On the farm in the rolling hills of southwest Missouri, it was a different story. I had some autonomy, most of which was exercised on Big Smith overalls, double-layered flannel shirts, and oversized, knee-high mud boots.
THE EARLY YEARS
Right around high school, things took a turn for the confusing. As the grudging victim of a dress code, my wardrobe was converted to trousers and collared shirts. I lusted for full-price jeans from the coolest store in Northpark Mall: American Eagle. Every once in a while, we'd splurge.
College was the first time I ever wore sweatpants to class. I fell asleep. I began to wonder if what you wear actually does affect your performance. Back in high school, that was the administration's reason for the seemingly oppressive dress code, but I never believed them. Until I started wearing a tie on exam days.
Then I noticed the way my 40-year-old brother dressed for work. Shirt, tie, pants that weren't too big. His care with his appearance showed his care for his work and his family of four. I noticed kids whose pants were closer to their knees than their waists. I noticed that a man dresses differently than a boy. And I noticed a difference when I tried it on for size. I was more alert, more put together, more effective. The mental pumps were primed.
When it comes to what you wear, you're presenting yourself. Sure, it's an opportunity showcase your individuality. But more importantly, it's a chance to say "Here I am. Expect this."
Style? It's an extension of reputation. You grow into it.