I haven’t been outside today and don’t plan to until I walk the dog this evening. I don’t even have any Zoom meetings. So no one will see me except my wife and son. And dog. And so I’m wearing my most comfortable clothes: full-rise, light grey flannel trousers with pleats and cuffs, held up by suspenders. A pressed blue and white striped button-down oxford shirt. A blue and brown checked tweed jacket with patch pockets. And over the calf burgundy socks and leather moccasins.
I bet you’re thinking: “That doesn’t sound comfortable, that sounds formal. Shouldn’t you be wearing sweatpants and an old tshirt if you’re working from home and no one will see you?”
Well, first off, I don’t own sweatpants. Synching something tightly at my waist just isn’t comfortable. And because most people have only worn ill-fitting suits and jackets, it’s hard to imagine tailored clothing as physically comfortable. But both my trousers and jacket were custom made, out of soft fabrics, with little to no structure (no padding or stiff interlining). The jacket, especially, fits like a worn-in sweater. The shirt is also properly fitted so it doesn’t pull at the shoulders, neck or belly. So, yes, I am supremely physically comfortable.
But comfort isn’t only physical, it is also mental. If I go to a best friend’s wedding in an old pair of pajamas, am I physically comfortable? Yes. Am I mentally comfortable? Hard no.
Clothing is not just functional. It is expressive. It tells a story. To others and to ourselves. Just like so many other things in our lives. (Why do we paint a certain room a certain colour? Or cut our hair a certain way?) If I were to wear sweatpants and an old tshirt I know I would find it depressing. Like eating nothing but frozen dinners instead of preparing meals with whole foods.
When I am facing a day of work at my desk, be that at home or (rarely) in an office, I dress to tell myself that it’s a work day. That I am going to try to be the best version of myself today. In other words, by building a wardrobe of quality, well-fitting clothes that express joy, beauty and elegance, I can be both physically and mentally comfortable.
Pedro Mendes is the author of Ten Garments Every Man Should Own and Canada’s leading classic men’s style expert. He has been published in Toronto Life, Zoomer, and the Globe and Mail among other newspapers and magazines and can be heard regularly on CBC Radio.Pedro lives in Toronto. Read more here.