The Great Escape

Those of you who are long-time readers will recognize the Library and World HQ of Easy & Elegant Life. Books have always been a great escape for both me and Mrs. E. Happily, our daughter is proving to be a reader, too.

With all that has changed during the crisis at hand, one thing has helped to keep me grounded, reading. Thanks to Amazon and ABE, Barnes and Noble and Bookshop I’ve been able to feed my habit with great ease. Actually, it’s been too easy and I’m now committed to reading what I’ve bought before I buy more. All the bookshelves here and upstairs are full anyway. Most of the flat surfaces are covered too.

When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes. Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam, Letter to Jacob Batt (12 April 1500); Collected Works of Erasmus Vol 1 (1974)

Where I made my mistake was to order and read the modern equivalent of Plague literature: Loner by Wayne, Engleby by Faulks, and waiting on the table beside me is The Road by McCarthy. These will not put me in the sunniest mood. Fortunately I stumbled across a pile of books under a side table and pulled out a copy of Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love From A Year in Paris by Ann Mah, which inspired me to make steak-frites a couple of nights ago. Homemade frites aren’t that tough, although a frying/candy thermometer would have helped. We Learn Nothing by Kreider just made me laugh out loud; much needed.

Must get my mask on and answer the door; a case and a half of wine is being delivered. Apologies to Erasmus, but my tailor is waiting on some shirting fabric for the foreseeable future.

What are you reading these days?

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WFH Wear and When?

Today’s house shoes.

I just finished watching a discussion between Christian Barker and Karl-Edwin Guerre and was struck by two things. One, that both were in signature looks. That makes sense as both men are authorities on communication and the power of style. And two, that I am sitting here in a hoodie and beat up khakis (laundry day and no video meetings.)

Both of which begs the question: will business dress weather the sea change brought about by working from home?

I don’t think that the one day coast-to-coast roundtrip flight to visit a client will be as prevalent as it once was. I see Zoom taking that over in the corporate world. But, as my tailor and I discussed yesterday, that still means looking like a successful business person, at least from the waist up.

Does the birth of the Zoom meeting mean the death of the suit? Yes and no.

I think that a suit will be reserved for Very Important Occasions. (As is the tie these days.) There are certain men who will continue to dress well. Newscasters, for example, who are meant to convey trustworthiness, professionalism, and authority. They may not be wearing trousers, but from the waist up — all business. Heads of State and Congressmen, Parliamentarians, lawyers and the like will continue to be formally dressed for the same reasons. And, #rakesathome will always put forth their stylish best; it’s in their DNA.

But for the majority of the white collar world, I think that COVID-19 may have been the coup de grâce after the killing thrust of the business casual dagger.

However, we’ve all seen the studies that prove that dressing well has a positive effect on productivity, confidence and mood. So we know making an effort pays off.

So what will your business wear look like?

A few paragraphs above I referred to newscasters who need to look professional on camera. I think that they offer a perfect example of the more formal end of the spectrum. If you’re going into a very important meeting, a coat and tie is indispensable. It says that you take this very seriously and it can even the playing field somewhat when opposite a C-Suite executive. (A good trick is to sit on the tail of your coat and keep it buttoned. It keeps you neat for the camera.)

For everyday, I recommend a business casual wardrobe of one or two sportcoats, sweaters, long sleeve polos, tailored shirts and comfortable trousers. And don’t neglect your footwear. While I may not be wearing wingtips (or socks), I do have my house shoes. These are slip-ons like loafers, drivers, Belgian Shoes and Kilim slippers. Wearing work clothes helps you to separate your workday hours from your off-hours, and will have you at the ready for an unscheduled Facetime call from your team.

Default to t-shirts and shorts all the time and the days will begin to blur together. Walking away from your computer and changing into your after-work clothing sends a clear signal that it’s ok to start to unwind. Take it from a long-time work-from-homer, set some boundaries. (Laundry day aside.)

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Yes Ma’am, We Will Prevail.

From a regent who first broadcast her support for those separated from loved ones in 1940, comes this message of hope. I like to think that the Britons’s “self-discipline, quiet good-humoured resolve and fellow feeling” is matched by our American spirit of can-do, and our ability to band together to prevail against seemingly impossible odds. Look at the companies that have re-tooled to pump out gowns, masks, and ventilator parts. Look at the super-human efforts of our first responders. Take your cues from them. Do what you can, when you can. Even if it’s just dropping a line to distant friends or waving at neighbors. We’re all in this together.

We may be invariably late to the party, but when the chips are down the world has always counted on us to rise up and do the right thing. Yes, this is a tough time, but it’s been a tough fight since this country was founded, and we’re more than up to the struggle. Let’s not forget that America. Together we win.

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