There was no argument about it. I looked good. Overcoat, scarf, brown fedora, all topping an old-fashioned, close-to-the-body cut suit, tie, pocket square, adult shoes. The rule is: never skimp on shoes or hats, because it always shows. But everything else came from thrift stores.
One of the fellows who sat across from me obviously put just as much effort into his outfit. Doubtless he agreed with me that dressing well is a duty, that looking good makes for a superior and pleasant citizenry, that sloppiness in appearance is a manifestation of sloppiness in morals.
His t-shirt had the exact right shade of irony; the superhero emblazoned on it hadn’t been seen on television in decades. This signaled his lone-wolfiness. His jeans had an artful rip, surely put there by the designer who must have labored hours deciding exactly where to place it. Neon tennis shoes, probably costing more than my entire outfit. His greasy hair, each strand placed to look like it wasn’t placed, and scruffy beard were standard-issue hipster, but maybe that’s because he considered his Google Glasses would cause people to overlook this unoriginality.
He was right. So aware of that geeky carbuncle was I that I couldn’t think of anything but how I wanted to slap it off his face. I don’t like having my picture taken. At least he was the best, or at least most honestly, dressed of the trio that interviewed me.
The outcome was as predetermined as the color of the pocket square I would choose. Which I would have known had I first read the fate of another well dressed gentleman interviewing with the poorly attired:
The cognitive dissonance on display is painful to see. As in: Clothing is totally not a big deal! Because we’re cool like that! But itâ€™s plain that it biased the interviewers. The team’s disappointment upon seeing the suit was immediate and unanimous. If you truly believe that suit equals loser, you can’t help it. Nevertheless, the fiction of objectivity has to be maintained, so he denies it to the candidate’s face, to us, and himself.
Scene Two. Wedding followed immediately by a reception on site. Plenteous good food and drink music and dancing. And well dressed people, their outfits showing an awareness of the occasion. At least until the meal ended, and then a few folks dashed out to disrobe and put on their Standard Summer Ugly, defined as message t-shirt, shorts, and garish shoes (Winter is the same, except the shorts are replaced by jeans). The reason given? Comfort.
Now just you take a look at the picture of Mr Sean Connery above. Perfectly dressed. Does he appear uncomfortable to you? No, sir. He does not.
Here, from the same source, is a man skating while dressed as a gentleman should be. Does he appear uncomfortable? No, sir. He does not.
My late grandfather had a picture of his dad and uncle fishing in the Detroit river from around the turn of the last century. Both men carried stringers, bait, rods, and wore three-piece suits, because why? Because that is what men did. They knew they had a duty to society to look their best, even when at leisure.
My great grandfather and uncle did not look uncomfortable. Indeed, they were, as my grandpa assured me, at ease. I was not uncomfortable in the interview, except when peered at from behind a direct feed to the NSA (motto: We’re spying on you for you own good).
Of course, it goes without saying that Cary Grant had a right to dress like he didn’t give a damn about his onlookers, but he knew that the social contract required he do better.
If you are uncomfortable in your adult clothes, likely as not it is a habitual mental aberration, cured by stopping thinking about it. But it’s also probable that the fit of your garments stinks.
The boxy suits sold nowadays are designed for 1950s barrel-shaped robots, not men. This too is easily fixed. Take your purchases to a tailor and have him alter them to your body. Do not trust the department stores to do this for you. We’ll speak of this more later, but you will find that clothes meant to fit you and not some generic statistical homme moyen are eminently comfortable. Movement will be easy and free. And you will look good—as you should.
Thanks to our friend John Cook for the picture source.