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?