I was visiting my family and we were in a bookstore. When she was halfway down the aisle with my sister, my mother looked back and said to my father and me, “why don’t you all go to the men’s store?”
“What is the men’s store?” I thought. It sounded like someplace I wouldn’t want to take my father.
Thankfully, a “men’s store” is just a store for men’s clothing. It turns out my parents got a gift certificate to a place called Julian’s in a silent auction. The gift certificate was $200. I jokingly suggested that we might be able to get two ties for that much.
As it turned out, we would be able to get one tie ($125). Another and we’d be over budget.
I looked at the shirts and saw one I liked. It was $150. We wondered how we’d use up the rest of the gift card, and the clerk said we could get a “pocket square” for roughly $50.
A “pocket square,” the clerk explained, is a piece of cloth that one folds and places in one’s shirt pocket. Presumably for fashion purposes. He cheerfully demonstrated.
I looked in my shirt pocket and saw that I had my drinking straw from the meal I’d eaten an hour before. My dad decided to buy a tie pin, for keeping one’s tie from flapping around in windy weather, to use up the last $50.
In the end, the medium size of the shirt was too small for me and the large was too large, so we decided to find a more socialite friend who might make better use of this gift card.
It’s 9:00 AM. I’m in the Chicago O’hare airport heading to a conference, and I keep getting looks. No matter where I am, people walking by glance my way. I’m thinking it might be my solid purple, slightly shiny button-down shirt that fewer than twelve hours ago was not part of my wardrobe at all. This describes as much as half the clothing in my pack.
Ok, let’s rewind to twelve hours ago: It was 9:00 PM Saturday night, and I was putting together my clothes for the trip. I briefly wondered whether my clothes were sufficiently professional, so I knocked on my roommate Nate’s door. Nate looked briefly at my clothes, pointed at a red plaid button-down and said “this one is appropriate.” I looked at it and asked if anyone would notice that the shirt pocket was starting to detach at the top. Nate looked again, thought, and declared that none of my shirts are appropriate for a business casual gathering. “Uh,” I say, but Nate is already onto the next thought. “We need to go shopping. When do you leave? Next week?”
Minutes later we were at Kohl’s, the only place open that late. Nate told me to expect to pay upwards of $500. “Heck, no.” was the first though that came to my mind. “Yeah, sure,” was what I said. Pleased with my resounding agreement, Nate left me at a belt rack and came back with a Kohl’s associate. One tape measurer, five shirts, three pairs of pants and two blazers later, I was in a dressing room.
The Kohl’s associate told me all I needed to do was mix dark and light – if I had a dark blazer and dark undershirt, I wore light pants; light pants, light blazer, dark undershirt. Boom, business casual and style. Magic. Apparently this applies not only to normal, blue, grey and brown shirts, but to a veritable rainbow of shirts, ranging from purple to orange. In fact, after I got three blue shirts, Nate and the associate started warning me against more blue. Apparently if you wear the same color multiple days in a row, people notice and get weirded out. This, as it was explained to me, would be a big deal regarding my success in this conference and my career in general.For this reason it was also important that I buy not only the blazer that was eighty percent off, but another light blazer at the full price, $200.
I didn’t buy the second blazer. After over half-off overall in discounts I spent $400 on my new wardrobe. Nate for his part was astounded that I managed not to break $500. Now I have a dark grey blazer, a purple shirt, an orange shirt, two green shirts, and three blue shirts, all of which, if I wear them right, will be business casual. Nate says I will be “lookin’ sharp” as well, although I’m no judge of that. Unfortunately, I’m morally opposed to selfies, so you’ll have to take this picture as a rough approximation of what I look like: