It started when I was a pretty ragged alcoholic – I took care to shave closely (after the amount of fluid required) and dress sharp. Now that I’m merely sometimes anxious, I still take care to wear a sharp shirt, and, if not fancy pants, then some jeans that aren’t dirty and everything toned down and tucked in with a belt and maybe some shoes that don’t look like I just walked through a mangrove swamp.
Just makes me feel better, more like a regular person. But now that I’m working on a second Bachelor’s in EE, I see a lot of students feel just fine in old college T-shirts and sweat pants – and I’m talking about age-appropriate young women, as well as your average scuzzy looking “regular dood.”
For me, I feel better if I look sharp, but not over-dressed, but, for example, it was cold this morning, so I wore dress shoes, a scarf, a wool overcoat, and a sweater – not fancy, right! But this is Portland, OR, so that’s probably the equivalent of going to the Met Opera for these people. I feel like people think I’m half-a-fag nancing around like a ballerina (this is not homophobic, just straight-up description of the way it seems to read to a square haircut – if I could put myself together as any one of my friends of that persuasion I’d be fine; hell, why do you think I come to the Dope, anyway??) Even stuff like just wearing a jacket/sportcoat makes me feel like an outcast, so I cut that shit right out of my go-to jacket-wear.
Is it me, or is it them, or is it both and everyone? Raise your hand if your know WTF I’m talking about.
You live in Portland. People there either dress two extremes: looking like they just crawled out of a refugee camp or else with large black-frame glasses, skinny jeans, and ironic t-shirt. In both cases about $200 per outfit.
But seriously, I would think dressing a little eccentric wouldn’t be frowned upon there. I don’t dress nearly as spiffy as you, but usually wear a long-sleeve collared shirt 9/10 days. People seem to consider that overdressed sometimes - maybe not explicitly said but implied.
Well, I don’t think it’s overcompensation, but IME there’s two main schools of thought when it comes to getting dressed:
School 1 - the Outfitters. My mother, sister in law and The Nephew belong to this one. This skirt goes with this blouse, this jacket, this scarf, this jewelry… Mom has had periods when this tendency was so extreme that once she was hyperventilating because I was wearing a white blouse with navy pleated pants “but it goes with the navy pencil skirt!!!” “Uh, Mom… have you considered Xanax? It’s a white silk blouse! It goes with everything except an Ibiza skirt!”
School 2 - the Coverers. This would be me, Middlebro and The Niece. So long as we’re legal and the colors aren’t trying to beat each other up, we’re happy. An extreme case would be The Bestest Ex, who bought all his clothes in black so he wouldn’t have to think about color matching.
Both tend to get more extreme when anxious, sick or nervous.
Littlebro is the most average in the family, he has some “set outfits” (mostly for work) but when he wears jeans he goes for the “just need to be covered and color-ok” approach. When he wears bermudas, color matching goes out of the window; Mom once remarked upon this and he said “it’s my Englishman On Vacation look”.
While you don’t speak of “outfits”, it sounds to me like you’re simply more careful about how you dress, closer to the Outfitters side, than most of the people around you. Nothing wrong with that, it simply means you’re The Spiffy One
Thanks for the affirmation. Yeah, I don’t do “outfits” – but around here it seems tucking in a shirt with jeans and a belt makes you out of the loop.
I wonder if more confident people just crawl out of bed and are just like “What’s up, bitch!” I’m plenty confident for five of me, but I like to look OK just in case I meet someone who might not just be serving me a sandwich wrapped in foil. Maybe I’m just not as confident as someone who can go around looking like a hobo with a Harvard T-shirt – I don’t even have a college or grad-school T-shirt, so how can I advertise that I’m actually smart? Maybe I am nuts. Just like to look nice, let my words do the talking, and then when formalities are out of the way, just start talking business or at least something interesting.
Shrug, I don’t think it’s about confidence, I just can’t be arsed to care about clothes 99% of the time. Thinking about what to wear on work days is hard work to me; to Mom and the SiL, it’s entertainment. They can spend hours looking at clothes magazines and catalogs, I’m bored by the second picture.
