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On Uniforms - Portrait of a Young Man as The Artist
abmann
abmann
On Uniforms

Why did you crop out your arm?

I declare myself “fashion backward”. I’m giving up bothering about dress insofar as I’m simplifying how I shop and what I wear.
Backward is probably the wrong term. Maybe fashion resistant… Like a tamper-proof seal.

Photo of the Purge Pile
Friday, 12/2, I purged my closet of all the crap I hadn’t worn in ages. This included stuff that didn’t fit, stuff that I didn’t like, stuff I shrank in the wash (damn sweaters) and stuff where I asked myself “why do I own this?” It was sizable, more than I was expecting, actually, and numbered well over 30 articles of clothing.

Aside from the obvious body changes – I’ve fluctuated more in size this last year than in any year prior – I believe most of it reflects a change in personal image. I’ve become much more conscious of how I present myself in my life, both because I’m ostensibly In Charge of Things at work and I’m starting to actually like myself, and want to be seen as together, elegant and vaguely authoritative. Image matters. More than I like, really, but I’m willing to play the game – even at a tech company.

Work is funny. My company’s dress policy is “you must wear clothes.” Some pretty grubby people are in charge. But, even where I work, the people in charge, especially the people in charge of the people in charge (which I am too actually), dress at least one step ahead of the rest. My team lead dresses really well. My development lead’s team always has nice slacks and a polo on. Likely, because these are the people I talk to the mostly, I feel the need to emulate them. And, I will note that there are a few leads I know that, on the Monday when all leads meet, wear grubby sweats frequently and I find that kind of appalling.

Add to this that I now own the Formal Friday concept in our on-line expert tracking database…. Not sure how that happened, actually….

Which is to say it is all inward pressure to emulate people I respect in some capacity. That probably also means it is all me.

Personally, I have started caring much more about how I look because I actually like the way I look these days. I attribute this to better diet and regular exercise though I haven’t really lost any weight. And I attribute it to how I’ve been purchasing things lately. I’ve started paying much more attention to the construction and quality of things. I’m getting kind of tired of replacing crappy goods – both clothes and otherwise – and have been tending to spending more up front to spend less over time. (I want a proper, rich white dude retirement damnit)

I think it started with the Windows to OS X changeover. It sort of opened up the concept to me, both in build quality and operation but, also, Steve Jobs.

Ok, so he is sort of my hero, all right?

Thing is, I hated how he dressed. Light wash jeans look blah on pretty much anyone. But the concept is kind of intriguing, right? Not having to think in the morning? Being able to get to the things that matter that much faster? Like breakfast bacon? That’s kind of awesome.

I learned from switching to OS X that I had spent a ton of time fighting with my computer. Ridiculous amounts of time. It just sort of came with the territory- regular OS reinstall, finding new drives, why is Flash crashing my browser- I shouldn’t have to do that. And I don’t really want to any more. I’ve got better things to do with my time.

So, I reviewed my wardrobe, assessing what I liked and what I didn’t, what looked nice and what didn’t, what was fun and what wasn’t. I arrived at a few key things:
1. I, like most people, look good in black.
2. A good accessory can accompany pretty much anything
3. Jeans are king off versatility.
4. A guy can’t outrun a nice pair of slacks.

In the purge, I took the extreme route and removed anything that wasn’t a black or black/white shirt or sweater. I ditched all the jeans but one pair and kept some nice black slacks that fit.

My closet consists of these items now:
7 black button ups
4 with French cuffs
3 regular cuffs
4 argyle sweaters
1 black sweater
1 pair of grey-blue jeans
2 pair black slacks
2 black vests
Various socks and undershirts
2 belts (black and brown)
Black leather Bormio FiveFingers
Black KSO Fivefingers
My black coat from Nice
Brown jacket for fall
Awesome leather bag of awesome
Numerous ties
Gym clothes – running shorts and a few Ts (these are actually next on the cull list as I define what I like for workout clothing) and my FiveFinger Sprints

And that is it. I have various lovely ties and cuff links with which to express myself and, I think, that is a far better way to do it. I mean, clothes are nice and you want high quantity stuff, but you can integrate better and standout in more subtle but elegant ways, in accessories, I think.

It actually feels like a lot. Honestly. And I am worried about having too many ties or cuff links to choose, though that decision doesn’t fill me with any dread; rather, it seems more fun than wondering what damn shirt to choose.

Now, when I shop, I know where to go for shirts and jeans, it takes 1 stop and about 5 minutes. I don’t even have to, like, go to the mall if I don’t want to.

And that is fine by me.

I’m curious what you think? Am I de-boarding the fashion train early in life? Have you ever thought about doing something like this?

