off somehow, of his relationships not quite working, of loneliness. So Will decided he was going to wear the dresses and the floral blouses all the time in public.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FRANKEN: It was definitely a [expletive] and there was a little bit of optimism, too. Like, you're in England. This is the land of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," David Bowie. I was willing to explore a path.

ROSIN: He gave himself a new name - Sarah.

MILLER: How would you describe your style? Can you just paint a picture of an average outfit?

FRANKEN: Yeah. It was usually a slightly above the knee skirt, you know, whatever top I happen to have ready that day, the black wig, either black flats or these pink Converse I had and black tights.

ROSIN: I mean, did you pass?

FRANKEN: Of course not. I'm 6 foot 5. It really became, like, a convoluted version of Tootsie, except everybody knew that I was a man.

MILLER: Living as a woman, as Sarah, meant also performing comedy as Sarah.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

FRANKEN: I'm Sarah and I'm Dipity (ph) and we are Sarandipity (ph).

(LAUGHTER)

FRANKEN: I should introduce Dipity. In case you don't know, Dipity is the imaginary clown that travels with every comedian, and whenever there's - something just fortunate happened in your life, he always says - what's your catchphrase, Dipity?

(As Dipity) Hey, it'll be plenty of material for your show (laughter).

(LAUGHTER)

FRANKEN: 'Cause when I got divorced in 2007, my wife left me because I smoked marijuana all day and watched old movies and never paid attention to her emotional needs. You said...

(As Dipity) It'll be plenty of material (laughter).

That's right and when I was living...

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ROSIN: And as a 6-foot-5 transgender woman, the world was suddenly giving her a lot of material.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

FRANKEN: All right. We were sitting down having a coffee earlier and these two guys come up to us and one of them asked me directions to the bus station. So he's looking at me. I'm tall, you know, and he says, do you know where the bus station is? And I was about to say, oh, you mean Piccadilly Gardens. I'm not talking to you. You're a man.

(LAUGHTER)

FRANKEN: Then he touches my friend as if she's (unintelligible). She said I'm not talking to you either [expletive].

(LAUGHTER)

FRANKEN: It's insane. But it's almost like he thought even my words would be tainted with some disease.

(LAUGHTER)

ROSIN: Sarah's comedy started tipping towards the confessional style, the kind of personal storytelling that Will hadn't liked that much.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

FRANKEN: So on one end of the spectrum, you get this kind of out-and-out abuse. And then the other end of the spectrum you have people who like to confess things to you because they think you're into everything because you dress like this. So I usually get old women at bus stops who will come up to me and say, you know, I had a lesbian lover one time. We took a holiday to Tenerife. And this was in the '70s when lesbianism was quite new.

(LAUGHTER)

MILLER: And the more Sarah performed, the more the press started noticing.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Ladies and gentlemen, please give a very warm welcome to Sarah Franken.

(APPLAUSE)

MILLER: This was 2015 and lots of news was happening around transgender issues. Caitlyn Jenner had just been on the cover of Vanity Fair. And before Sarah could figure out what womanhood meant to her, she started becoming a story.

FRANKEN: It was the he's a woman now (imitating trumpet).

MILLER: There were headlines like "Why I Became A Woman After 40 Years Of Fear" and how she stepped out of the closet and was never looking back. The kind of tidy media narrative Will used to make fun of, she was watching herself become one.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

FRANKEN: Tonight - transgenderism. Will Franken is a comedian of some renown who's recently decided to come out about his or her - sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry - her transgenderism.

(LAUGHTER)

ROSIN: As sure as the press was about the ending to Sarah's story where changed on the outside she could be healed on the inside, Sarah wasn't so sure it was working out that way for her. She remembers this one time.

FRANKEN: I was on a tube platform playing Candy Crush, you know, waiting for the train to come and I heard a voice say act like a man. And I looked up and I, you know, big guy staring at me and he says - I said, well, what? And he says, act like a man. You disgust me. I was stunned and I was more stunned with the fact that nobody who saw that really cared. They just let it happen, you know, and I felt really, really alone.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FRANKEN: I thought, my God, the world's a horrible place.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ROSIN: She would feel ok when she was with her friends or performing in a theater, but otherwise...

FRANKEN: The whole experience was like that - what's - I can't remember that childhood game where you - you're on home base, you're safe, you know, and it felt like that. It felt like I was always trying to get to home base.

