I don’t know when I first noticed that I lacked the gene responsible for dress sense.
Illustrative example: I spent my early years insisting that a peagreen tracksuit top went well with a pair of dirtbrown cords.
If I’d known then that this was not the nadir, but rather a stopping-off point in my downward spiral to wardrobe hell, I may have sought professional help there and then.
But it got worse, much worse.
Thanks to a strange fashion quirk led by my cooler friends, I was soon seen wearing swirly blue shirts and off-white suits in a way that still now makes me make involuntary embarrassment noises when falling asleep.
As I grew my hair and turned to jeans and rock t-shirts, it felt like safer ground. I was seventeen, had long hair and a Rush t-shirt. OK, I wasn’t going to be invited onto any catwalks, but at least strangers weren’t pointing and staring in ill-disguised wonder.
I had a faithful woolly jumper that acted as an old friend.
A tired dirty old friend that women found achingly unattractive, that kind of friend. I bought it when I was about 20, and I know I was wearing it to work when I was about 28 because the lucky lady who became my wife “commented” upon it.
I guess she saw me as a project, and the elimination of this saggy old jersey a key early deliverable. She had a point, by the time she got to know me and it, the neckline drooped like a rope of sand and the waist, freed of its elastic master, flared like a tattered woolen tent caught in a stiff breeze.
At some point my red socks disappeared too. I don’t know when. I know I used to have several pairs and then one day I realised they had all gone.
My boss at work had a little chat about the importance of workplace clothing.
I scoffed like the silly little boy I was.
It shouldn’t matter, I argued, surely it is my performance that counted, not the fact that I looked like I was dressed by my enemies and then dragged behind a combine harvester through fields of thick gorse.
I was right. It shouldn’t matter, but he was right, it does matter.
The power of dressing to kill
I explain all this to illuminate my conversion to the concept of power dressing.
This is not just because now I look terrible in more or less anything whereas back then I had to work hard to look that bad, it is also because I have made my peace with reality, however flawed it may be.
The idealistic position of imagining that the world should change and be more accepting of tasteless scruffbags who nevertheless deliver has given way to a reluctant acceptance that however wrong it may be, people judge us based partly on a visual perception – just as I do, however much I believe everyone else shouldn’t.
We can pace up and down in old jeans and a t-shirt if we’re a creative genius who owns the company and are close to our ideal weight, but for everyone else this is a senseless risk.
I don’t have any natural ability to define my own style or pick the right clothes, but I know what looks ridiculous now, and accept that just because this isn’t my top priority doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value.