The Slobbification of Kelly

I just changed out of my pajamas and put on my normal day wear. As I looked at myself in the mirror, I realized that there really wasn’t a significant difference between these two modes of dress.

I was a reasonably well-dressed man less than a decade ago. No, never really stylish, but I was at least a step or so above “slob”. I had three modes of dress:

  • Work: I had three or four good suits: tailored, from a reputable suit store. A decent collection of tailored cotton shirts. Some nice ties: when I went to the office, I was typically wearing over $1,000 worth of clothing, and I bought at least one new suit each year
  • Home/casual: Cargo pants, cotton tourist slacks, a pair or two of jeans and golf shirts; I even had a couple of pairs of Tilley pants
  • Rough/yard: a few pairs of sweat pants and T-shirts for working in the yard, washing the car, what have you

I the last seven years I’ve significantly simplified my life. I have my “work/social” clothing, which is basically the “home/casual” category above, and everything else is in the “rough/yard” category. I’ve gone from budgeting $2,000 a year for new clothes at my peak of sartorial excellence to probably spending $150 a year. My suit trousers are so far from fitting that I really have no idea why I keep them any longer. So if I’m relaxing at home, going to the store, going to the park, or generally doing anything other than going to dinner or visiting with the family, I wear sweat pants and a T-shirt. If you drop in unexpectedly or come to stay in my house for a few days, that’s the way you’ll see me: sweat pants and a T-shirt.

But what I do is one thing- trying to figure out why is another matter entirely…

I’ve been periodically pondering this simplification in my wardrobe for the last year or so. I think I’ve successfully rationalized it. I haven’t built a collection of “non-work casual clothing” because I find it difficult to track down really comfortable clothing in this category. I have IBS, and even moderately snug pants make things worse so I have to buy pants two or three sizes larger than my actual waist size for comfort. When I find something comfortable that looks moderately dressy, I put it in the “work” side of my closet, and i don’t want to wreck it by wearing it while I schlep around.

Sweat pants are generally always comfortable: they don’t shrink, they don’t put pressure on my stomach, they last a long time, and they are cheap. When I’m puttering around the house or at Walmart/Best buy, I don’t feel particularly interested in “dressing up” (which is what wearing my better casual clothes feels like to me these days).

Ten years ago, I felt like I looked better when I put on something slightly more dressy than sweat pants and a t-shirt. Now I just feel uncomfortable: like I have to be careful to avoid touching or brushing against something that will make the clothes dirty, or perhaps spill something on them. Our house is filled with cats and therefore cat hair, so it is basically impossible to wear good clothes and keep them looking good for any length of time. Any shirt I wear around the house ends up with cat claw marks (torn or pulled threads) in less than a day. Good clothes no longer make me feel “good”, at least not so much that they justify the hassle or expense.

Oddly enough, I do recognize that my sweat pants and t-shirt style makes me look like a slob…the thing is, most of the time I don’t care what people I don’t know might think, and if I’m really comfortable with someone, I will assume that they won’t judge me based on what I wear. But if I do want to make a particular impression, I do change my clothes- if we are going to a restaurant above the Wendy’s/Taco Bell level, for example, or if I’m visiting my family.

The family thing is particularly strange- shouldn’t family fall into the “really comfortable” category? Perhaps, but I guess in my mind my family sees me rarely enough that I have a little concern regarding what their perception of me is…so out comes the work clothes. There are other circumstances of this sort…if I’m going to shop for a car or something significant, I’ll “dress up” as well. I don’t consciously evaluate the “slob versus work casual” decision: I just have this more or less automatic “I should put on better clothes” reaction.

I’m reasonably happy dressing the way I do, but I know some people who see me probably classify me a certain way. I guess I wonder at times how other folks rationalize/justify dressing up to go to Safeway, or if they just excise all sweat pants/T-shirts from their closets as a style statement. Am I too far gone to recover? Should I care?

6 thoughts on “The Slobbification of Kelly”

  1. I dress up somewhat because I wear a uniform at work… but mostly I’m a jeans & T shirt, cargo and T shirt kind of guy. I like to dress in clothes that make me look less fat, because then I don’t have to avoid mirrors 😉 ( I could just become less fat of course … but that would be too sensible 🙂 )

    If I wore a suit all the time, I would probably hate dressing for dinner. But as I never wear anything fancy unless it’s a special occasion, I associate dressing up with making an occasion special. Which would include your “family thing” Formal dinning is one of those things that benefits from “ritual”, the fact that we dress different solidifies in our minds that this is important. If we dress up to meet someone, that too says that this person is worth the extra time and effort … which is why we all dress up when we go out on a date, and why we should try and dress up now and then even when we are passed the dating stage.

    But there is nothing wrong with schlepping around in schlepping around clothes.

    I guess what it really comes down to is this: Do you care if you look like a slob when you go to safeway. If you don’t, then you are a slob. So then, do you care if you have become a slob? Do you have a problem with being one?

    Which then leads to the question: do you change where you go because you would have to change clothes?

    If you are happy with the way you dress and the reasons you dress that way, and do not mind the consequences of those choices… then you are fine.

    There is also something worse than being a slob in my mind, and that’s those people that spend vast amounts of time and effort following fashion and still look like crap. Better a slob than a fashion victim 😉

  2. I guess I’m a slob, then 😉

    I am also a hermit. I don’t like to leave my cave very often- Irene will attest to this. As I’ve aged, I’ve become less and less inclined to go to places that require me (in my own head at least) to be different. To wear “going out clothes”, for example. Or more generally, to change my routine.