ROSIN: Like tag.

FRANKEN: Like tag. Yeah, if I could just get here, I'm in a theater. Nobody's going to hurt me in a theater, you know, and I found anytime I was alone, I was just terrified. And a lot of times when I was with people too I - you know, I almost wanted to apologize and say I'm sorry you have to be with me because, you know, I invite all this stuff.

ROSIN: So you're like a bull's eye basically.

FRANKEN: Yeah, exactly.

MILLER: And as the months ticked on, five months in huge floral dresses, six months...

FRANKEN: The being stared at constantly, I just, you know, I was in a - I was in a constant state of paranoia and defensiveness. And I was really, really lonely.

MILLER: And one day, about seven months into wearing the wig, the dresses, the earring, the lipstick, the tights, Sarah realized...

FRANKEN: Yeah, I didn't care anymore. You wore it yesterday. Who cares? Put it on again. Let's get this over with.

MILLER: Like they lost their - the fun?

FRANKEN: You know, they really did, yeah, yeah.

ROSIN: It's funny. I guess if part of what you associate with clothes is like they're transgressive and it's this big secret, maybe, you know, you're out there as Sarah all the time, it's just not - it's not so transgressive anymore.

FRANKEN: No, no, and I transgressed the trans community. And because I didn't reach the conclusions they reached, they were very, you know, angry about it.

ROSIN: Because Sarah went back. She packed up her Sarah clothes and went back to being Will. He now lives and dresses as a man, mostly band T-shirts and jeans. And at a time when transgender acceptance is still so new, it's maybe not that surprising that people in the trans community were upset by Will going back. There were people on the internet who called Will a poser and a tourist and maybe worse that he was giving bigots ammunition because trans activists worry that Will's story implies that being trans is a choice for everyone.

So you're like a traitor.

FRANKEN: I'm a traitor, absolutely - worse, I'm an individual. And if there was an equivalent of Uncle Tom, I think they'd probably call me that for the trans community. They thought the whole thing was a stunt, which it wasn't. It was a process. And I think I knew about three to four months in that it was just the clothes, you know, but I was open to the idea that it wasn't just the clothes, if that makes any sense.

ROSIN: It does, but it does make me wonder back, like, what are the clothes giving you?

FRANKEN: Well, it's escapism I think. It's like taking a trip, you know? You're not there to some extent, you know? You know, I go through so many identities in my shows. There's just identity after identity and they're really short lived. And, you know, like, I'm so lonely - like, I do voices and I sometimes wonder if that's what Sarah's about, it's like a substitute woman, you know, or...

MILLER: Wait...

ROSIN: Yeah, I don't follow that.

MILLER: ...What do you mean?

FRANKEN: Something to fill the loneliness.

MILLER: Like someone who wasn't you.

FRANKEN: Yeah or just feeling like I'll never meet anybody, so why not just be Sarah?

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ROSIN: So were you more lonely as Will or as Sarah or did you just discover, oh, Sarah didn't ease the loneliness? Like, what was the discovery?

FRANKEN: Yeah, I definitely discovered Sarah didn't ease the loneliness. I'm happier that I'm lonely now but as Will, if that makes any sense.

ROSIN: Yeah.

MILLER: The lesser of two lonelies.

FRANKEN: The lesser of two lonelies.

MILLER: I mean, I was thinking maybe, like, the end is that idea, that choosing the lesser of two lonelies.

FRANKEN: That's a good way of looking at it.

MILLER: So you're down with that last line.

FRANKEN: Yeah. I'd be totally cool with that, absolutely.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FRANKEN: I suppose in the end it was the lesser of two lonelies.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MILLER: Big thanks to Meghan Keane for producing that story. When INVISIBILIA returns, we'll hear from a scientist who is trying to measure the unintended effects of clothes.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SAM SANDERS, BYLINE: Hey, y'all. Sam Sanders here, campaign reporter with NPR News, here to tell you that the NPR POLITICS PODCAST has you covered for the biggest two weeks of this election year so far. Skip the cable news hangover and listen to our daily episodes from the Republican and Democratic conventions in Cleveland and Philadelphia every day at both conventions. It all starts July 19. Subscribe to the NPR POLITICS PODCAST at npr.org/podcast or on the NPR One app. Thanks.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ROSIN: This is INVISIBILIA. I'm Hanna Rosin.