I think the way most of us dress is a personal preference, nothing more. I know people both with terrible self-esteem and confidence and excellent, who dress up or dress ultra-casually most of the time.
I simply enjoy looking good and putting thought into what I wear. I find clothes and fashion interesting and always have. I also feel that I am more positive, productive, and organized with my time when I have made my effort to look ‘put-together’. So for me it’s a sign I’m feeling good about things and taking care of myself. If I’m depressed/anxious, I usually stop caring nearly so much/wear a giant sweatshirt I can hide from the world in.
I think it’s easy and common to dress ultra-casually when you’re in college and on campus all the time. And it seems that there are more people who wear nothing but t-shirts with every generation. But I do know plenty of younger people who put some effort into how they dress.
People in PORTLAND are criticizing the way you dress? PUH-LEEZE. I’m a native Oregionion (although from Southern Oregon), but everytime I spent any time in Portland, I saw crazy, crazy extremes in clothing. Sounds like you are dressing nicely and I say stay with it. Maybe lose the scarf. Even as a gay man, I just can’t bring myself to wear a scarf >_<.
If you enjoy looking good, by all means do it. It’s a hobby like any other and if it helps you through this rough ol’ world, I say more power to you.
Having said that… I dressed up more in a period of my life where I was both lonely and dissatisfied. The clothes felt like a warm cocoon around me, protecting me from everything that was wrong. I felt safe inside all that cashmere.
Now that I’ve got all the things I want out of life, I wear jeans and sweatshirts.
I admit I am more self-conscious about my appearance than most people . . . But I think it is good for me and good for others to dress as well as I can and put my best foot forward. Like a public service: the world is ugly enough, I try to spiff it up a bit.
And really, in New York, dressing well and accessorizing is a competitive sport, the *only *one I excel at. Every day I see men and women–of all ages, races, body types–looking fabulous. Not over-dressed or theatrical, just perfectly turned-out, with just the right shoes or necklace or shirt. It really brightens up my day to see that, so I try to do the same for others.
It’s like saying “I care enough to make an effort and look my best for you, even though we are total strangers passing on the street.” When I hear people say, “I don’t care what people think of me,” I am horrified–of *course *I care what people think of me!
Hah! I just thought of this yesterday when I was looking for the perfect pumps to go with my dress for the synagogue this morning. I most certainly can’t look like I’m this poor! Of course, I’m a poor teacher on a miniscule budget, so I went to TJ Maxx. I found a deep purple CK dress for $60 and of course spent the next day looking for (pointed) pumps in my price range that accented the dress properly. I’m a much cheaper version of Classic Prep Who Still Believes in Pantyhose when it comes to these things, but yeah - I change my purse everyday! I am beginning to see why some of my students think I’m uptight. For me, it’s a control issue as much as it is a state of mind.
Speaking as an Oregonian living in NYC, nah, it’s just a regionalism. I’m drifting more towards NYC custom - I wear a collared shirt pretty much any day I’m not sailing, and I do appreciate clothes in a way I didn’t grow up doing - but there’s a part of me that secretly thinks all the super-spiffy New Yorkers look weird. Just a matter of what you’re used to, really.
That said, yeah, you’ll look a little out of place in Portland dressing up too much. Maybe you could find a less formal, but still interesting look? I mean, sportcoats aren’t terribly Oregonian, but sweaters (or, if you want to rock the hipster look, cardigans) and scarves can be much more relaxed - depends on the sweater/scarf, of course, but there’s nice without formal, if you know what I mean?
Either way, dressing up is fun. Even hippies knew that - formal, no, but you think all those beads were for comfort?
All males of a certain age in this town wear a uniform consisting of cargo shorts and a T-shirt with writing on it. This goes with deck shoes, flip-flops, or athletic shoes that look like they’ve been dipped in cowflop. My stepson wore this outfit to a job interview. I’ve always thought that if one of them were to spiff it up a notch, he’d have an edge with the ladies, but I guess they’ve gotten the girls around here used to looking at slobs.
