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Sartorial Markers

The worst choice I made during the current period of limited modified house arrest was to stop dressing for work. I’ve fallen into the habit of wearing a tee shirt, usually a metal band tee shirt, and jeans without shoes while working from home.

I think it has led to less separation of home life from work life with the resultant stress.

My sartorial choices reached their pinnacle in the early aughts while I was still working for Dominos as an assistant manager. George Will, of all people, inspired changes. In a column about the release of the first Harry Potter movie he said:

Adulthood isn’t what it used to be. But, then, you knew that just from looking at how grown-ups dress down. Time was, children enjoyed dressing up like adults. Now adults increasingly dress like children. In airport concourses you see them, men wearing jeans and T-shirts and running shoes, holding the hands of small boys dressed similarly. Small wonder they play similar games.

George Will in “Here Comes Harry Potter”
I miss my Getta Grips

I was never that bad, but I drifted that way. The result was a resolution to dress in a more adult manner. I replaced jeans most days with pants, Dockers mostly. The wearing of a tee shirt was verboten unless I was working, either exercise or yard work type working. At the time I wore boots, Gettas for the most part, all the time so sneakers weren’t an issue.

Polos were the shirt of choice in the beginning. Over time, they gave way to sports shirts, long sleeve for colder months and short sleeves for summer.

The next big change was the reintroduction of the undershirt sometime around 2010. I cannot believe how much a difference that makes, especially in warmer weather. The sensation while sweating is actually less gross than without it.

When I got to Atlanta, things had changed. Jeans had reasserted themselves as everyday wear, but the undershirt and sports shirt combo held fast. I moved from boots to a more typical black leather men’s shoe.

In the last few years, as I’ve attended more and more live shows, I’ve accumulated a lot of band tee shirts. The result has been weekend wear, even if leaving the house for somewhere, not the gym, is a tee shirt. I’m not sure I’m happy about this change. Also, I’ve allowed sneakers to creep back in with the tee shirts. That I am not happy with and need to pull the Docs out, polish them up, and wear them as “tee shirt footwear”.

It might not seem like a big deal, but Docs make the band shirts more acceptable. Instead of a lazy, “I threw whatever on” sensation, it carries a “I’m a member of a particular community” statement, as did Dockers and sports shirts.

When I consider it, a return to slacks, would be a good idea. This is doubly true in the ongoing work from home environment, which circles back to my opening statement.

In devolving into a tee shirt and pants, jeans except for a few days I wore nothing but pajama pants, I wasn’t making a shift into work mode to start the day. Instead of a clean shift, I drifted into work mode sometime between noon and one. In the same manner, I didn’t make a clean break from work mode when I left the table where I’ve setup my work computer. Instead, I have to drift back.

Now, clothing is not all that important in setting work/home boundaries. The strongest boundaries is the actual change of physical environment. Well, it was the strongest one I had. A trip to the office has many components, from the separate physical spaces to the actual commute to the different rules.

Among those different rules was the dress code. Perhaps the only part as easy to recreate while doing extended work from home is the commute. I have my morning commute more often than not. Morning caffeine purchases at the QT half way to the closer train station I used gives a time between home and “work” about half the morning commute. Driving to the QT I used going to the more distance station might actually provide a longer morning commute. On very stressful days I drive around after work, often doing a complete circle of Atlanta on I–285.

Yet, I am finding clothing creates a different mindset. I not only dressed as I was going to the office, but staying dressed for the office until I finish whatever afternoon commute I do. When I was in the office, I lost the sports shirt not long after arriving home as well as my shoes. The undershirt, jeans, and no shoes mode signified home in a way separate from just arriving. It indicated I was home to stay for a while. Yes, if I had to go back out, I’d don sports shirt again or change to an outerwear tee shirt, usually of some band.

Yesterday I dressed as though I was going to work, including leather shoes instead of bare feet or sneakers. I kept the sports shirt on until I finished working.

It helped. I got started on work earlier after sitting at my work computer. On return after vacation, that’s a big help. It also stopped me from going back to check one more thing when the sports shirt came off.

I am going to make a point of dressing for work when I’m going to work. This will continue regardless of where I work.

I am also thinking of doing so not just for work for my employer, but when I sit down to write or do any business related to blogging. Perhaps the uniform for that should be different, but clothes for writing might be the trigger that works for me.

Update 2020-10-22: Welcome Instapundit readers.

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  1. BobtheRegisterredFool BobtheRegisterredFool

    Glad to see you active.

    I’ve been running around in ways that makes it difficult to comment coherently.

    I also use clothes as a cue, but tend to wear nice for meetings, or certain projects, and then switch to casual when I need to recover.

    • Always good to hear from you Bob.

      I hope the running around is for fun or at least not due to problems.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool BobtheRegisterredFool

        Enough fun and enough problems that it is hard to summarize.

        I’ve dreamed up an ambition that will be hard to realize. If I didn’t enjoy some of it, I would have had to abandon the project as unfeasible. But if I enjoyed everything, it would not be an ambition, because I would accomplish it as easily and automatically as breathing.

        There can be great joy from a process that takes great effort to learn to do right.

  2. anthony pietrafesa anthony pietrafesa

    I miss wearing coat and tie to work I still wear at least a collar shirt, sport coat and slacks, and a tie for Zoom/Skype meetings

    • My office was decidedly not suit and tie country, despite being bankers. In fact, in a sport shirt, jeans, and black leather shoes I was in the top quarter of dress most days.

      But you can backslide even from there if you don’t leave the house.

  3. ewb ewb

    Interesting piece. Sarah’s link brought me here from Instapundit. Glad it did.

    I spent decades in a suit and still remember how it felt each morning to “suit up” for the day’s battle, taking care to get the colors right (belt, socks, tie), the knot straight, the shoes shined. It felt like armor, a layer of protection between me and my hostile workplace. With it on I knew I would be taken seriously even if I wasn’t entirely on the ball; it would buy me just enough time to adjust my strategy and get back on top. It was a great source of strength.

    In time the work changed, the workplace changed, the old guys slipped away, and attitudes changed so that there was no longer any protection to be had, not from one’s clothes or relations or years of service. All that mattered were results, preferably fast and cheap. Investing in and expending energy on a professional wardrobe became an unnecessary waste of time, a handicap really. Toss in work-from-home, which started for me over a decade ago, and before long I’m rolling out of bed into whatever’s on the floor and shuffling off to my computer, assuming I ever get to bed because work time and life time are nearly indistinguishable now.

    Regarding George Will’s point, I remember reading that at the time, and readimg Diana West’s The Death of the Grown Up, and thinking they had it right. But in focusing on clothes, ephemeral fashion, I now think Will missed the more important things distinguishing adulthood, like a commitment to personal responsibilities, family, work, community, and country. Adults take care of their own, regardless of what they wear. But then I’ve grown to dislike Will and his pompous puffery over the years, so my thinking is probably biased.

    Anyhow, great stuff. Looking forward to reading more.

  4. I go to school every day in slacks, tie, vest, and leather shoes. I sit in my classroom for seven to eight hours by myself, spending a part of that time in Zoom meetings. It is about all that is keeping me working and sane.

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