MILLER: And I'm Lulu Miller. Today, we are talking about the surprising power clothes have over you. And we could actually have also called this show the men's department because all the stories are pretty much about men.

ROSIN: That was an accident.

MILLER: It's true, which brings me to our next story about a man, a scientist man who set out to see if he could actually measure this sneaky way that clothes can sometimes mess with your brain.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Hey, guys, can you hear me OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: Yeah, all right.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Hey cool, so the next voice you hear will be a Professor Galinsky's.

ADAM GALINSKY: Hello.

MILLER: Hi.

GALINSKY: Hi.

MILLER: This is our scientist man. His name is Adam Galinsky, and he's a professor at Columbia Business School. And he first actually got interested in all of this...

GALINSKY: Do clothes affect the way that people think and behave?

MILLER: ...Because of...

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE SIMPSONS")

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Singing) The Simpsons.

MILLER: "The Simpsons."

GALINSKY: There is a great episode where the principal comes in and demands that all the students start wearing uniforms. And they're these grey uniforms without colors, and the students become very paralyzed.

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HARRY SHEARER: (As Principal Skinner) Ah, these uniforms are a godsend. Horseplay is down 40 percent. Youthful exuberance has been cut in half. High spirits are at an all-time low.

MILLER: And he thought, wait, could there be anything to that?

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GALINSKY: And then when you go into laboratory, you have to come with a more specific hypothesis around that.

MILLER: His more specific hypothesis around that was could clothes affect your intellectual abilities?

GALINSKY: Yeah.

MILLER: Specifically he wondered if wearing a doctor's white coat could make you do better on a really complicated attention task.

ALIX SPIEGEL, HOST:

So can I get you to wear this?

GALINSKY: Sure.

SPIEGEL: OK, good.

MILLER: Which is why a couple months ago, Alix, Hanna and I grabbed a bunch of INVISIBILIA listeners...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: Great to meet you.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #4: Nice to meet you.

MILLER: ...Dragged them into quiet rooms at NPR and made half of them put on doctors' white coats.

SPIEGEL: Sorry, I have to get - like, I have to fix this because I'm a Jewish mother and that's just the way it is.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #5: Is that better?

SPIEGEL: Yeah, that's better. Now it's like - now you look all, like, professional.

MILLER: We were trying as best we could to replicate Adam's experiment.

SPIEGEL: So basically what's going to happen is I'm going to hold up these pieces of paper. They have words written on them in different colors.

MILLER: So we gave everyone the same attention test that Adam gave them.

GALINSKY: The Stroop task.

MILLER: This horrible little thing where you're shown the names of different colors printed in various color inks.

ROSIN: And you have to say the color of the text that the word is written in, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #5: Color of what the text is, not the word.

ROSIN: Bingo.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #5: Got it, all right.

ROSIN: One, two, three.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #6: Brown, blue red.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #6: Blue - that was purple wasn't it? Darn it.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #7: Is it hard?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #7: It is.

MILLER: And what Adam and his team found was that the people in white coats, like this guy here...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #8: Purple, purple, blue, green, red, purple, purple, red, purple.

MILLER: ...Did way better...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #8: Damn.

MILLER: ...Like, way better than the people in street clothes.

GALINSKY: The people wearing the lab coat made about half as many errors, suggesting that they were definitely paying more attention.

ROSIN: I find that kind of amazing. Like, half as many errors.

MILLER: Yeah.

GALINSKY: Yes.

ROSIN: I really want to know how that works. I mean, why would it be true?

GALINSKY: Well...

MILLER: Adam wondered too. Was it the fabric itself? Maybe there was something about having a little weight on your shoulders that gets you to focus better. So he tested again, but this time...

GALINSKY: We described it as a painter's coat.

MILLER: Same exact coat, but he told people...

MILLER: It's painter's coat. It's a painter's white coat.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #9: OK.

MILLER: And...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #9: Brown, brown...

MILLER: It had barely any effect at all.

GALINSKY: So what we found is that it's not just the material of the clothes themselves. But what the key, key aspect is is that symbolic association with it.

MILLER: While the doctor's coat symbolized to people attention, focus.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #10: When I imagine someone who's a painter, I think of someone who may be pretty eccentric, creative, kind of not - I don't want to use the word crazy but probably a little bit closer on that end of the spectrum.

MILLER: Nuts - doesn't really help much on an attention task.

GALINSKY: That's right (laughter).

