11 October 2010

Nobody Sleeps in a Tuxedo (on casualness)

I like to dress well, and these days that involves being frequently overdressed by most peoples standards. It's very rare that any occasion in my daily life requires me to wear so much as a dress shirt, let alone a tie or a jacket. But I do it anyway, because I enjoy it and it makes me happy. This being a style blog geared at like minded folks who are also prone to overdressing, one might get the impression that I sleep in a tux. It's far from true. Much of my life is spent in casual clothing doing somewhat messy things with my two small children. Even then I find ways to be comfortable and stylish. Taking care of the wee ones demands a comfortable mode of dress that takes to getting dirty, but I refuse to spend my life in pajamas and sweat pants. Being comfortable and suitably dressed for such situations doesn't have to mean eternal slovenliness. Despite what many people would currently believe, there exists a myriad of "happy mediums" between formal wear and pajamas. To wit:
My boy is in pre-school now, which means I rise early, feed the kids, get us all dressed and rush out the door three days a week. Sometimes I don't even take a shower until I return home from dropping him off. Such is real life. No matter,on a sunny but brisk morning in early Fall, a clean blue jeans, bare ankles and boat shoes play well with a soft cotton sweater in pale yellow and simple white tennis shirt. Easy and comfortable, and yet still I felt "dressed". It really doesn't take much.
Later that same day, the weather warmed a bit, and I decided to take the wee ones for a last blast at the beach. No swimming or bare chested sun bathing, just some old fashioned fun digging in the sand and collecting clam shells to paint on later. The sweater, being by now too warm, is replaced with a soft old plaid shirt, worn jacket style over the tennis shirt. It's amazing how much something as simple as a collar on your shirt can elevate even the most casual of outfits.
Who says big puffy athletic shoes and flip flops are the final word in easy going, comfortable footwear? A tattered old pair of topsiders does me just fine, and I feel like a grown up wearing them. Crocs will never be my thing, ever, but I gotta hand it to the guy who came up with these rubber things. A better warm weather shoe for children has never existed before this.

I'll admit that sometimes the best shoes are no shoes. One of my favorite things about living in Boston is our close proximity to the sea, and the ability to get barefoot in the sand. It's incomparable. Notice how nicely those Wranglers are aging. They remain dark while they develop the perfect fade. All you have to do to achieve this look is wash your jeans when they get dirty. I bet I have them for a long time.

Not a bad match rolled with a pair of handmade New England hippie shoes either. The perfect ensemble for apple picking.

We can all lament the loss of whatever it is we lament the loss of in our modern world. We can all do what we will to hang on to the best bits of our own romanticized version of the past. Nothing wrong with any of that. But life must lived in the present. You don't have to run around in sweatpants from Target, but you can't wear a tux to bed either. The real trick lies in striking a balance.

Sorry if I got a bit maudlin there. Next time, I'll do what I can to keep it shallow.


Roger v.d. Velde said...

The 'happy medium' has to exist. I have a suit and tie job, but I've also had many overalls jobs - dressing how I'd prefer to had to be an after-work experience and to be honest it's just pompous and theatrical to be sitting watching the news in collar and tie.
So what you described as 'the happy medium' fills the gap. 'Adult casual' perhaps.
I get a bit sick of walking self-improvement manuals insisting that people will think we're no good, and we won't be taken seriously, unless we're dressed to the nines all the time; every day is not a job interview.

Karena said...

Completely understand ...I love the looks you have chosen and are much like mine for casual times!!

I do adore dressing up though!

Art by Karena

notanymore said...

With you on the top-siders. They're my go-to shoe, and I wish I had five pairs of them in different colors. It's bad enough my brown slip ons from Colhaan died, and Sperry is extremely hard to find in Japan.

What do you think, G, are brown top-siders still appropriate in December, if you live in a fairly moderate climate without snow?