I was people-watching in the grocery store the other day and all the women looked like sausages poured into tight clothes; all the guys looked like they were wearing clothes made for giants.
The best (male) dresser I ever knew was a short man.
Nothing freakish, but he was probably 5’4 tops.
But before everyone assumes - oh, he has “short-man syndrome” - he was also one of the friendliest, kindest, most humble people I’ve ever met.
So…maybe compensating? Maybe just cool? Either way, this guy was just a class act through and through. And he didn’t dress up silly, he dressed up straight quality. Think Don Draper, but short.
Everyone liked him. And he worked among us schlubs (mostly sciency and engineering types) where the majority of people dressed way, way down. Still, this guy was so good at looking sharp that even us nerd types always admired his style.
Oh, here’s a good example of why my “formal” (for Portland) style of dressing got me some points. I’m taking some classes at a non-smoking campus, and, walking through the staff parking lot with a (tobacco!) pipe, with dress shoes, scarf, overcoat, some old biddy said, blah blah blah non-smoking, think of the children…blah blah…do you teach here? I looked the part and who the hell smokes a pipe these days in public anyway (not enough scratch for cigs is my excuse), and was able to introduce myself as “Dr. X. XXXXX, working in ZZZZ departments, but you can call me X. Thanks for the warning – I wasn’t aware, and it makes perfect sense to me.” She bought it completely and I made a new friend in the process (maybe, she seemed kind of grouchy to be someone whom I’d want as a friend).
Your anecdote reinforces my personal opinion: people tend to react to the way you present yourself. At work, I dress well - dresses, suits, at minimum slacks and a blouse, plus heels - and flatly refuse to wear anything that could be mistaken for a uniform. I find that people treat me as though I’m knowledgable and authoratative when I’m well-dressed, especially if I make myself seem tall-ish. My life and job are easier when people assume that I have enough knowledge and power to do my job. (Though it can be awkward when my jeans-wearing boss fields an inquiry, and the client turns to me to verify the answer.)
What I find seriously odd is when my peers ask why I’m so “dressed-up” if I’m wearing a dress. Usually, a dress means that I overslept. Underclothes, one garment, shoes, brush teeth, 2-minute makeup, and out the door. Wearing a dress is less work, not more!
yes, exactly. just from my personal experience, i’ve spent most of my life not paying much attention to my clothes, just threw on jeans and a tshirt and called it a day. in the past year or so, i’ve started to make a little more effort, and i now feel more confident about how i look than i ever have before. i am a far cry from a fashionista, i don’t read magazines to see the latest trends, or anything like that.
i don’t spend a lot of money on clothes. i dropped $50 at old navy the other day and got a ton of compliments on the outfits i assembled from that (about 3 total). and yes, sometimes if i’m just running to the grocery i’ll just wear jeans and a sweatshirt or whatever, but when i’m going to work or out with friends, etc, it feels really good to know i’m dressed well and i look nice.
Nah, not ‘he thinks he’s better than us’, more, ‘haha, check out the monkey suit, we’re toooootally more relaxed in our t-shirts, man’. It doesn’t help that I can’t think of a single Orgeonian with an actual tailored suit, much less one they wore because they wanted to. If all you see are people crammed into mandatory Target suits, suits start looking pretty lame, ya know? And, since formality largely means older… well, you get some of that, too.
Really, I think it’s way more about formal dress than snazzy dress. The west coast doesn’t do formal a whole lot.
Also, Viva La Scarf! I am so looking forward to scarf season… if I was still in San Francisco, it’s be here already
But, but… Seriously, does it take more effort to don slacks, shirt, & sportscoat than for jeans, tee,.and anorak? Other than maybe some ironing, maybe not? As I mentioned, it’s either the same effort (find 2 suit pieces or slacks and blouse,) or less (one dress,) to looked dressed up and spiffy. Looking schlubby all of the time takes an equal amount of work, and often seems more affected than dressing well/appropriately.