MILLER: And the final odd thing that Adam found is that if you simply look at a doctor's white coat, you don't get the effect.

GALINSKY: There's something about putting on the coat...

MILLER: Do you mind putting it on?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #11: Not at all.

GALINSKY: ...And feeling it and being that person.

MILLER: Which Adam believes makes those beliefs contained in that piece of clothing carry over into you.

GALINSKY: By putting on the clothing, it essentially becomes who you are. It's a little bit about a momentary shift in identity. And I think you can see that sometimes on Halloween.

FRANNY: I'm hungry. I'm going to eat it all tonight.

ROSIN: If I put you in an airplane right now, what would happen?

FRANNY: I'd feel like a pro.

MILLER: He has dubbed this effect...

GALINSKY: Enclothed cognition.

MILLER: Enclothed cognition, the idea that there is a kind of magic to cloth. It can carry moods and abilities that exist outside of you, into your bloodstream, your brain and change you in quiet but measurable ways.

GALINSKY: At least temporarily.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #4: It make me feel happy.

MILLER: An idea that we thought was kind of cool.

ROSIN: I find that kind of amazing.

MILLER: However, when we told the people whose minds had just been transformed by the white coats.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #12: I don't like the idea that something as small as what I'm wearing or what someone's told me what I'm wearing means would have such a big influence on my ability to function in a certain situation because I'd like to think that I have more control.

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MILLER: Wouldn't we all?

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ROSIN: All right. So now we're going to see just how far we can push this. So we've learned that clothes can boost your intellectual performance, but can they save your life?

CHENJERAI KUMANYIKA: Check, check, check.

MILLER: This is Chenjerai Kumanyika, a professor of communication at Clemson University and also a social justice activist.

KUMANYIKA: I'm visiting my folks, so there was some All-Bran on the scene. I'm good on fiber (laughter).

MILLER: And for many years in the '90s and early 2000s, he was in a hip-hop group called the Spooks.

ROSIN: I was just listening to the Spooks.

KUMANYIKA: Aw, man, were you watching the YouTubes?

ROSIN: I was mostly noting, like, what you were wearing since we're going to talk about that.

MILLER: There's a lot of leather.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THINGS I'VE SEEN")

SPOOKS: (Singing) Far beyond your wildest dreams, I've seen chaos and order reign supreme. (Rapping) I've seen true genius, too often to lose the meaningless, appreciation of this mediocre nation. I've head the mindless repetition of empty words without tradition...

ROSIN: But Chenjerai is not here to talk about his clothes today. He's here to talk about a conversation about clothing that he's been hearing his whole life and that drives him crazy. What is OK for a black person to wear? Like, remember this version of it.

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GERALDO RIVERA: I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin's death as George Zimmerman was.

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PAT ROBERTSON: I mean, there’s been some crime in this area and the criminals were wearing these hoods.

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UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #13: We're hearing about the hoodie. There is no evidence that race had anything to do with this.

MILLER: For Chenjerai, and most people he knows, the idea that a hooded sweatshirt or really any type of clothes could be responsible for an unarmed black teenager's death...

KUMANYIKA: It doesn't seem like reality any more than the idea that not wearing a short skirt could protect you from rape.

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KUMANYIKA: You know, it's like this slick move where we should be thinking about the system, but now we're thinking about the individual.

ROSIN: So conversations that go down this road, talking about what clothes African-Americans should wear or shouldn't wear, they're really hard for him to tolerate. And when it's coming from other African-Americans...

KUMANYIKA: I just think they should know better, you know, like, let's not talk about clothes. We got to fix this system.

ROSIN: So when Chenjerai feels a connection with someone and then finds out they feel differently about this clothes thing, he just avoids that topic.

KUMANYIKA: It's kind of like, you know, I'm just permanently at Thanksgiving dinner. But then it's like, I never get to have the conversation and so I was just - been carrying that frustration around.

MILLER: Until.

KUMANYIKA: Until I met this family near my town in South Carolina.

JAY WISE: Well, this is my nice suit right here. I don't wear that a lot. Khaki jeans - I usually wear that when I go skating.

KUMANYIKA: So this is Jay Wise. He's a high school student. You know, African-American, he's tall and thin kind of like he's just growing into his body.

WISE: I don't wear that, either.

KUMANYIKA: We're flipping through Jay's closet. It's got jeans in there...

WISE: More jeans.

KUMANYIKA: Various kind of, like, dress shirts.