As far as your choice of denim, well, I'm not a denim person, and I never was. I have two pairs. A nice slim cut pair of dark jeans for those rare situations where I am going out with the college set and slacks are just too much for that crowd, and a beaten up old pair of Polhams for sunday mornings when I need to remember to take out the trash and vacuum the living room...

Otherwise? Khakis or slacks. But I actually have a job where I am required to wear a dress shirt and tie every day...

David V said...

Once the walks are cleared, the Tops go back on for me here in the Western Burbs of Chicago. A town not unknown for it's occasional dusting of white stuff.

Anonymous said...

I could not agree more about the collared shirt. One of my favorite 'go to' oufits as a stay-at-home mom is jeans and an oxford shirt (un-tucked). Put on my penny loafers and I am comfortable, casual, age-appropriate and still look nice. Of course I have to wear my pearls with it also.... hehe

Pasquale said...

Arrow Mocs seem to be the go-to for apple picking this season. Did you stop at Kimballs for some hot Apple Crisp before you headed home? Or was it a quick tour of Gropius House?

David L. Willis said...

OK, if you like your "handmade New England hippie shoes", then I am betting that you will like "genuine South Texas hippie sandals". Please take a look at this link: www.pipersandals.com.

While these are now out of season for your climate, Christmas is coming, and one can never be too ready for spring!! I really like mine, and I am betting that you just might have the only pair in the Boston area. Plus, Dave Piper, the owner/designer/craftsman is s super nice guy.

Kindest regards,


Jho78 said...

This "middle ground" you speak of is about as dolled up as I get. I'm pretty new to caring about how I dress and I don't have occasion to dress nicer very often. It's still a far sight better than the baggy jeans and Simpsons tshirts that used to make up my uniform. Thanks for helping me get my act together.

Britt Sudduth said...

As a new Texas follower and fan, it has taken some time, but I finally have read through your entire blog history...fascinating! The relentless pursuit of your craft is admirable to say the least!

You have mentioned in more than one session that you need an opportunity to showcase your formal wear finds. Mrs. S. and I would like to invite you and Mrs. G to join our table at the Justice for Children (www.justiceforchildren.org) Gala next May. All you have to do is get yourself to Houston...and put together one of your awesome black-tie ensembles!

I look forward to seeing what you’ll do next!

Kindest Regards,

Young Fogey said...

Great post, G. Nothing like a little perspective.

My own recent outing to the beach with the kids had me all the way down in board shorts and a T-shirt. So what? We built sand castles and splashed in the surf--who wears a tie for that?

On my days off, sometimes I wear a tie, and sometimes I don't. It depends on the weather and how I feel. Never a tie with a short-sleeved shirt, of course, but a collar standing above the lapel of even a casual cotton jacket sure looks much better than a visible T-shirt under--well, anything.

Roger is right--not every day is a job interview--but there's another reason to dress nicely, even if that means no tie: to differentiate ourselves from the slovenly. Even going "cazh," G looks exactly 1.63 zillion times better than the average mall denizen--and we can, too.

NCJack said...

I like your parameters: you've set a level of dressing, below which you won't go, then adjust for the activity. The jeans/flannel/boats have their place, as the sweats and "Rude/Unfunny text here" tees do not.

Sally forth, sirrah!

T said...

Ha! Nice dig on washing your Wranglers.

Rebecca said...

I appreciate the way you keep it "real" for us common folk. In my opinion, you walk the "fine line" with great balance and class.

Greg Turner said...

This is a wonderful post. I agree completely that a collared shirt does wonders for an outfit, and that yes, people can be comfortable and ready fast without looking like they're headed to the laundromat.

New York Is For Haters said...

Quietly, some of the best frugal advice dispensed on your site here is the fantastic things you talk about doing with your children. From watching commuter trains to painting clam shells, these are the type of things that kids love. How much it costs to participate in said activities does not matter. Keep up the good work.


i agree and you are an interesting bloke.