I can’t remember where I first heard it, but there’s this story of a famous New York writer who wore a suit and tie as he wrote in the basement of his apartment building. He would ride down the elevator in the morning with the rest of the nine-to-fivers, descend into the basement to do his daily work, and return to his apartment in the evening with the rest of the building’s occupants, who probably thought he was just another office drone. While I envy his commute, I just don’t get the self-instituted dress code.
I’ve been unfortunate enough to always work jobs with dress codes, though thankfully I’ve graduated from the blue and yellow Blockbuster Video polo that was two sizes too big. Now that I spend my mornings writing, I take advantage of the solitary working environment. It’s rare that I wear pants. In fact, the amount of clothes I’m wearing is a great litmus test for my productivity – the less clothes, the more fervently I’ve been writing.
However, the flip side to this theory is the thought that I should treat writing like a job if I ever hope to excel at it. Staying in pajamas all morning makes it that much easier to forgive a Facebook check or some noodling on my guitar. If wearing nice clothes is all it would take to effect more concentration, perhaps it’s time to suit up.
I bought a nicely made, well-tailored three-piece charcoal suit for my wedding, but haven’t worn it since my honeymoon, which was nearly seven months ago. So for this week’s challenge, I’ve decided to wear a suit every day for one work week, Monday to Friday. If nothing else, I’ll get a nicer return on investment. It’s business casual at the law firm where I work, so this will be a nice change of pace from the wrinkled button-down and khakis that normally make up my outfit of choice. This challenge will also give me a chance to review the lessons learned from the tie challenge in Week 1. Compared to the last few challenges, this should be smooth sailing.
I wanted to make gradual steps up to the full three-piece, so on Monday I go casual, wearing my charcoal suit with a blue check shirt and no tie. There’s a very tangible aura of confidence that surrounds me as I walk to the subway station. In the past few years, I’ve mostly worn a suit when I’ve had a job interview, so it has this association with the promise of something new. But I might be reading too much into it – maybe I just like looking good.
On the subway, I realize that my outfit clashes with my overstuffed messenger bag, with its broken buckles, frayed lining, and lunch bag sticking out of the side. When you’re recording audio, your signal chain is only as good as your weakest piece of equipment. The same applies here; I only look as good as my most dilapidated accessory. I debate whether to switch to one of Q’s nice leather attachés for later in the week, but for now, I slip the messenger bag off my shoulder and carry it by the handle so it feels more like a suitcase.
As soon as I walk into my office building, however, my confidence level dips and I begin to worry about looking silly. In my neighborhood, no one knew who I was and could just assume I was attending to important suitly business. But in my office everyone knows me and knows that I’m just going to sit at my desk and do the same work I always do on Mondays. I lost the intrigue.
I start panicking on the elevator ride up, believing that I’ve made the act of wearing a suit as silly as the Commando Wednesdays we enacted in my freshman year of college. As soon as I enter the office, I take off my suit jacket and put it on the back of my chair before anyone can get a good look at me. I don’t put it on again until I leave. For the majority of the day, I look as I always do, and I don’t have to reveal my manly experiment quite yet.
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