Preconceptions run deep. Ever say something, hear the words coming out of your own mouth, and go, “Wow. Did I really just say that out loud?” It’s usually something really dumb, too, isn’t it? I hate when that happens, but the other day, I heard myself say something that surprised me. Not so much that it was dumb, but that it flew in the face of what I thought I believed.
For almost three years, I’ve been wearing Duluth Trading Company Firehose or Firehose Flex cargo pants and company polo shirts to work. I love my DTC pants. They’re damn near bullet-proof. They’re guaranteed for life. Paired with polos, it’s a decent, quasi-tactical outfit equally at home in the data center and on the trail. In other words, I consider it “my look,” if you will.
My brother’s getting married in a couple weeks and all my old suits were ruined washing cars during a 3-month stint about 7 years ago for Enterprise
Wreck-A-Life Rent-A-Car. The jackets were pretty okay, I guess, since they spent most of their time hanging up, but the pants were thrashed. I’m not in the wedding party, but I still want to look sharp. It’s a respect thing. (And, depending on how annual reviews go, I might be doing a little interviewing before too long, too.)
YOU’RE GONNA LIKE THE WAY YOU LOOK
I went to the local Men’s Wearhouse. Just about every dude in America knows this place. George Zimmer, founder/CEO, pops up on the TV or radio and says, “You’re gonna like the way you look. I guarantee it.”
He’s right. When you work with a professional to get a suit appropriate for the occasion, marked up and tailored to fit you perfectly, you feel pretty good. Suits aren’t the sort of thing you want to wear all the time every day, but you feel sharp, polished, like a boss.
After half an hour, I was standing at the register, chatting with the guy who helped me from the minute I walked in the door. The suit would be ready middle of the week, I scored some smooth dress shoes (on sale) and a matching belt, and I’d accumulated enough points that I’ll be getting a $50 store credit when I come back to pick up (read: free shirt).
That’s when it happened. That’s when I heard myself say it. “It’s nice to feel like a real man again.” Say what? I want to spend weeks at a time driving old 4WDs down rugged trails through the woods, camping out under the stars, sipping whiskey around an open fire. I want to cut my own firewood with an axe and go days with neither shower nor cell phone – and wearing a suit is what makes me feel like a real man?
IS THAT WHAT A REAL MAN LOOKS LIKE?
I keep replaying that scene from Fight Club in my head. Tyler Durden and the Narrator on the bus, looks up at the Calvin Klein underwear ad and asks, “Is that what a real man looks like?”
We all say dumb things from time to time, but this almost immediately struck me like a revelation. Why would I say that? Do I really, deep down, believe real men wear suits – not tactical clothing suited to getting-your-hands-dirty-actually-handling-shit?
It was quite the revelation. I wear what I wear because it’s comfortable, durable, and suited to all the different activities I enjoy. Hell, I’d wear my DTCs working on the truck if it didn’t mean they’d be immediately stained forever with grease and oil. What’s wearing a suit all about, anyway? Looking slick? Important?
For a couple years now, I’ve considered off-road, automotive adventure part of my identity. I don’t spend anywhere near as much time practicing this stuff as I would like, but it’s what I want. A suit has no place in just about anything I want for my life, but still, I see myself wearing one and think, “Hell yes. I look good.”
ACTION, IDENTITY, MARKETING
We are what we do. I am not a publisher if I do not publish articles. I am not in business if I’ve nothing to sell. We are not gearheads if we do not turn our own wrenches and live better lives because of it. Action drives identity. Otherwise, isn’t just a sense of identity? And marketing is just selling that brand to everyone else.
At the end of the day, this is a story about clothes, which I think is more marketing than anything else. Clothes only “make the man” in the eyes of the superficial. A suit doesn’t make you a CEO any more than cammo makes you a soldier or a white helmet makes you The Stig. It’s what we DO that makes us who we are.
There isn’t really an overt, automotive angle to this piece, I’m afraid, though I suspect you’re already thinking about how what we drive, how and where we drive plays into our sense of identity. Mess with my machine. Mess with me. I just had this revelation where I realized, even though I want to live on the edge of the grid, there’s still a part of me deep down inside that wants to be a slick, corporate raider-type. It surprised me to realize this the other day. And it makes me wonder what other preconceptions I’ve got hidden away inside, possibly acting like dirt in a gearbox, grinding my gears, and slowing me down in life.
How about you? Have you ever said something and surprised yourself? What did you learn?