More style confessions this way … volume 1, 2, 3, and 4.
I’m Having a Style Crisis
Because I think I should dress like this:
But I always somehow seem to end up looking like (an infinitely less cool version of) this:
And, really, it all comes down to thoughts I’ve been having after reading this article. Go ahead and read it. I’ll wait.
OK, it’s a bit ridiculous. A lot ridiculous. I wasn’t sure at first if it was satire or not. I’m still not sure that the author isn’t trolling all of us; regardless, let me reiterate: don’t spend hundreds of thousands (or even tens of thousands) of dollars on your work wardrobe. Your career doesn’t require it and probably isn’t worth it, and that’s not an insult – neither is mine. I don’t make a million bucks a year, which is what I would have to earn in order to make a $162,000 wardrobe bill even remotely palatable (from a financial perspective at least).
[As an aside, last year I spend about 6% of my annual net income on clothes. This number is a little higher than I’d like it to be, but it’s not irresponsible given my overall financial picture and the fact that I count my clothes habit as a hobby more than a functional necessity. I don’t have a lot of other hobbies, and they tend to be inexpensive.]
Back to the clothes-as-an-investment thing. Once and for all: they’re not. An investment is something that appreciates (or has the potential to appreciate) in value, not something that depreciates. Clothes, bags, shoes: they all lose most of their value the minute that you take them out of the store. With that said, if you’re working in a client-oriented field, where personal presentation is key, clothes can be a sort of indirect investment vehicle. Looking the part of a competent, successful fill-in-the-blanks matters; maybe not as much as being a competent, successful fill-in-the-blanks, but enough. If you consider that your career is likely to be your biggest investment (i.e. money-making asset), spending money in furtherance of it can be a wise choice, provided you do it within reason and with an eye to your ROI.
But that’s not really what I want to talk about. [Holy freaking diversion.]
I’ve always been bothered by the phrase “dress for the job you want.” For a long time I thought it was silly, because I was convinced that ability would always trump presentation. The older I get, though, the more I realize that the world is (sadly) not as black and white, or fair, as I had assumed in my naïve youth. But I think what really bothers me is the implication that your job should dictate your style. As you guys know, I consider style a very personal form of self-expression. And I struggle with the idea of being defined by my career. I do what I do, but I am not what I do. It’s one thing to wear nylons, or knee-length skirts, or close-toed shoes, because of an office dress code. But style is another thing.
After a few “wilderness years”, and then some family-building years, it’s now time for some career-making years. My career could still take any one of several different paths, but if I decide to stay on the current course, I’m probably going to have to take a hard look at my wardrobe. If I’m being honest with myself, it really should look more like that first picture. And it is a lovely outfit, don’t get me wrong. It just doesn’t feel like me. It feels like a some-day-I’ll-be-a-grownup version of me.
I’m not sure I’m ready for that, even if my career is.
I’m not sure I can afford to wait any longer to be ready.
The thing is, I’m dead serious about my career, and about what I want to accomplish. The work and personal sacrifices that will be required are also no joke. It’s probably time to stop fooling around with my style.