Downtown Detroit

Homeless & Humorous

Matthew Suchan


I worked in downtown Detroit for almost 2 years, and as beautiful of a city as it is, it still had/has it’s share of homeless people. One sign I would see over and over though, exclaimed this:

“Too Ugly to Strip. Too Honest to Steal.”

This may seem simple, stupid and goofy, but there are so many layers to this sign. And if you want to see a dude geek out about vocabulary, keep reading.

First, how does this phrase flow? Well, it perfectly aligns with a 4/4 time signature: 1-&-a 2-&. 3-&-a 4-&. TOO ugly TO strip. TOO honest TO steal.

Second, the wordplay is phenomenal: TOO (bad) TO (be good). TOO (good) TO (be bad).” Being ugly (whatever that truly means) is a negative thing, but if you’re not ugly then you can make a lot of money. And the honest (good)-steal (bad) line speaks for itself.

Third, it’s an introspective line, showing how low one thinks of himself, yet also praising himself for being an honest man. Basically saying, “I get it, I’m a lowly, homeless, disheveled man. But trust me, I’m honest too!”

And lastly, it’s tongue-in-cheek to see a disheveled, homeless person on the street actively saying, “hey, I’m ugly, that’s right. Haha… But you can trust me *wink wink.”

Overall, the point I’m trying to make is… nothing. Nothing at all. I just wanted to take some time to appreciate the clever wordplay that black, permanent marker can have on pieces of cardboard.