WISE: Dress pants.

KUMANYIKA: At a certain point he, like, pulls out, like, a gray muscle shirt.

BONITA WISE: Well, that would be uncomfortable for me. I wouldn't want him to wear those sleeveless shirts.

KUMANYIKA: That's Bonita Wise, Jay's mother.

WISE: Yeah? Why not?

WISE: 'Cause they just don't look right. I just don't like them.

WISE: You don't like it when people show off their muscles?

WISE: I just don't like it.

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KUMANYIKA: And then Jay pulls out his favorite yellow hooded sweatshirt, puts it on and throws the hood up.

WISE: You probably don't want me wearing that, either, 'cause you said something about that.

WISE: I wouldn't want him out in the public walking with a hood on because of the stereotype that people might have about kids, especially African-American boys, in hoodies.

KUMANYIKA: But, I mean, this isn't, like, a black hood. This is a yellow hood that says U.S. Army on it. Does that help out?

WISE: It's just the society we live in today. Somebody will look at him and think that he's up to no good.

KUMANYIKA: So I'm listening to Bonita, and she would never say that a hood was to blame for Trayvon Martin's death. But when you press her, she has these really strong beliefs that black people ought to behave and present themselves properly, and it just all seems, like, wrapped up with this whole respectability politics thing.

WISE: I think it's disrespectful to walk down the street with your underwear showing. I think that is a representation of the thug look.

KUMANYIKA: But what do you mean by, you said, the thug look?

WISE: Oh, gosh. You know, the gangsta (ph), you know, I'm ready - I'm in a gang, I'm ready to fight.

KUMANYIKA: I felt like Bonita represented everything that bothered me about the way some black people start looking at each other and ourselves through white people's eyes.

WISE: I really don't think that a A, a A-B student, I don't think he would show his underwear.

KUMANYIKA: But what does that have to actually do with their intelligence?

WISE: I don't think they would. I don't think an intelligent kid would do that.

KUMANYIKA: Listening to her seems like instead of trying to change the system that never really was fair, she's passing these rules about how to dress down to her son, and I just felt this anger come up, you know? Like, I really just had to breathe.

Can his clothes protect him?

WISE: Yes, I think so. I think they can.

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KUMANYIKA: And if you look at it, Bonita's position really has affected Jay's life. When Jay was in middle school...

WISE: One day he came home. His pants, they were kind of sagging. So I think he would leave home one way and then when he got to school...

KUMANYIKA: He was letting them sag just a little bit. Not, like, a deep sag?

WISE: No, just a little bit so, you know, so he can kind of fit in. So that's why we decided to take him out.

KUMANYIKA: Now, Jay says he never sagged his pants, but either way, he was home-schooled for almost three years.

WISE: I didn't want him to fit in.

KUMANYIKA: Now he's back in school. But, you know, he's still following his mom's rules. And he says he wants to become a police officer.

WISE: If I'm out there, I will try to act different and have people change their mind about police instead of trying to be the standard police officer that's sort of dehumanizing and actually try to talk to people.

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WISE: You listen to him, he thinks he can change the world. But he's just got a lot to learn, and I think it will come with age. Right now he's thinking like a child.

KUMANYIKA: So Bonita thinks Jay is naive, but honestly, I think she's naive. Like, come on. People are out here getting shot by police behind broken taillights or selling CDs, and you really think Jay's clothes are going to be what makes the difference?

Can his clothes protect him?

WISE: Yes, I think so. I think they can.

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KUMANYIKA: But then something strange happened. After we had been talking about clothes and race the whole evening, Bonita was a little tired, I was tired, and we went downstairs so I could interview her again. And she was just, like, look...

WISE: I mean, I've seen too many moms on television crying because, you know, they've lost their child. And I don't want - I don't want that to be me.

KUMANYIKA: Yeah.

WISE: Even though I have a good kid. But they say their kid was good, too.

KUMANYIKA: You know, the truth is she's, like, I don't think that the clothes really can protect him but I just - I don't know what else to do.

WISE: I mean, it sounds hypocritical, but what else do you do to protect your child?

