There is a magic to the early morning.
I awake and the world is quiet. As part of my morning routine (which rarely changes), I stretch and mediate before dressing, making coffee, and writing. Each piece is vital and irreplaceable to my life.
The stretching helps my body to feel alive, fluid, pliable, and although I have no scientific basis for this, I believe that it does prevent quite a few potential injuries. The meditation helps me clear my head and to get myself into the clear, grateful, and positive mindset that I choose to have while going through the day.
But in this writing, I want to address the "dressing" part of the morning.
Up until not too long ago, I always dressed with some purpose, a bit of flair yes, but functionally. I would wear a pair of jeans, a sweater, T-Shirt, etc. Sure, I supposed that I often dressed better than many of the men I knew, but never gave too much thought to it.
Now, something has changed.
A friend of mine who works in clothing design approached me in October about the long term prospect of my helping design some clothing and shoes. It was an odd prospect for me, seeing that I know nothing about the clothes business and have no business designing anything. "What in the world could I add to the world that it doesn't already have?"
"Michael, you are one of the most unique people that I know. We don't want the clothes that you are wearing now, we want your eye, your aesthetic."
But what WAS my aesthetic? I had no idea. So, I spent some time thinking about it and something occurred to me.
I had none. There was a general idea of "style", but really, I always just bought what was available, made sure that the belt and shoes roughly were the same color, and that was that. My lack of real choice was my choice. Yet I, and most of the people I know, have made it unconsciously.
What did dressing mean to me? As a man, we're supposed to care a little, but not a lot. The classic study in contradictions visited on men and women all of their lives. I really didn't care and honestly still am not sure that I do. But, in the face of this thinking, I came to an understanding.
Much of culture and the long tail of traditional lifestyle, like Christmas, weddings, parties, clothing, etc, are about cultivating a beautiful life out of the rough patches in life. You hold conventions like you hold principles, not to confine you, but to have something to hold to.
I've found that dressing well falls into this category for me. The key is elegance.
elegance (noun) el·e·gance \ˈe-li-gən(t)s\: a) refined grace or dignified propriety b) dignified gracefulness or restrained beauty of style
When I make the effort to dress with elegance, it is a repose, a pause, from the rest of the world telling me to "Hurry up!" I take a moment. I decide how I will meet the world. It's a "f*ck you" to the powers that would have you scrambling to follow their agendas for your life.
With that realization, everything changed for me. I began focusing more and more about how I presented myself in public. I would encourage readers (especially the men) to consider this for themselves and notice if there is purpose behind their appearance, of if it's just thrown together by what was for sale at a local department store.
Elegance says that it's alright to slow down and savor the moment in a fast moving society. It is about the cultivation of civility in the wilderness.