    I don’t feel bad about this change, but I sometimes wonder why I am this way. Why don’t I care whether people I don’t know and never will know think about my mode of dress? Doesn’t our social system indicate that I *should* care? Why do I prefer puttering around the house to going out somewhere different/new? I’ve admitted to myself that I’m am truly a loner/anti-social by nature, but sometimes it feels like its more a creature inside of me than an intellectual choice.

    Back to the clothing thing for a moment- I think I will eventually gather up all my old/unwearable clothing and more or less empty my closet. When I do that, I’ll probably strategically buy a collection of slightly more “dressy” casual stuff, displacing or at least supplementing my sweat pant collection. I’m hesitating a bit to find out what my new “set point” is in terms of weight and comfort.

  3. Sadly I am a snob then. I can’t stand the thought of going out into a public place with nothing less than a nice shirt and clean jeans, with decent (ie. not falling apart) footwear. I guess its a) I am concerned how other people view me, b) my self respect is linked with the ability to put half an ass of effort into not looking like I just crawled out of bed with the direct intent to go right back and c) I look for that in others. If you can’t be bother to put on decent clothes then why bother to do anything at all? It guess it’s a slippery slope into apathy I feel is taking over. Sorry to be the strident, snobby voice in all this, but at least I’m honest about being shallow. Sorry, Is stills likes yous. 😛

    Off before I get a sneaker thrown at me.

  4. Our social system doesn’t indicate that you should care what they think of you based on your mode of dress. It says you should care based on offering all people a certain level of respect until they prove otherwise.

    It’s a very fuzzy line. Some people use the excuse that they don’t care what others think to not bathe or use mouthwash. I think you and I would both agree that other people shouldn’t be inflicted with our stink unless they prove otherwise.

    Some people take 3 hours just to get ready to go by some bread and milk at the corner store.

    I’m somewhere in between. I try and be clean. I don’t think people need to suffer the sight of me in a speedo. Generally, unless I have a reason not to, I give people the benefit of the doubt and try to dress somewhat better than I might if just lazing about the house.

    As for your hermit like tendencies … yeah, they have become more pronounced of late. I don’t care for people either but I do enjoy the sensory stimulation of new sights, sounds and places. I get bored stuck inside more than a day or two … even with the computer 😉

    You do enjoy the new and different, or seem to, once you are doing it. But you also seem to get enough sensory stimulation from the stuff in your house that you don’t have any force pushing you to take that first step out the door.

    For the most part, that is part of the spectrum of human response from focused / stay at home to scattered / sensation seeker. I’m not quite as focused, not quite as much a stay at home as you. Billie on the other hand is one of those people that gets bored after 1/2 an hour without something to amuse her.

    The only thing to remember is that, hard as it is at times, it does us all good to step a little outside of our comfort level from time to time. It does people like you and me good to get out once in a while, it does people like Billie good to have to sit and amuse themselves for a day once in a while. I think we humans run the risk of, comfortably, stagnating if we aren’t careful.

  5. “Off before I get a sneaker thrown at me.”

    Don’t worry, Kelly doesn’t wear sneakers … too much effort to lace up 😉

    Maybe a velcro sandal? :p

  6. Velcro sandals for the win! Actually, I do have a couple of pairs of sandals, but I also have a couple of pairs of well made walking/casual dress shoes. The clothing I own is generally well made and in good repair. I throw out stuff that is wearing out and, in particular, spend a lot on shoes (the shoes I usually wear cost over $200 a pair). But sweatpants and a decent T-shirt do the job.

    I dress presentably when I go to work or to a sit-down restaurant, but I guess I just have lost whatever concern I might have once had with what the Safeway/Walmart denizens might think. For my friends…if I’m meeting you somewhere, I’ll spruce up a bit, but once you are in my home, don’t count on it 🙂

    I think the shift for me really came when I realized I was being extra-careful around the house when I put on better clothing. I was worried when a cat jumped up whether its claws were going to snag or if it might leave a puff of fur behind. I’d take extra care when eating to make sure I didn’t accidentally stain something. And pretty soon, I realized that none of these things were really all that enjoyable or desirable. I like cuddling a cat and not caring if it hooks a claw in my knit. A bit of a stain on the shirt? Throw it in the laundry, its not like it is dry clean only or some such.

    But Leaha is right: most people do like to put on a “show” every where they go, and find people who schlep about to be offensive. A first-rate executive is more defined by their clothing and haircut than by any particular skills he or she might have. In fact, a total incompetent bent on lining their own pockets wearing a $4,000 suit will win out over the finest and most ethical mind dressed up in sweatpants every time.

    That “package rather than content” attitude pervades throughout society. And since it actually takes some work to get to know someone as opposed to simply judging them on appearances, it will never go away. It also bears noting that judging by appearances is a survival trait- we all do it, myself included. All we’ve done is added a social layer: in addition to determining whether to run away, we also use surface appearance to judge social status.

    I must admit, though, that I always get a bit of a tickle when I go into a store dressed as my usual slovenly self and spend more than Mr and Mrs Gucci Knockoff. I enjoy messing with the salestroll’s minds. Case in point: when I bought my Mac, I was wearing sweats and a T- clean other than cat hair as per usual. Sales Guy A ignored me and spent about half an hour with Mr and Mrs Gucci Knockoff. They walked out without buying a thing, not even a cable. Sales Guy B finally walked up to me and said “can I help you?”: I said “sure, I’ll take a MacBook Pro”. No fuss, no bother. I was out the door five minutes later, with Sales Guy A casting daggers in his glance at Sales Guy B.

    I’ll probably upgrade my look at some point, but likely I’ll move up to super-durable clothing. No cashmere or custom tailored suits will clutter my closet any day in the near future. I started to do that a few years ago, but buying $200 trousers is a bad plan when your waistline is increasing by an inch a year.

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