Three Ways The Pandemic Shaped My Style
The pandemic is hard to write about. It caused so much real pain and suffering for so many people that writing about something as comparatively insignificant as its effect on how we dress seems to blithely miss the gravity of the past three years.
Luckily, my family escaped the worst of it relatively unscathed. Yes, there were some upsetting moments, like when our families couldn’t meet my youngest son when he was born. But we are all still alive.
Maybe the ickiness I feel about writing this article comes from a proximity to the pandemic. If I were writing this ten years down the line it wouldn’t feel as fresh and raw.
With all that being said, I know there have been tons of articles since the spring of 2020 that discussed how fashion and style has shifted on a macro level. One day I’ll see articles about “The Death Of The Suit” or “The Death Of The Necktie” only to read the next day about how the pandemic has caused a resurgence of classic menswear since everyone is so sick of lounging around in sweatpants.
Maybe the reports of the death of menswear have been greatly exaggerated.
I don’t know really about any of that. As I walk through New York City these days everyone looks pretty much exactly how they did on March 11th, 2020.
I can only really talk about how the pandemic shaped my own style.
It’s interesting to think about how LONG it’s been since the pandemic started. I don’t know about you, but I kind of feel like a different person from year to year. I learn things and I grow. Life tumbles along and you look back on a year’s time and go “Wow, I don’t even recognize the guy I was last year.”
And I felt that same way when it came to my style before Covid hit. Each year I felt like my style shifted this way and that.
Then we all went into lockdown, began our “new normal”, and my style kind of calcified.
And I like it.
Here are the three main ways the pandemic shaped my style.
#1 – It stopped me from buying stuff.
The pandemic put my normal spending habits in a holding pattern that I have never really broken out of. It reshaped my thinking about what I really need and what I don’t.
It goes without saying that I stopped going to physical stores (since they were all closed). But I also largely stopped making online purchases because I knew I couldn’t get anything tailored during the pandemic.
That meant no sport coats, no trousers, and no suits. Sure, things that leaned more casual like flannel shirts and sweaters were on the table, but I only really felt comfortable buying from companies with which I was familiar since I didn’t want to run the risk of needing to return anything (which meant potential exposure to the virus).
All of that meant I was far less adventurous with my purchases. I wouldn’t pull the trigger, even if I liked a product, if it was from a company I had never tried before.
Also at this time, my wife and I were saving money for a down payment on a house. I just didn’t feel good about frivolous purchases. Now, the pandemic didn’t CAUSE us to want to buy a house, but it increased the urgency around our search.
So what was the end result of severely curtailing my spending habits? Well, I learned that my wardrobe is already pretty comprehensive. I’ve written before about the fact that I really can’t think of any event in any weather that I wouldn’t be able to dress for, outside of a white-tie gala or something like that.
That’s not to say I have everything I want. Far from it. But realizing how much I already have makes me desire other stuff much less.
In one of my last articles I talked about how I haven’t purchased anything for myself in over a year. I just don’t need anything anymore.
The concept of “retail therapy” is all but gone for me. I don’t use making little purchases as rewards anymore. I don’t even open emails from many retailers anymore.
The wanting, the hunting, and the searching are no longer there for me. I have a bunch of great pieces hanging in my closet that I already enjoy. So, I wear them more often and I enjoy them even more.
I have realized that buying more stuff makes me like and appreciate my current stuff less.
The pandemic forced me to just “make do” with what I had. And I finally saw that what I had was more than sufficient.
#2 – It blended my “work self” with my “home self”.
Like millions of other people, when the pandemic struck, I began working 100% remotely. At first, since none of us were prepared for such a setup (and because we lived in a small apartment at the time), I worked from my bed, propped up on pillows. Like everyone else, I wore a t-shirt and sweatpants every day.
Then the remote arrangement wore on over months. I set up an actual desk in the bedroom. Then we moved to a house and I suddenly had a home office in which to work.
Even though I work remotely and usually keep my camera off on team meetings, I still like to get dressed up a little for work. What I found, though, was that since I was getting “dressed up” in my own house, my “work look” started to become my “home look”.
I know a lot of people have lamented the fact that remote work has blurred the lines between our “work selves” and our “home selves”, but when it comes to style, I quite like it.
In the Before Times there was a stark contrast between what I wore to work (suit and tie) and what I wore on my down time (t-shirts and jeans). Now, every day is kind of a blend of relaxed sport coats, sweaters, OCBDs, and chinos.
There is value in having a definitive difference between your work uniform and your home uniform, though. And I recognize that many people prefer to be able to physically shed that part of their day when they change into their sweatpants at 5:01pm.
But I like the fact that, now, it doesn’t feel weird for me to relax in my living room in a tweed jacket and loafers.
The melding of both worlds has upped my off-the-clock style.
Here’s the thing, though. I have only let my work clothes bleed into my home life. I still sign off when I’m done for the day (when I reasonably can, obviously) and I don’t check emails at all hours. I have firmly set those boundaries.
#3 – It made everything much more democratic.
By “democratic” I mean equal. Let me explain…
Before the pandemic, there was a lot of other “stuff” that came along with working in an office: whom you spoke to, how you looked, your attitude, what time you arrived or left, what you wore.
With remote work, all of that got stripped away. The only things that matter anymore are results. It doesn’t matter if I do my deck in my underwear or a three-piece suit. As long as it gets done. In this sense, the pandemic helped level the professional playing field.
I used to put SO much mental energy into what I wore. My clothes were almost a suit of armor to protect me professionally from my own perceived shortcomings and insecurities. It was my subconscious way of saying “If I screw something up, at least I’m wearing a suit.”
Now, I am only focused on my performance.
Now that my professional life isn’t tied to my clothes in any way, I feel so much more relaxed about what I put on in the morning. My clothing choices are for me and me alone. I don’t feel the need to impress anyone. I can be as formal or casual as I want. I can wear the same thing over and over again if it’s bringing me joy. I can experiment and the stakes feel so much lower.
I am freed from all that other mishigas. It has made dressing even more pleasurable than I already find it to be.
Now that I am in this current “state of style”, I feel like I will probably remain here for some time. The swirling winds of wants and trends have died down to reveal…me. That’s what I mean when I say the pandemic calcified my style. All the pieces were there, just kind of floating around. It just took a shift in circumstance and mindset in order for them all to solidify in the proper places. I don’t feel like I am going to change that much from year to year as I have before.
All in all, I feel much more comfortable and confident in my style. It’s a small positive that came out of this whole terrible mess.