I'm a 38 year old married father. I work in the grocery business. Most days I work inside a refrigerated walk in cooler. When I work I wear a butcher's coat and a red apron over my street clothes.
In the course of about the fifteen years I've become a tee shirt and jeans kind of guy. If I dress up, it's for a wedding. Which means that every time there is a wedding I have to buy an outfit to wear, because the last suit, dress shirt, slacks and or blazer I bought doesn't fit anymore. I don't comb my hair most days because of my standard issue logo adorned baseball cap. So when I decide to "dress up" people don't know what to make of it, but I'll come back to that.
Once upon a time, I was a shirt and tie and pocket square kind of guy. First, when I sold cars and then when I ran a bus station. I owned a wide array of suits, dress shirts, ties, vests, slacks, dress shoes and belts. I even had a pocket watch. I took pride in dressing well.
The challenges then and now were to find affordable quality apparel in my unique dimensions. In other words, I realized quickly that most suits in my size were either black or blue. Everything else seemed to be overpriced. I remember belts in my size that could handle the daily wear and tear were 60 bucks and up. Don't get me started on "Big & Tall" shops and online stores. We're talking 50 dollar shirts, hundred dollar pants and 300 to 600 coats.
Recently my interest in dressing well saw a resurgence. I guess it started when I watched the new Queer Eye on Netflix. Many of the subjects were regular, hard working family men who got into a rut and forgot how good it felt to look good. They got used to easy and familiar, so didn't make any effort. After witnessing the transformations, I realized that it wasn't as complicated as it seems. Every guy got a cut and a shave. They bought them collard shirts that could go from casual to dinner date, based on the type of pant and footwear and a standard blazer. It occurred to me that I didn't need to hire a tailor to dress better. What inspired me most was the change in the way they saw them selves. They way they interacted with their loved ones and there willingness to embrace the change.
It's interesting that in society today, wearing a collard shirt with some khakis is "dressing up" It fascinates me when I look at pictures of men in the first half of the 20th century. Men wore slacks and a shirt and tie. Not just business men, or rich men. Butchers, barbers, even shop keeps. In the early days of commercial flight it was considered a luxury, so when a man boarded a plane, he wore a suit. Athletes wore suits when traveling to games. Athletic clothing wasn't a thing until the 60's. Prior to athletic wear, there was sport attire.
Even young men's attire was dressier. It included a shirt, slacks, a vest and a news boy cap.
Fast forward to today. Monday's are my office day. I usually spend my day reconciling the previous week and planning for the current week. I sit at my desk for at least 6 hours, which might not seem like much to some. Yesterday, I decided to buy some khakis to wear today with a dress shirt or a polo. So I wore my new khakis, a striped blue button down long sleeved shirt. Tucked in of course and some gum bottom Pumas. Topped it off with a vintage Kangol wool cap and a canvas messenger bag. It really wasn't that dressy. I saw it more as business casual. One of reasons I chose to dress was because I have "face to face" financial meetings with my bosses on Mondays. I felt that if I wanted to be taken seriously when talking business, it wouldn't hurt to look the part.
When I got to work. Most people didn't really notice. I did get compliments on my jacket, hat and total look. The men had the most questions. I got the awkward, "what are you dressed up for?" or "what are you dressed like that for?" Like what?Then there was the, "are you going to court?" or "you got a date after work?"
Depending on who asked, I catered my response. I told one of my bosses, "so I feel like a man when I'm being denigrated in our meeting today" I told another guy, "I dressed up for you" My favorite was, "because I'm a man"
Overall it was a cool social experiment. In my meeting, I definitely felt that my bosses were more open to my ideas and complimentary. I spoke with confidence. They looked me in the eye when I spoke and I didn't leave that room feeling brow beaten as i have on other occasions. It convinced me to do it again next Monday and whenever I have another meeting. As I build my wardrobe, I may end up dressing the part everyday and maybe inspire other guys to do the same.