Additional reading:
http://blog.seanbonner.com/2010/08/26/personal-uniforms/ (minimalism and clothing)
http://curiositychronicles.tumblr.com/post/11314068255/curious-about-personal-uniforms (similar to above)
http://unclutterer.com/discuss/topic/minimalist-wardrobepersonal-uniform (discussion on forming uniforms at the Unclutter.com forums)
http://gawker.com/5848754 (on Steve Jobs’ uniform)

19 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
nidea From: nidea Date: December 4th, 2011 02:48 am (UTC) (Link)
If you have wool sweaters that have shrunk in the wash, I would like them, if you don't have other plans for them. I can make you something [from them or something else] in exchange. I do stuff with felted wool sometimes.



abmann From: abmann Date: December 4th, 2011 03:01 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, sorry. They went to Goodwill already!
annan_dum From: annan_dum Date: December 4th, 2011 03:17 am (UTC) (Link)
Dude, I have never cared about what other people think about what I wear. Welcome to freedom.
abmann From: abmann Date: December 4th, 2011 03:21 am (UTC) (Link)
Are you being sarcastic with that last statement?
annan_dum From: annan_dum Date: December 6th, 2011 04:17 am (UTC) (Link)
Not in the least. You're simplifying your life based on comfort, I think it's one of the easiest and most thorough forms of self-care a person can embrace.
dylsexia From: dylsexia Date: December 4th, 2011 06:02 am (UTC) (Link)
I agree. I am half artist, half businessman and I like my personal uniform to reflect my qualities. Therefore my wardrobe choices tend to be rather formal in nature with strong accents using color and pattern.

Fashion is, in my opinion, being decisive about how you present yourself. Rather than de-boarding the fashion train: I believe you have taken the first steps in accepting and defining your personal fashion statement.
abmann From: abmann Date: December 4th, 2011 05:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
Do you have different outfits or dress rules if you're doing an art versus business function?
dylsexia From: dylsexia Date: December 5th, 2011 09:00 am (UTC) (Link)
No. Formal, professional but with enough contrast to add a touch of personality.

I love 3 piece suits.
abmann From: abmann Date: December 5th, 2011 02:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
What do you paint and sculpt in? What do you do with potential for staining?
tyskkvinna From: tyskkvinna Date: December 4th, 2011 02:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
I want to do something like this but I can't. I want to dress nicer but I can't. My work's uniform policy is "Wear clothes. Don't cry when they get ruined." Trying to find a good way to reconcile this. Still have no idea.

I think you're on the right track. And I know you are a guy who pays great attention to detail so I'm sure the ties and cufflinks will be a standout. Other people will notice them inherently.
abmann From: abmann Date: December 4th, 2011 05:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
Do things get ruined in un-cleanable ways? I've done yard work in French cuffs. :)
tyskkvinna From: tyskkvinna Date: December 5th, 2011 12:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah. Grease is the biggest one - multiple kinds of grease. Rips are fairly common. Paint and stain are also fairly common.
abmann From: abmann Date: December 5th, 2011 02:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
Maybe you need nice clothes and a really big smock?
cassandraterra From: cassandraterra Date: December 4th, 2011 03:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
Michael Kors just wears jeans a black shirt and a jacket. And he's THE fashion guy. So, no, you aren't running away from fashion. You're just not getting caught up in it, which is a GOOD thing.

A blazer might do you some good. Or a simple suit jacket.
abmann From: abmann Date: December 4th, 2011 05:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
I opted for vests instead of suit jackets - I have one though. I think I look better in vests over jackets as in this photo:
Occasionally I Dress Up.  And Glower.</p>

I think it is my arm, actually. Less floppy sleeve and more overall body symmetry with vests. I actually got indirectly yellowed at for wearing vests last September during our user's group meeting.

nidea From: nidea Date: December 4th, 2011 08:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
I like vests -- I like the way they are a containing unit. Jackets are too often left unbuttoned, or they have to be unbuttoned when sitting or they bunch up. Vests you can just leave alone.

I had a certain geology prof. who rotated through about 3 sweater-vests (a different creature). They were ok, but he could have used more variety.
abmann From: abmann Date: December 5th, 2011 03:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
I never got the "always leave the last button unbuttoned" thing. Why is it even there then?

Was it the particular combinations that needed the variety? Or was it poor choice in materials? How do you think that applies to what I'm doing - which is essentially the Man in Black?
nidea From: nidea Date: December 5th, 2011 03:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
Each vest was too recognizable, so the repeat was too obvious. "Oh, it's the plain brown one with the beige trim." etc.

And they were probably acrylic, so he didn't look particularly sharp. Then again, most geo. profs went for a flannel shirt + jeans, except for the older ones, who wore normal-type suits.

I think your choice of accessories + a nicer fabric will help avoid that situation.
lipsoflove From: lipsoflove Date: December 6th, 2011 06:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't think that you are de-boarding the fashion train; you are just finding what works for you and you want to fashionably look the part that you are playing.

Sometimes that whole "image" thing grates at me. Most of the authoritative leaders I know dress casual to business casual (except for my most immediate supervisor), but they still give off a very "I'm in charge" manner. You can put together a casual look that looks well put-together without looking grubby. I feel a lot of the time that dress comes down to confidence.

I don't know where I stand on the issue as far as minimalism is concerned toward my own wardrobe. On one hand, I like to have pants, etc. that can go with lots of different things. On the other hand, I gravitate toward stand-out pieces of clothing.
19 comments or Leave a comment