KUMANYIKA: When she said that, I just felt like - I felt, like, a desperation in her voice, you know? And it just kind of, like, cut through all the other frustration I had because now I just saw, like, this woman who's trying to protect her son. And it just hit me, like, directly in the heart, you know? And even thinking about it now, I feel a little bit choked up because it was like she just - you know, she's just trying to - you know, she's just trying to protect her family, you know? And so many people are in that situation. And so I just - you know, we just were in the same space at that moment. Like, the same emotional space. And I realized Bonita understands the systemic forces, too. She's not naive about the forces that are arrayed against Jay. In fact, she's, like, so conscious of them that she's really just trying to find a way to protect Jay even if it isn't totally rational.

You don't want to kill his dreams, right? Like, here's somebody who believes in himself. It's beautiful. But you want him to be prepared.

WISE: It's sad, but that's just the way it is. I mean he's a smart kid, but at the end of the day, he's still an African-American male.

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ROSIN: INVISIBILIA will be back in a moment.

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SPIEGEL: Here's a great way to listen to INVISIBILIA - the NPR One app. It's kind of like Pandora, but for public radio. It's full of news and podcasts including INVISIBILIA. Whenever you're ready to listen, NPR One has something great just for you. Find it in your app store. NPR O-N-E.

ROSIN: Hello. This is INVISIBILIA. I'm Hanna Rosin.

MILLER: And I'm Lulu Miller.

ROSIN: Today we're talking about clothes.

MILLER: And next up, Deep Thoughts, by Colin Dwyer.

ROSIN: Writer and digital editor at NPR.

COLIN DWYER, BYLINE: This story concerns my shoes. One day, when I used to live in California, I was walking in a redwood forest. It was shady, peaceful, and I was happy I thought. And my shoes, both of them, were performing admirably. I was trudging on mud and bugs and roots and who knows what without feeling much of anything. But that, I realized in a flash, was kind of the problem, not that I had been stepping on gross stuff and snuffing out the lives of little things that frankly may not have deserved it. The problem was that I really couldn't tell. Life and death and dog poop, it all felt the same.

I began thinking about the festering evil behind pollution, behind climate change, violence and all the other ways we forget to consider each other. Maybe shoes are to blame. Bear with me here. The idea is so simple it could be mistaken for stupid. When we invented footwear probably some 40,000 years ago according to experts, we also slipped a surface between ourselves and the world. Where we once were touching the ground with skin, touching all the time like lovers, shoes changed all this. With shoes, we swapped intimacy for a well-regulated separation.

In other words, the moment at which we began walking only on objects of our own construction was precisely the same moment we convinced ourselves the world is of our own making. With shoes came pride, forgetfulness. Maybe Adam never even had to eat the apple at all. Maybe all he had to do was slip into a fresh pair of loafers. It's a discover I haven't known what to do with, not even in all the years since.

At the time, you'll forgive me for thinking a grand symbolic gesture was in order, I unlaced that poor, faithful shoe of mine. I wiggled out of it, wadded my sock inside, cocked my arm behind my head in a pose I was sure looked heroic. And with the great weight of all of humanity's evils on my shoulders, I threw that shoe, that sad proof of all we lost, as hard as I could, as far as I could. It might have flown for miles if it hadn't hit the tree in front of me. The shoe gave out a defeated plop. A tree tossed off a few splinters. I know because when I put it on a few minutes later, I could feel a few wedged deeply in the sole.

MILLER: Hanna, are you wearing shoes right now?

ROSIN: I am.

MILLER: So you can't really feel the pain or feelings of the world.

ROSIN: I don't want to feel the pain or the feelings of the world.

MILLER: (Laughter) That's a good way to get through. Well, before we end, you have our last story, right?

ROSIN: I do, and it's about a guy I thought would believe in the power of clothes more than anyone.

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ROSIN: What does my clothes say about me?

MARTIN GREENFIELD: No, you look nice in this dress.

ROSIN: Meet Martin Greenfield, a tailor in Brooklyn.

GREENFIELD: I happen to like it.

ROSIN: Martin's in his late 80s.

GREENFIELD: And it's simple.

ROSIN: He's got neatly-combed white hair, a Florida tan, and on the Friday I saw him in his shop, he was wearing a three-piece suit.

GREENFIELD: Every day. Except on Saturday, I become casual.

ROSIN: For 60 years, Martin has been helping men look their best.

GREENFIELD: The biggest smile you'll see. They never saw themself look like this.

ROSIN: Not just any men. Martin has dressed the last three presidents.

GREENFIELD: Obama.

ROSIN: A bit of a bore.

