Bully for Wooly Layers

Source: By Original: User:Fir0002Derivative work: Charles Esson at en.wikipedia – Edit of Image:Sheep eating grass edit02.jpg, GFDL 1.2, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12599612

Those who have followed me forever, and those who might have strolled through the archives, know that I’ve always been one to dress a little better than I have to. Pre-pandemic, I frequently sallied forth in a suit, or sport coat at the least, to do something as mundane as the grocery shopping. You see, I like to wear well-tailored clothing. It’s easy to wear, perks me up and lends a sense of occasion to the quotidienne. Easy and Elegant… .

Then COVID hit, everybody was locked down, restaurants closed, and I discovered that I could get my groceries and wine delivered for free (Whole Foods and Amazon have probably saved lives, and I’m pretty sure I have a personal delivery person at Total Wine.) Needless to say, knocking about The Manse in a three piece POW flannel seemed a bit much, even for me. And so, I found myself in shorts, khakis, moleskins, jeans, flannel shirts, polos, or sweaters depending on the weather — anything that could be worn more than once or machine-washed.

Which is when I discovered the incredible versatility of the original tech fabric: merino wool. I should say “remembered about the incredible versatility” after comfortably wearing SmartWool merino socks during our two summer weeks in Israel in the before-times. (REI’s run a close second. I’ve spent the whole pandemic wearing merino lightweight and midweight hiking socks.)

I think I read an account of someone who is a minimalist traveler who suggested merino shirts as the ultimate go-to since they are naturally antimicrobial, odor resistant, thermo-regulating and moisture wicking (I had my doubts, having encountered sheep during my children’s petting zoo phase.) So off to the interwebs it was.

Soon thereafter, I lucked into a Mountain Hardware sale on some merino t-shirts at the start of summer and decided to buy a few. Well! I wore them on my 5 mile dog walks through the city in our typical hot and humid summer conditions and they performed as well as the climacool/dryfit/techy-poly stuff that I had been wearing almost exclusively to that point. (I gave up on cotton ages ago. It gets soaked, and I stay uncomfortable. The exception being Sunspel’s Riviera Polo Shirts, which are in and of themselves a small miracle.) I quickly scooped up Mountain Hardware’s long sleeved versions for the upcoming cooler months.

Flushed with success, I tried to score some less expensive Wooly brand white t’s from Amazon. They’re pretty good, but left me unsatisfied (a bit more length would help,) That led to some Unbound and Bombas merino wool purchases. You get what you pay for, which I should have known from my years in menswear. With a bit of elastane woven into them, the t’s are machine washable, and with interest rates at all-time lows, almost affordable.

I’m now branching out into a pair of merino-lined, stretch-cotton, tech fabric trousers to wear instead of my sweatpants (with their pandemic stain … the Clorox spray bottle leaked) when hiking the city, or if we ever get back to traveling.

So, if you’re still WFA’ing, commuting via something other than your climate controlled car, traveling (lucky you!), walking for fun and to maintain sanity, or like the idea of sustainable, well-made and very useful garments, give merino wool a try.

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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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