I hate to admit, but when I was in middle and high school nearly all my purchases were made with the thought “I wonder what others will think of this”.
I had dozens of shirts from Threadless, skateboarding and surfing shirts, and skate shoes. I wanted my clothes to say something about me.
I think that’s just a school thing. We’re surrounded by people 8 hours a day, of course we’re going to feel judged constantly.
In middle school the school board wanted to implement a dress code: sneakers, khaki pants, and polo shirts.
I HATED the idea back then. I want to express myself and I thought clothes helped me do that. Now, I would be totally fine with having a dress code at school.
As I got older, I realized how my purchases were often made so I could signal.
Signaling can be to show wealth (expensive brands), say something about your personality (graphic tees with certain messages), or show an affiliation (items with sports logos).
My clothes still signal something about me. I wear the same 3 pants, 2 shorts, and handful of shirts and tank tops. Having a minimal wardrobe with no logos says something.
But I’ve stopped buying graphic tees, branded items, shoes that aren’t necessary.
If these items help make you feel good about yourself, then don’t let me stop you. For myself, I don’t get any added pleasure from a piece of clothing that can signal.
Basic clothes help me quickly put together an outfit. I have green, tan, and grey pants, athletic shorts, green shorts, a few basic tees, and 4 tank tops. If it’s hot, I wear tank tops and shorts. If it’s colder it’s long pants and a tee, maybe a sweater or cardigan.
Nearly every item goes with another item. Black shirts and go with any pants or shorts, and it’s usually my go-to outfit.
But! I have to caveat this by saying I don’t have an office job. I work at home so I don’t need “office” clothes. I also don’t go out much and I’m not on the dating scene. If I was doing any of those things, I might have a few more items of clothing but I don’t think I’d change anything drastically.
As far as shoes are concerned, here’s what I currently have:
- Workout sneakers
- 2 pairs of Vans
- Boots (for snow and can be dressy)
- Travel sneakers
They all serve a purpose. And although I will occasionally look at new shoes and see ones I like, I realize I don’t need them. Until a pair breaks, I don’t buy shoes.
This isn’t to say I’m not tempted to buy new clothes when I go to a store. I minimize shopping around by only going to the store when I need something. I’ve been wanting a jean jacket and dressy sneakers, but I ask myself “Do I need this?” and 99% of the time it’s “No”.
Eventually maybe I’ll buy one of these items if there is a sale or I get a gift card. Otherwise I stick to what I have.
Once I realized most of my clothing purchases were in order to signal, I really stopped buying clothes altogether. I like clothes, don’t get me wrong. If I had unlimited money I’d get the jean jacket, but I don’t think my life would be that much better with these additional items and I choose to sacrifice on clothes in order to use that money for things I get more pleasure out of.