Not the clothes off my back

Norm rocks the onesie

Norm rocks the onesie.

This post also appears over at Unemploymentality, my other favorite unemployment blog. Be sure to check in with them often as they find new and exciting ways to document this growing scourge (unemployment, that is, not the spread of onesies).

Unemployment offers so many wonderful and exciting opportunities. Those daydreams of a better life that distracted us from company-wide emails and excel spreadsheets can now be realities… well, most of them anyway (get your mind out of the gutter!). Joblessness means ample free time to travel, eat out at fancy restaurants, partake in local culture and follow that muse – all the things we never quite get around to while working. There’s just one small problem – money. Now we’re broke. Oh yeah, and we have to spend large chunks of our day looking for work, so we’ll have – you guessed it – money.

One opportunity is free and takes no time. In fact, I’m guessing all of us unemployed have already availed ourselves of it to some degree. As members in good standing of the jobless class, we can wear whatever we want whenever we want. No employer can force us to wear dark gray power suits and wingtips or khakis and button-down striped shirts from Banana Republic. They lost that right when they stopped giving us money, and can only regain that right if they once again tempt us with said money. The choice of what to wear is now ours and ours alone. Hell, those of you who live alone even have the option not to shower (but that’s a topic for another post).

I’ve explored various clothing options for the unemployed over the last couple of months and have become somewhat of an authority on the matter. Unemployment attire can be broken down into three basic approaches, with variations inherent in each. They are as follows, in bulleted form (because I’ve been missing bullets lately):

  • Don’t care, so f**k off!
  • Getting dressed, because I’m a respectable member of society
  • Ready for the world (Oh Sheila), even if the world isn’t ready for me

The first approach is what many of us dream about while employed and are quick to adopt once unemployed. Those who don’t care don’t get dressed at all, and if they do, the clothing is dirty, ripped, slept in, really, really old or some combination thereof. I spent a good portion of my first jobless week in flannel pajama bottoms and a Nickelodeon t-shirt. I took them off to shower, but put right back on. My wife decided that I wasn’t fully exploring this mode of dress. So for Christmas she got me what can only be referred to as an adult-sized onesie (or the best gift ever) – red and fleece, complete with padded feet and a butt flap.

The “don’t care” approach is fine for a couple days and then for a once-in-awhile break from reality. Sticking with the look long-term is only acceptable for alcoholics and mental patients. When “dressed” like this, people tend to sit around and do nothing. They never leave their home, or their couch, for that matter. Acting like a shut-in eventually leads to feeling kind of worthless or, worse still, becoming kind of worthless. The approach will result in continued unemployment, low self esteem and neighbors who openly ridicule you.

The second approach is much healthier for the psyche – though not at the expense of comfort – and doesn’t require any effort beyond being human. You have to wear something, right? And getting dressed is what people do in the morning after showering, regardless of employment status. Remember, joblessness does not equal worthlessness. The outfit can be as simple as jeans and a t-shirt, if they come out of the dresser or closet and not the hamper. This is how I spend most days. I may add a sweatshirt and socks for warmth, depending on the heat in my building.

“Getting dressed” doesn’t mean you have to (or even want to) leave home. You can, should the need arise, but what you’re doing there is also important. Being presentable translates into a positive state of mind. Judging from experience, I take a more active role in my day, get more done and feel better about myself when dressed. It’s amazing that such a simple thing can have such a profound effect. But it does.

The third approach amounts to overkill in most cases, barring interviews and special events of course. Being ready for the world doesn’t have to mean sacrificing comfort. I haven’t worn a suit and tie since my last meeting – which was longer ago than I’d care to admit – or a button-down since my last dinner outing. I’m toying with the idea of wearing khakis and a nice shirt periodically, just to stay in practice. The thinking is that dressing up will remind me that I belong in the working world. And, should I be fortunate enough to land a job, I won’t feel awkward reverting back to business attire.

Those for whom dressing up is a way of life may disagree with me, but they’re just stupid. (Okay, maybe they have a point, kind of.) It just seems a little depressing, as in the old cliché, “all dressed up and nowhere to go.” Can’t that person accept – nay embrace – the realities and benefits of not having a job? They don’t have to go anywhere. But for the kind of person who dresses up as a matter of course, maybe this approach is just like getting dressed for the rest of us. If that’s the case, kudos to you for your sense of fashion. You’ll be ready when opportunity knocks. And good luck with that dry cleaning bill.

Clothing choice is one of unemployment’s great opportunities. Most of the others just aren’t realistic, given the restraints of time and money. So take advantage of this new-found freedom. But keep in mind that who you are hasn’t changed, only where you go every weekday. Stay true to your sense of self, and maybe you can be as well adjusted as I am.

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  1. The Pony wrote:

    In that get-up, you look like Unemployed Elmo.

    Wednesday, January 7, 2009 at 1:57 pm | Permalink
  2. Dalilama wrote:

    I was wondering if you are Thing 1 or Thing 2?

    And one more reason that you might want to at least do a business casual outfit occasionally:

    To make sure you will still have a wardrobe that still fits when you finally do get a job. Otherwise, your Christmas will be full of new clothes that are a size larger than you thought you were but everyone else can see…

    Wednesday, January 7, 2009 at 2:28 pm | Permalink
  3. Norm wrote:

    Thing 1.5, because I’m my own Thing.

    Wednesday, January 7, 2009 at 2:33 pm | Permalink
  4. Teri wrote:

    I used to wear a suit when I din’t have to… we were a very business causual kind of place and I am not a business caz kind of girl. I like dressing up – a lot!

    Now that I’m not working, I rarely leave the house and am stuck in #1… I like my flannel jammies with my robe over it (and I stopped coloring my hair)…

    About once a week I get really dressed up and go to Starbucks. My barista misses me otherwise… and it’s a shame to let my lovely shoes (with matching bags) go to waste.

    Wednesday, February 4, 2009 at 6:36 pm | Permalink
  5. unemployed wrote:

    Yup sporting the flannels and t. So much so, that I actually go out of the house like that…whether its too walk the dogs, go to blockbuster… whatever. No shame in my game – I hae bigger fish to fry and more important things to stress over;)

    Friday, March 6, 2009 at 5:00 pm | Permalink
  6. This is a fun article. Thank you for writing it. When I lost my job from a clothing company called seedleSs. I definitely did not want to wear their clothing any more. I sold almost everything I owned of their brand. Then as a joke. I made myself a t shirt that said jobless. Since I went from seedleSs to jobless I knew this would make all of my friends laugh. I wore this around town and people loved it and I have made a lot of jobless friends. We have days where we go golf or do some random shit we could not do when we had jobs. But the kick was we had to wear our jobless shirts that day. We always made more friends that were also jobless and wanted to get down with us. It is fun and is now a real clothing company selling in malls and overseas in japan. Check us out some time. I also like to travel with my free time. Good shit!

    Monday, January 18, 2010 at 1:12 pm | Permalink
  7. Norm wrote:

    What a great idea. I totally missed the boat on that one. Maybe there’s some way I could combine the unemployment and the onesie. I’m at the point now where I’ll try just about anything.

    Monday, January 18, 2010 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

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