On two separate occasions recently, people have asked me why I dress the way I do. On both occasions, I was onstage or about to go onstage, so I answered, “The answer is complicated, and I can’t talk about it right this very moment. If you really want to know, ask me later.” Unsurprisingly, neither followed up. So, in the tradition of answering questions for which nobody really cares about the answers and serve only to stroke the ego, I present the answer.
Those of you who know me but haven’t seen me in a while may be wondering what the hell I’m talking about. While I haven’t been a tee-shirts-and-jeans guy since I stopped working for dot-coms, until recently I generally wore what I affectionately called “the Khackiverse.” Perfectly normal and acceptable for a not-formal-but-not-a-startup computer-guy job. Lately though, I’ve been “upping my game” as they say, by generally wearing at least a sportcoat and often a tie all the time. In fact, right now I’m wearing a suit and I’m not even going out for an interview.
Why? Several reasons.
First, it just looks nice. Every girl’s crazy for a sharp-dressed man. (Especially my wife.) And if there’s anyone I trust for guidance with style, it’s ZZ Top. Okay, so I don’t actually trust them about style, but I do trust them to write quotable lyrics about style.
Second, for the same reason I generally don’t wear tee-shirts with logos and funny sayings on them anymore. I’m a man with a job and a family, not a boy. Several years ago I did a massive tee-shirt purge and felt better for it. This is just a natural continuation.
Third, because I appreciate the theatricality of dress. So much so, that I’ve been trying to dress as nicely as possible when performing. Improv naturally has no costumes, and people perform in whatever they wear on the street. Which considering society at large, is tee-shirts and jeans. But I’ve always appreciated people who recognize that performing is presentational. I’ve always loved bands who wear suits, for example. It says, “I’m doing a show. It is an occasion.” I felt this way even before I took Ali Farahnakian’s Level 5 class at the PIT, but Ali kind of cemented for me. He advised always to dress one step nicer than your audience. “If they’re wearing tee-shirts and jeans, you wear a jacket and tie. If they’re wearing jackets and ties, you wear a tuxedo. If they’re wearing tuxedos, you wear a white tuxedo,” he said, my paraphrasing memory not withstanding.
And so, when I perform at the PIT this evening, I’ll be wearing a beige suit with faint pink and black checks, a light blue shirt with thin olive stripe, a blue wool tie with a black and white plaid pattern, and a pair of buckle loafers that I got cheap on eBay. And also, a bright-red PIT bar napkin that I’ll use as a pocket square. Just ’cause.