GREENFIELD: He had two suits, a navy and a charcoal. Navy and a charcoal, navy and a charcoal. That's all. And I said, well, why don't you get a pinstripe or something else?

ROSIN: He really liked Bill Clinton, but not so much his style.

GREENFIELD: It wasn't presidential.

ROSIN: The guy wore a leather jacket. The first time he met Clinton, he told the president...

GREENFIELD: You, Mr. President, look heavy person. You're not heavy, but because of your skin - you're a very light color - everything has to be made the right way to you.

ROSIN: Martin has custom fit a lot of famous people.

GREENFIELD: Thousands and thousands of people.

ROSIN: Shaquille O'Neal.

GREENFIELD: He's such a big guy.

ROSIN: Patrick Ewing.

GREENFIELD: He buys, like, 12 suits at a time.

ROSIN: Michael Bloomberg.

GREENFIELD: He loves me.

ROSIN: Donald Trump.

GREENFIELD: He wears all my overcoats.

ROSIN: Steve Buscemi, Al Pacino, Ben Affleck, Michael Jackson.

GREENFIELD: I met this whole family.

ROSIN: Martin's association of powerful men and fine clothing, it began in a dark place.

GREENFIELD: He looked at me and I looked at him because I looked in those boots, I could my picture there it was so shiny.

ROSIN: Those shiny boots belonged to Josef Mengele, the sadistic Nazi physician known as the Angel of Death. Martin was 15, and he had just stepped off the train at Auschwitz, the concentration camp.

GREENFIELD: I saw prisoners, all in stripes.

ROSIN: The new arrivals were ordered to line up. At the front, Mengele separated them.

GREENFIELD: To the left, to the right, to the left, the right.

ROSIN: Martin got sent to the right, to the tailor shop where Jewish prisoners washed and mended Nazi uniforms. The head tailor gave him a job.

GREENFIELD: Gave me 30 shirts and he showed me how to take a brush and try and clean it and clean it.

ROSIN: It was a Nazi uniform shirt, solid white, with a big stiff collar and buttons, like the one his grandfather and his father used to wear.

GREENFIELD: I clean it and clean it, but the damn thing ripped.

ROSIN: It ripped. He'd just ruined a Nazi's shirt. Jews in the camp were shot for the smallest offenses - for taking extra food, for falling out of line...

GREENFIELD: For nothing.

ROSIN: But Martin didn't know that yet. He was young, and he was new to the camps and to all the brutality. So the next morning, when the Nazis showed up, he was just honest.

GREENFIELD: I said it's - the collar is ripped.

ROSIN: The soldier lifted his baton and smashed it on Martin's back over and over.

GREENFIELD: I didn't react, not think. I didn't cry or anything.

ROSIN: Instead, the Nazi had left, Martin picked the shirt up off the floor and asked the tailor to fix it so that Martin could wear it.

GREENFIELD: And he said nobody's going to let you wear a shirt.

ROSIN: Prisoners weren't allowed to wear anything under their striped uniforms.

GREENFIELD: I says but I always had a shirt. And I'm more comfortable with a shirt.

ROSIN: The head tailor fixed the collar. Martin put it on under his uniform. He buttoned it all the way up and popped the collar out for everyone to see. That night, when all the other Jews in the tailor shop walked out the back door, Martin went out the front where the guard was, a kapo.

GREENFIELD: Kapo - I said to them myself let me see if he'll let me get away with it. He just looked at me and he let me walk. And proved to me that he thought I was somebody special. And that was very important for me. Why was that important to you? It was important to me because I wanted to be somebody, you understand?

ROSIN: Martin wore the shirt day and night.

GREENFIELD: Sometimes I opened the collar.

ROSIN: He slept in it. He showered in it.

GREENFIELD: Sometimes I closed the collar.

ROSIN: He kept it on when he was transferred to another concentration camp.

GREENFIELD: The collar was there all the time.

ROSIN: When he was beaten so badly the skin was torn off his back.

GREENFIELD: I was different. I was different all the way through.

ROSIN: A Jewish prisoner wearing a Nazi shirt.

Nobody said anything to you?

GREENFIELD: No.

ROSIN: Not even in the shower?

GREENFIELD: Never.

ROSIN: Martin has a theory about why he was allowed to keep wearing the shirt. He thinks maybe it made him look like one of the Jewish boys in the camp who were used for sex.

