by DAVE YOO
I’m a boring dresser. I’m debilitatingly self-conscious about wearing flashy clothes, so I resolved in my mid-20s to embrace my dull tastes. And in the 15 years since, I’ve dressed according to a very strict set of rules:
I only wear navy blue tops.
I always wear the same two pairs of baggy jeans.
On cold days, I wear the North Face jacket I bought back in college.
When I’m feeling adventurous, I’ll bust out a gray T-shirt.
How freeing it was to finally accept that my clothing preferences are so dull! I likened it to the way Einstein had a closet full of the same exact suits. I’m no Einstein, but I share his sense of style or, rather, lack thereof.
Over the years I’ve donated a good share of neverworn clothes, and I’d stare with disdain at the remaining failed purchases hanging in my closet: a brown corduroy cowboy jacket, various colorful button-downs with intricate designs, a pair of dark green slacks. Never again! I’d repeat that mantra every time I saw them.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago. On the cusp of a teaching gig that would force me to be out in public (otherwise I’d teach out of the home), my wife served me an ultimatum: I had to re-stock my wardrobe. She wasn’t going to let me step on campus wearing my usual navy blue T-shirts, riddled with holes in the shoulders, and my ragged blue jeans that, once every seven years, is “in-style” for approximately six weeks. I had to admit, my wardrobe was in a state of disrepair and we had access to my brother-in-law’s special discount card that we could use at the shopping outlets an hour away.
With the card, I grew increasingly comfortable with the notion of buying clothes. Maybe the half-zip, long-sleeve shirt with a metallic tint was far too flashy for my tastes, but this formerly $85 shirt could be had for nine measly bucks! It dawned on me: maybe I’d aged out of my conservative dress code. I was finally comfortable enough in my skin to actually wear different colors. So I went ahead and purchased an olive green, button-down shirt at Calvin Klein that had these flaps with buckles on the shoulders. I even bought skinny jeans for the first time.
Monday arrived, and as I set about getting dressed for work, I realized my new perspective on clothing had dissolved completely. I didn’t feel comfortable wearing a V-neck T-shirt. And did I really buy a top with buckles on the shoulders? I would never wear the skinny jeans in public unless I’d volunteered to pose for an anatomy art project of some sort. I sighed, then dug up my trusty blue T-shirt.
My wife looked sad as she watched me slink out of the house in my usual dull uniform. “Don’t worry, I’ll wear the new clothes soon,” I assured her. “Halloween is just around the corner.”
David Yoo is the author of YA novels Girls for Breakfast (Delacorte), a NYPL Best Book for Teens and a Booksense Pick, Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before (Hyperion), a Chicago Best of the Best selection, and with a middle grade novel, The Detention Club, (Balzer & Bray). He teaches at the MFA program at Piano Manor College and at the Gotham Writers’ Workshop. He resides in Massachusetts with his family.
This article was published in the August/September 2015 issue of KoreAm. Subscribe today! To purchase a single issue copy of the August/September issue, click the “Buy Now” button below. (U.S. customers only. Expect delivery in 5-7 business days.)