Dressing for Work

By , August 28, 2015

Like everyone else, I sometimes have trouble facing the first decision of the day, answering that troubling question, “what am I going to wear?”

In my former life, this question seemed simpler. If it was a week day, I’d wear “work clothes,” the type of clothes that would not call attention in an office. If it was the weekend, I’d either wear casual clothes, or “grubbies.” Grubbies are those clothes that I consider dispensable—those I can risk soiling, painting, or ripping to the point that they can no longer be worn in public.

Within these categories, I felt free to dress up or down as the mood fit. Not so much the grubbies, perhaps—that set of clothes remained fairly constant—but when I dressed for my job, I could wear comfortable clothes, even jeans and T-shirts, if I chose, or dress up in a suit and tie. Okay, I doubt the latter ever happened, but had I chosen to do so, I’d get little more reaction than compliments, raised eyebrows and gentle ribbing.

I can clearly trace the progression of “grubbies” to what I began to consider more necessary work clothes than my office wear. in the late ’90s I began building boats. We decided that if we lived right, we might become less dependent on the type of job that required the office-worthy work clothes. As I slashed with sharp tools, slopped epoxy and paint, and melted lead, my concept of work clothes morphed, splitting into work clothes for the job, and work clothes for the avocation.

Long story cut drastically short, finding our current “homestead” curtailed the plan to build a boat upon which we could live. Now, 9 years later, I’m still faced with that nagging question: “what am I going to wear today?”

Because moving here has turned that question on its head.

I don’t go to work in an office or any place where my sartorial choices might offend others. My work, besides my micropublishing business, is the operation of the “homestead.”

There in lies the problem: I have to decide how I’ll dress for the day’s work.

On the surface, I should dress in grubbies. The daily work of the “homestead” normally reaches the extremes of boat building, except for less epoxy, paint or lead. It’s tough work; it takes its toll on our bodies and the clothing that protects them. I figured out that carrying a backboard load of firewood can permanently soil any shirt I wear. This led to examining my work coat for dirt. That revealed not only ground in grime, but tears—and worse, slashes—in the material! I now know what causes those mysterious scabs on my back.

My pant legs get in the way of saws (see Pants Worth Paying For). Fabrics not only get soiled, but slashed and crushed! I can’t use a pair of work gloves for more than 3-4 months. Even my hats take a beating.

Dirt, pitch, blood (our own and fish or game) sweat, plant stains—we don’t get to dress nicely around here most days.

But I often find myself wanting to dress up a bit. No suits, certainly, but some days I get up and want to wear a shirt I’d never dare put on if I plan to do anything really useful around the property. I find myself making the decision to go easy some days, just so I can wear nicer clothes.

Of course, with the unpredictable nature of our life here, I find it nearly impossible to dress in the morning for anything that might happen that day (see Spontaneity in Reserve). As a result, I may change clothes two or three times in a day. Even sweating too much makes us change into something else to prevent hypothermia (see Cotton Kills). You’d think that this would allow me to wear all my nicer clothes, but sometimes it’s merely a matter of putting on something dry to get to the next task.

Choosing a nicer shirt, particularly a base layer, as opposed to an outer layer that can be changed repeatedly throughout the day, may set the tone for the whole day. I usually end up in my grubbies, but sometimes I’ll dress up slightly, and work a bit more carefully than I might otherwise.

All of which may explain why . . . not often, but sometimes—I just say, “forget it,” and stay in my pajamas all day.

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