Steinbeck is always considered a writer for the people, especially for the masses who severely suffered during The Great Depression. His most famous novel, The Grapes of Wrath, gave insight to the plight of farmers migrating into California from the Dust Bowl of the South West, and revered him as a sympathetic storyteller in it not for the glamour of his words, but the humanity behind them.
This is what makes him my favorite writer. His Californian background and hard-work ethic that really drove his writing career is enough to ignite that passion of writing in anyone. He is a rich storyteller in that he wrote of real people from the bottom up, first hand– from his own field hand work at Spreckels Sugar Beet plant to support himself through Stanford, to construction work in New York where he left to pursue an (unsuccessful) first attempt at publishing his work. His first big work, Tortilla Flat, was fresh and playful, a comical rendition of Arthurian legends as told through the misadventures of California’s Paisano community. Steinbeck believed in the inherent good of the people, which gave his stories that great sense of hope and uplift that America needed in such a time. He cared for the underdogs, and alongside his reportage of them, reflected his fascination with their tales through his style, too.
From most of his photos, Steinbeck gives off a focused yet relaxed mood to his clothes. He’s not stuffy in that he’ll wear a suit for every photograph– most of these photos we’ve come to recognize him shows loose sweaters, khakis, and a plain oxford shirt beneath, and it’s another thing to note that he’d not mind being captured in such casual attire. He’s not concerned in what exactly you have to say about his clothes, anyhow; the focus is in his work, and that’s where the true performance lies. Personal image, it seems, would distract from them.
The strength in Steinbeck as a writer is also unique in the grouping he had for his writing subjects as the years went by; by the forties, he had a genuine interest in marine biology, thanks to his deep friendship with Monterey-based marine biologist Ed Ricketts. It’s a rich balance, between the artist and the scientist, especially when Ed’s passionate studies of the sea took Steinbeck along with him, as far as to the Sea of Cortez and even for Steinbeck to pick up sailing himself when he moved with his family to the East Coast. Nautical is only a stiff minor component to Steinbeck’s look, though it well adds onto that harsh weather-beaten focus captured within his face.
Steinbeck is a man who has unconsciously depicted his life’s work within his own wardrobe. A vagabond, modest man and humanitarian whose writing not only glanced into the troubles of the nation, but established what truly was unrivaled 20th century literature. In his sense of style, one is comfortable but in no way settling; it is a worn down look of restlessness, practical and motivating to get you out in the world and find that exciting muse that will spark your own words.