GREENFIELD: They had sex with men. That never happened to me. But there - I'll tell you the truth. They thought that somebody is behind all this dressing up with me. In my head, that was the thing.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ROSIN: He kept it on until April 11, 1945, the day Eisenhower liberated the camps.

GREENFIELD: I am going to live now. I survive.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ROSIN: Would you say that the shirt saved your life?

GREENFIELD: I don't know if the shirt saved my life, but I know that I felt better because I was clean. I was dressed like I used to be dressed.

ROSIN: When I was talking to Martin, I suddenly had this terrible thought.

Do you think you learned anything from the Nazis?

GREENFIELD: I learned nothing from the Nazis because I hated them.

ROSIN: So still...

I kept pressing him. Maybe it was somehow the Nazi power that had trickled into him through that shirt. Maybe that's what had made him invincible.

Given how much you said, I hate the Nazis, you were wearing a Nazi shirt every day.

GREENFIELD: That's not a Nazi - I washed the Nazi-ness out. It's done in the water and the soap - finished. It was my shirt.

ROSIN: And you don't think it saved you?

GREENFIELD: The shirt (laughter) - there's too many questions about the shirt. The shirt was just a shirt, to me. That's it.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ROSIN: Martin, the man who dedicated his life to clothes, was adamant. The shirt held no secret power. It wasn't the shirt that got him through any of this. It was something else, something the writer Primo Levi has written about. Levi believed that the Nazis maintained their power by reducing unique individuals to anonymous things, one in a generic series - numbers, Jews. This is what allowed them to kill so easily. And yet, there was Martin, collar flipped, defiantly asserting every single day, I am not a number.

GREENFIELD: I was somebody special in my heart.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MILLER: That story was produced by Abby Wendle.

ROSIN: Lulu.

MILLER: Yes.

ROSIN: Shirtless dance party?

(LAUGHTER)

MILLER: Naughty.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ROSIN: INVISIBILIA is hosted by me, Hanna Rosin.

MILLER: And me, Lulu Miller.

ROSIN: With Alix Spiegel.

MILLER: Our fly staff includes Yowei Shaw.

What's your favorite piece of clothing?

SHAW: A dickies jumpsuit that my best friend also has that we wear to parties at the same time.

MILLER: Linda Nyakundi.

LINDA NYAKUNDI, BYLINE: Black jacket. And it's satin and it's covered in flowers and it reminds me of Frida Kahlo. I feel like an artist when I wear it who's just, like, going out into the world and making weird...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LAZER EYES")

TEENAGE LOVE: Hey.

MILLER: Abby Wendle.

ABBY WENDLE, BYLINE: I'm a nudist.

(LAUGHTER)

MILLER: Meghan Keane.

MEGHAN KEANE, BYLINE: My leather jacket.

MILLER: Maria Paz Gutierrez.

MARIA PAZ GUTIERREZ, BYLINE: Floral yellow dress.

LIANA SIMONDS, BYLINE: Liana Simonds.

SIMONDS: Furry slippers.

ROSIN: Mickey Capper, Noor Wazwaz, Brent Baughman, Karen Duffin, Kat Chow, Andy Huether, Meredith Rizzo, Nancy Shute and Mathilde Piard.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Silver sequined fanny pack.

MILLER: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

MILLER: Jeff Rogers is our executive producer. Anya Grundmann is our vice president of programming. And our senior editor is Anne Gudenkauf. And at least my favorite piece of her clothing is the hibiscus shirt. It makes me feel like...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #14: Tall.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #15: Edgy.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #4: Happy.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #9: Tough.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #16: Connected to her.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #10: Like George Clooney.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #17: Brave.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #18: Powerful.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #19: Tougher.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #20: Invincible.

ROSIN: Special thanks to Abby Pratt, Mary Cole-Brenner (ph), Rachel Brown, Maya Dukmasova and the kindly INVISIBILIA listeners who came to NPR to be part of our white coat experiment.

MILLER: Thank you.

ROSIN: And to the band Teenage Love who's given us permission to use the song "Lazer Eyes" to close out the hour. And to musicians Kai Engel and Lee Rosevere, whose music was used under a creative commons attribution license. For more information about this music, visit our website, npr.org/invisibilia.

MILLER: Hey, Hanna, for our moment of non-zen, you want to finally remove that witch hat you've been wearing for the whole hour?

ROSIN: No because when I'm in my witch costume I feel witchy.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MILLER: Tune in next week for more INVISIBILIA. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.