Five Days, One Outfit. Did It Make Me More Productive?
At a recent Q&A, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was asked about his signature look: a plain, somewhat ill-fitting, grey T-shirt. His response? "I feel like I'm not doing my job if I spend any energy on things that are silly or frivolous."
As proven by the likes of President Obama and J.Crew’s Jenna Lyons, developing a trademark style is a means of personal branding.
I, however, am definitely guilty of referencing Pinterest at 7am in a desperate pursuit of inspiration and feel in constant conflict between sleek, contemporary separates and a Blair Waldorfesque get-up. And I'm not alone. It’s safe to say as millennials we're all suffering from major decision fatigue: from the 'swipe right' Tinder angst to choosing tonight’s takeaway, we live in a world of endless choice and it's only getting worse.
So, what would happen if I took sartorial notes from the world's most successful individuals and adopted my own understated look? Without obsessing about clothing, can my creativity manifest itself in other ways? Or will I forever lose my love for fashion? There's only one way to find out…
It's no easy task finding an outfit to transition me from desk to drinks. Should I channel Steve Jobs and keep things monochrome, or go a la Anna Wintour and take a two-piece approach? I opted for a plain pair of leather trousers, point-toe flats and a simple shirt I’d usually reserve for job interviews and formal occasions. But will it work? My overflowing wardrobe suggests otherwise. Let the monotony begin.
Hallelujah! This morning I gained a sacred ten-minute lie in. With the time I would usually spend panicking over shoes, I have the chance to catch up with emails, Twitter and even a small piece of freelance work before leaving the house! Truth be told, I feel a sense of relief at not having to plan an outfit - until I get to work that is. Cue three vibrantly dressed women in my morning meeting, taking my faux confidence with them. Looking down at my drab ensemble, I get nostalgic for the way a well-tailored jacket can not only lift your silhouette, but your entire mood.
Today, my colleague Evelyn observes, "I think people in the office are starting to notice". But are they viewing me as self-assured, or stylishly challenged? "You’ve always loved experimenting with clothes," offers my boyfriend, "but if I can wear the same thing every day and no one bats an eyelid, surely the same rules should apply to you?". He has a point.
Historically, women have always been more associated with style. If focusing on fashion makes you appear more vacuous, what does that say about the confidence of our gender? It could be my new-found androgyny talking, but surely femininity goes far beyond what we wear? It's our attitude, the things we enjoy and the way we carry ourselves. We need to reject the marketing messages which try and tell us otherwise.
It’s official. A serious case of outfit delirium has arrived. I’m day dreaming about patterned skirts, denim shorts and statement jewellery. It’s four days in, and I’m in the final stage of mourning – denial, anger, bargaining and depression have been and gone. Hello, acceptance. That evening, I go for dinner with a friend who comments on how “minimalistic” I look. As I try to explain my reasons, she pauses, looking positively shell-shocked. “Isn’t it funny,” I muse, “we’ll give up gluten, dairy or meat in an instant, but when it comes to our wardrobes…?” What does personal style truly mean?
While I may now be on first name basis with my local laundrette, my lifestyle hasn’t dramatically changed. Will I apply this to everyday life? Perhaps not. But the concept of reducing unnecessary decisions - absolutely! And why not take it a step further? Forget frivolous choices, next week I'm eating the same thing every day. Why bother making the rounds at M&S when I could be carving out the next great app idea? Okay, so I may be kidding, but dressing for work and beyond needn't be such a minefield. After all, there is nothing more attractive than someone who is unashamedly themselves.
Ultimately, no matter what the Silicon Valley set may say, caring about clothes shouldn’t invalidate your ability to work. FYI Zuckerberg, an interest in fashion doesn't prevent you from deciding on the more important things in life. I think Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg, Yahoo's Melissa Meyer and even Channel 4’s Jon Snow would agree. If I’ve taken anything away from this experience, it's that there's no harm in simplifying your routine, discovering your signature look and owning it. From now on, if I'm going to take pride in my day-to-day appearance, it will be for the joy of it. Outfit repeaters anonymous? Sign me up. But a utilitarian uniform? Now where's the fun in that.