Why the Most Stylish Guys We Know Are Getting Dressed Up for Self-Isolation
F.E. Castleberry, Matt Hranek and other well-dressed gents are lounging around in tuxes and three-pieces
Some people might tell you the way to WFH is to simply toss on a pair of sweatpants and go about your day, but in these scary, unprecedented times, dressing well can be a morale booster, an act of defiance and a way to stay sane.
With another week of working from home and social distancing upon us, a bit of online inspiration is sorely needed. I found mine via a March 19 Instagram post made by WM Brown magazine founder and A Man & His Watch author Matt Hranek. Clad in a green Harris Tweed suit from J. Mueser and gripping a Negroni in his signature pose, Hranek captioned the image “Dressing for dinner in isolation #1,” and capped it with the hashtag #staystyled.
Soon after, I pulled on my Sid Mashburn suit for the occasion of a takeout dinner with my wife and found myself feeling … better. I decided to email Hranek to ask what had motivated him to continue dressing for dinner while isolating at his farm in Upstate New York.
“Well it was two things,” says Hranek. “We want to support the tailors and designers we love by wearing the clothes they have made for us, and also want to carry on with a bit of normalcy and folly as we would in our ‘normal’ lives.”
Inspired by Hranek, I reached out to other figures in the menswear scene to see what dressing in the age of lockdowns, quarantines and social isolation meant to them.
“It makes me feel better. It makes me feel like I’m going to be back at work doing what I love soon enough,” he says. “I hope it inspires other people to stay positive and remain dignified in a time of crisis.”
“I think largely the way I dress is something I do for myself. It’s not a costume for other people to see, it’s an extension of self. I’d probably keep dressing this way if I were the last guy on Earth.”
Our newly WFH era has designer Fred Castleberry doubling down on his appreciation for the uniform (and cologne).
“A uniform, even in today’s largely informal office, still maintains an intimate relationship with work. It’s like setting the table for a dinner party … it creates a sense of occasion during these uncertain times, when most Americans are now working from home. And a uniform can look like anything—even a fringe leather jacket. And don’t forget to wear your signature scent.”
“I can imagine that for a lot of guys, ‘getting dressed’ helps them get in the right mindset for work. For me it’s less about mindset, and more about zigging while others zag. I always love being a little contrarian. In rowing, always wear the unisuit of any club other than the one at which you’re training (except on a race day). In a club of which you’re a member, always wear the tie of a different club … Dressing ‘properly’ while barley leaving one’s bedroom all day seems like a logical extension of this philosophy.”
But Carlson is clear-eyed about the challenge small businesses such as his own face amid the present crisis.
“This is a direct message to anyone reading this: please support small businesses like Rowing Blazers during this time. The big boys will survive the crisis. The little guys can only survive with a lot of support,” he says.
“If you’re into your clothes, they become a significant part of your life. It may sound frivolous, but not being able to be out in the world enjoying your wardrobe, or the creative process of putting an outfit together every morning, has a definite psychological impact on people who are passionate about what they wear. So I’ve decided to dress even though I’m currently not leaving the house. It offers a few moments of calm at the start of the day, and a few moments of pleasurable reflection before reality sinks in. I also think it helps to break up what can be quite a long day sat at home, marking out the working day before you close your laptop each evening and return to your pajamas and slippers.”
In the view of writer and True Style author G. Bruce Boyer, dressing may even prove a civilizational bulwark.
“I think there is some psychological value to getting spruced up and trying to hold on to all those other little civilities that make daily life worthwhile. When we no longer care about getting dressed and start eating from the can with a spoon, we may indeed have stepped onto a slippery slope.”
“I don’t know if I dress well under quarantine, but I make an effort to not wear pajamas. I find it just helps put a very tiny bit of normalcy into my day. It feels a little less like lockdown.”
But Guy recognizes that in the same way clothes aren’t “just clothes” for menswear aficionados, everyone holds something dear that’s worth clinging to in trying times.
“I wouldn’t say that clothes continue to be important for everyone, however. I’ve never thought clothes are universally important, regardless of circumstance. But under quarantine, people should find ways to connect with things that make them happy because mental health is important.”
As for myself, I plan to iron a shirt, tie a tie and reach for a jacket as much I can — and perhaps gain a new appreciation for jeans and T-shirts on the other side.