I posted a couple tweets about clothing this afternoon, and since Craig expressed annoyance, I figured it would be a good idea to do a whole blog post! I joked to Craig that trying to conform to something like traditional men’s dress was an integral part of my “religious but not spiritual” lifestyle. It’s nice to have arbitrary guidelines.
For reasons that are actually pretty unclear, clothes were always a point of contention between me and my mom growing up. She wanted me to dress very fashionably, I didn’t feel comfortable with it, and we met halfway — she’d buy the stuff and I’d hardly wear most of it. Over time, it became a real source of anxiety for me, as I was constantly criticized for my “boring” preferences when in fact I had never developed any positive preferences at all. The traditional parameters provided me with much-needed support in the big Other, giving me room to actually develop a rudimentary fashion sense of some kind.
In the years since I started teaching, I’ve reached a point where only two or three garments I own are more than a couple years old. The most notable holdover is a jacket that I got for a high school dance, which may be the only piece of clothing I have ever successfully “grown into.” (I struggled to maintain a weight of 120 lbs. in high school, and so I can’t imagine how huge it must have been on me at the time.) I’ve made a lot of questionable purchases over the years, but my native thrift has meant that I’ve never paid full retail for any of them — in fact, I probably wound up wasting more money on net trying to do everything on the cheap. Sometimes it feels like I’m spending a lot of money on clothes, but really I’m making up for the many, many years when I was getting by on stuff from high school and college, supplemented by the occasional Christmas gift. I doubt I would have spent any less on more casual stuff.
I set certain goals for myself from time to time. This summer, my project was trying to dress appropriately for the season, as I perceived that spring and especially summer are the times when you really need to know what you’re doing. Last year, I decided that I would solve the Pants Problem, once and for all, and I feel that I essentially did. Moving forward, I’d like to make a decisive advance in the field of sleeve length, which has been a persistent difficulty for me.
My ultimate goal is to reach a point where I don’t have to think about it, where the big Other will lay out my clothes for me each morning. This isn’t to say that I won’t think about it, but that I won’t have to — the hope is that my “lazy,” unthinking option will be reliably presentable. The simplicity, the mix-and-match interchangeability of parts (so foreign to my Midwestern upbringing, with its emphasis on individual “outfits” drawn from display models), is a big part of the appeal of the traditional men’s model. Wearing a suit every day to teach would in many ways be the simplest approach of all — I wouldn’t even have to pick out my pants and jacket separately!
Anyway, what do you think, dear readers?