When Values Collide: A Lesson From Fashion

My favorite place to buy jeans: www.dstldjeans.com Confession: I love clothes. And not just because they cover my otherwise naked body. Yes, their functionality is important to me, and I suppose it brings some level of pleasure to know that they are accomplishing a necessary task. But I loves clothes for reasons far beyond their utilitarian purposes.

However, while I really love clothes, for our monthly family budget we don't have room for regular clothes purchasing. So I don't buy clothes very often. Just about any time I get an extra little dollop of cash through things like birthdays or some side job, then, it almost always goes towards new jeans or a shirt. Maybe some shoes, if I feel like splurging.

So while I'm not adding to my wardrobe very often, when I do it brings me much joy.

The Trifecta

The perfect piece of clothing is the one that achieves the Trifecta, a five star rating in all three areas: fashion, fit, and feel. I own probably ten pairs of pants, most of which are jeans. But only three of those pants do I love. Because only three of those pants get a five star rating from me in the Trifecta. They look great, the fit is perfect, and they're damn comfortable. Most of my jeans fail to achieve a good fit, that seems to be the hardest to find. And if they do fit well, usually I just don't like the way they look.

Within the past year I have discovered the wonder that is Raw Denim. Two of the three jeans that I love are my two Raw Denim jeans. Both came from DSTLD Jeans, an online clothing company. Ordering clothes online can be a roll of the dice, but their return policy is great and their Raw Denim jeans are only $65 (as opposed to dropping triple digits in most stores, something I have never even considered doing, let alone actually doing).

A similar thing could be said about my shirts, as well. Very few fall in to the love category. The ones that do are probably those handful of shirts that I've taken in to a tailor down the street that I've gotten to know, and she brings in the sides and sleeves for me. Most shirts I buy, in order to achieve the proper length for my torso/arms, are way too boxy and roomy around the midsection. But man oh man, when they get properly tailored to fit my frame? And when the gal only charges me $10-$12 per shirt? That's a thing of beauty.

Only in the last few years have I come to more fully appreciate the world of shoes. I've usually just picked up some sneakers or two and called it good. But it turns out I love boots, and I love dress shoes. But again, just like my jeans and my shirts, I only truly love two or three pairs, and the other half dozen or so are just okay.

So if you take the three pairs of jeans, and the five or six shirts, and two pairs of shoes, then when you put them altogether I have about a dozen different combinations for outfits that I love. Which I suppose is more than enough to rotate through so that I could wear something everyday that meets my high standards of achieving the Trifecta.

But the reality is this is not how I operate. I wear clothes often that I don't really like. Jeans that don't fit well, shirts that aren't comfortable or ones that I don't like the look of.

Why, though?

Why not just wear the stuff I know I like, when it's right there waiting for me?

Difference Over Preference

Well it's because of this: when it comes down to it I value the new and different over the familiar and same. In other words, I would rather wear something today that I don't really like, or that doesn't fit all that well, simply because I don't want to wear the same jeans that I wore yesterday. Or even the day before that. Or even the day before that. If I wear the same pair of jeans twice in one week it's probably because I forgot to keep track.

I'll spread my shirt wearing out for weeks, going days of wearing shirts that I only kind of like because I can't wear the same shirt more than once in a two-three week span!

It seems strange to me, especially when I write it down like this, that as much as I love clothes, and as much as I love in particular only a certain portion of my wardrobe, that I would intentionally not wear the things I like the most simply because I want to wear something different.

This sort of value-based-decision making (choosing the different-thing over the known-and-liked-thing) shows up in other areas of my life, as well. For instance, when Kate and I get a chance to go eat out I will almost always order something new and different. Even if what I got the time before was amazing, and it blew my mind with its deliciousness, I still opt for something different.

I also see this sort of thing play out in my years of constantly changing my hair styles and my facial hair configurations. Long hair. Short hair. Bleached. Black. Spikey. Buzzed. Swooped. Flat ironed. Faux hawk. Side part. Undercut. Matched with a full beard. Goatee. Super long and nasty goatee. Clean shaven. Long sideburns. Large sideburns. Chin strap. Five o'clock shadow. Grizzly mountain man.

Again, even if I find something that I really like, I'll inevitably change it. Because I value not wearing/eating/looking the same over and above repeating something even if I know it's something I've already confirmed I love.

Looking Deeper

There are probably ways that this shows up in areas of my life that I'm unaware of. For now I am conscious of the ways it plays out in the clothes I wear, the food I eat, and how I style my head. But I do often wonder if this deeply embedded value impacts other ares of my life that I don't yet realize.

It is also curious to me how or why I am like this. Is it just the way I am? Or have I been shaped by experiences so that I value the new and different over the familiar and same? Probably a bit of both, I'm sure. If I were to try and break it down a bit more, I can see how each of these three expressions of this value are nuanced.

The whole "ordering food" thing is also driven by my certainty that the next best food order is still out there. No matter how good the Eggs Benedict over Belgian Waffle was, I'm convinced there is something out there I will love even more.

The whole "changing hairs" thing is also driven by my boredom with sameness. I enjoy the easy versatility in changing my appearance just by altering hair style or beard composition.

The whole "different outfit" thing is trickier for me to assess. Perhaps it has to do with some neurotic anxiety about being seen by others as wearing the same piece of clothing too often? Maybe it's a stupid status thing? I'm sure there are issues related to image and ego at play. But if it was solely about image, again, I would think I would wear the clothes I love and look good in more often than I do. Yet that's not the case.

Know Thyself

I realize this post is a bit of an odd duck. I'm okay with that.

Part of what it means to love ourselves in a healthy way is to know ourselves. Introspection and examining our lives, questioning why we do what we do, is something I have neglected for far too long in my life. The more we can sift through the false version of ourselves that we put out for the world to see, and the more we can uncover who we really are, the healthier and happier we will be.

So I guess that's why I spent a couple hours reflecting on my love for clothes, but also my deeper love for the new and different over and above the familiar and known.

All in an effort to better know myself.