Good clothes are great fun. But we sometimes treat them with way more seriousness than they deserve.
I understand and share the love for good clothes. The touch of fine fabric against the skin, the pleasure of a well fitting garment. Hell, I spend completely disproportionate amount of the money I make on clothes, and I am only a tiny little bit ashamed to admit that.
But I can’t bring myself to treat the matter of dressing oneself with any particular seriousness. This is just not an important issue. A pleasant one, but more of a refuge from the stuff that actually matters than one of them.
I surround myself with various people, and I notice that the way they dress is rarely a factor I even consider. And I don’t judge them for it, because why would I? If I’m to be honest, I don’t really believe in the magic of first impressions either – they have lead me astray numerous times, and it’s becoming difficult to count those situations in which I had to change my mind about a person after getting to know them better. And really, clothes rarely prove a useful tool to help me predict whether I will get along with this new person or not.
My approach may have to do with the fact I don’t work, nor do I intend to, in one of the sectors in which how you present yourself can decide your fate. I once read this Business Insider article about dressing at Goldman Sachs (http://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-dress-the-part-on-wall-street-2013-8?IR=T). If a fraction of what’s written there is true, it seems like a dreadful place to work (not that I didn’t expect it to be already). This approach to dressing in which it is a way to show your place in the pecking order, goes completely against everything I actually enjoy about it. And shows incredible insecurity. Why subject oneself to such torture? I love being comfortable in my clothes, and this can’t be done by dressing to impress, and being constantly on watch for people who scrutinise your outfit, looking for the smallest thing you did wrong to use against you.
Putting so much stress on looking not even good, but correct, is completely beyond me. On the other hand, I also cannot understand making clothes the centre of who you are, and the only, or one of very few, things that define you.
That’s why I never quite got into dandyism. A friend of mine wrote a paper on the history of the dandy, and I found it to be a fascinating read, which however mostly confirmed what I thought. Take the famous Beau Brummell, whose two or three quotes are thrown around by menswear bloggers everywhere: basically the entirety of his persona came down to looking fabulous and being witty in the right company. He could put all his effort and all his attention to those two things, because he supported himself with a sizeable sum of money inherited from his father, and when the money run out, he promptly died. My priorities seem to lie elsewhere, so it is not exactly a lifestyle I aspire to.
I understand it is possible to focus on clothes almost completely. Making them one of the most important things in one’s life. But let’s be honest: it’s not a universal thing. For the most of us out there, clothes are not really important.
But they don’t have to be. Not everything has to be important to have value and its place in life. Clothes are pleasant, and pleasures make life easier. They are comfortable, and comfort makes life easier. And that’s enough.
Cover image: Robert de Montesquiou, portrait by Giovanni Boldini