New Deal and Goodwill

Jusssst in case you haven’t read the blog before or happen to be in HR… This is written in my standard absurd/armchair satirical/hyperbolic/make-fun-of-everyone-including-myself tone. There’s no bullying going on, more like the opposite being privileged to work with friends. I probably should just limit visibility of this one to said friends but don’t know how.

I work with a nice mix of nice people, but they borderline bully me over my vintage wardrobe choices. The thought of kids being ridiculed at school for wearing old clothes is appalling, yet apparently at some age it becomes OK again.

I’m 35 and on opposite ends of the millennial age bracket from some attractive, fashionable colleagues. One guy has a visceral reaction every time he sees my Express jeans. He either tells me to burn them or asks, in seemingly genuine bewilderment, why I own them.

Although the jeans appear to flare out at the bottom, I checked the tag and confirmed they are not boot cut. Low rise, slim fit, straight leg homey.

Mind you, this guy wears pants tapered so short he should be the one checking the tag to see if they’re actually capris. When a group of us dressed in turtlenecks and gold chains as a gag for the holiday party, we rummaged through five stores at South Coast Plaza — Nordstrom Rack, Marshalls, Saks OFF 5th, Old Navy, Macy’s — before finding the mystical turtleneck rack at H&M.

The capris guy didn’t need to participate in the tool brigade asking store employees whether they had turtlenecks while trying to keep a straight face. He already had not one, but two as serious outfits.

That’s not the kind of person I want to be, too young to remember Jordan and metro AF. I’m not trying to impress these children who interact through Instagram like it’s attached to their vocal cords and use the word “literally” way too liberally.

One of them asked me what kind of music I listen to and then blurted Brian McKnight before I had a chance to answer. I knew she was making fun of me and recognized the blatant ageism, but the song in which B-Mac counts to five started playing in my mind and I lost the wherewithal to defend myself.

She also filmed me for the aforementioned Gram when I was inhumanely Smirnoff Iced on a Monday morning with a 22 ouncer. Instead of commending me for sucking down 71 grams of sugar at 35 years of age, her little Insta friends asked what was up with my shirt.

I’ll tell you what’s up, ever heard of Brooks Brothers, bro? This isn’t your standard Gap rugby shirt. My best friend and I bought matching ones around 15 years ago at the Allen Premium Outlets in north Texas. I’ve never seen him wear his.

My wife abhors the shirt and calls me Waldo. Yeah I get it, we’re only talking about Brooks Brothers here. It’s not like U.S. Congressmen wear the brand or anything.

On some days when I don’t have meetings, I choose older outfits such as a pair of Eddie Bauer polos purchased in 2006 or a pink striped H&M shirt that a coworker likens to the Ruby’s Diner uniform.
Typically I weather a steady stream of snide comments at work on these vintage days, bookended by reprimands from my wife in the morning and evening. That’s roughly 16-hour coverage of my supposed fashion missteps.

I simply don’t find clothes to be interesting or a way to express myself on a daily basis. To me, it’s maddeningly obvious what’s underneath the clothes matters more.

And this is not a reference to personality or values. I mean it literally, the way you’re supposed to use the word. I care more about how I look naked than clothes designed to artificially inflate attractiveness.

The problem is I’m sinking into a fat and slovenly period of my life. I can’t control my appetite, and my workouts are getting more and more lackluster.

When I had a solid physique, I didn’t care if people could tell it was there under flowing, boxy Banana Republic shirts. If you think about it, dressing haphazardly is a nice way to manipulate expectations. Then when you strip and unveil a six-pack, it can be an almost overwhelming surprise-and-delight for first encounters or at least a fun reminder for long-term partners of your commitment to providing a superior product.

Because I’m not doing my part on the body front, I am open to finding some middle ground with the clothes. The Insta coworker made me a “vision board” PDF with reasonably priced options. My wife confirmed them as similar to items she already bought for me or suggested.

The main task will be figuring out what goes to Goodwill, two years after the great purge for Hurricane Harvey relief cast away an assortment of classics including button-fly jeans, oversized Joseph Abboud suits, crop-top polos, and my signature yellow Chaps fleece that made me look like an Asian Big Bird.

I proposed a deal with the Insta colleague for 2020. If and when she does not approve of something I wear to work, she will be empowered to banish it to Goodwill.

Of course this could quickly spiral out of control, so I am negotiating some parameters for immunity:

1. Clothing less than 5 years old. She wants to limit to a 1-year grace period, which is absurd.

2. Socks

3. Anything worn on Fridays, when I shoot for a laid-back Jim persona

We’ll see how this goes and makes me feel. Large determinants of my satisfaction with clothes are comfort, ease of cleaning, and fear of stain or damage (closely related to price and age).

I am skeptical this exercise will illuminate new areas of utility for me, but willing to try.

Writer’s note: If you spend any amount of your finite time reading the absurdities in this blog, we are either friends or highly compatible strangers. Thus I feel close enough to ask for your email address below. The only email you will ever get from me is one blog post per month for the rest of my life, until you click Unsubscribe. Thank you.