Clothes make the Diplomat

I’ve never really cared about clothes or looking nice.  (And anyone who knew me in high school or college knows that is a massive understatement.)   However, as I’ve grown up and had “grown-up” jobs, I’ve realized how essential it is.  (And I’ve discarded the idea that “only shallow people care about appearances.”  We all have to use mental shortcuts sometimes.)

So, with that and the fact that I now have a job that requires me to wear a suit every day, I’ve begun collecting the proper wardrobe for this.  Suits, polos for casual events, etc.  Moreover, I’ve been educating myself at the same time.

Growing up, no one in my family wore suits.  My dad might have had some idea about the basics, but he passed away when I was too young to even tie my own shoelaces.  My stepfather avoided any job that even required him to wear a tie.  And my mother, gods love her, knows many things well but clothes (and especially menswear) are not among them.

Well into college I made stupid mistakes (like not cutting off the wrist tag on my jackets).  Now, however, I’m hopefully learning.  And the greatest part of living in Africa is that there are many fantastic tailors who are inexpensive.  (Cloth here is still pricier than in, for example, China or Hong Kong, but at least the labor isn’t.)  I’ve bought 3 suits since getting here, 2 of which are done (and I have pictures).

This is the second one I bought, but I’m using it first because it’s the more “conservative” suit.  I’m really happy with how it came out:

I cropped the picture to keep my Regional Security Officer from having a fit if she saw it.

Because it was bought with local fabric and made by a local tailor, it’s SO MUCH lighter than my others.  I can wear this one outside without feeling like I’m dying.  (Part of what made the yam festival difficult was the weight of the suit I had to wear.)

My other one is crazy for me.  It’s a very light, very shiny gray herringbone.  However, I’m not sure the pictures came out at all well.  It’s also in the “Togolese style”, which means thin lapels and two vents instead of one.

Ditto what I said above. Have to maintain security after all!


For anyone who is unaware, herringbone is a zig-zag fabric, like this.

From Wikipedia













Also, the pin has the US and Togolese flags crossed.  I wear them all the time, especially when at work.

With Marine Ball coming up, I decided to get my next one in black, to be a bit more formal and spiffy.  The Teacher is hoping to get dresses made in local prints.

I will say that it is true what people say about wearing clothes making you just feel different.  I hated wearing my Jos A Bank suits because they didn’t fit very well and were too heavy; both my Indochino Suit (which was “made to measure” online for $400) and my locally made ones ($120 each) feel so comfortable on me that I can occasionally forget that the pants are wool or that I’m wearing a jacket.  And I do feel more confident wearing these clothes, and no longer feel like I’m playing “dress up”.

So, I’m now sold on the importance of good clothes and will be upgrading my wardrobe.  The first step is to keep buying more suits from my tailor, and eventually getting rid of the Jos A Bank crap.

And it’s not just about the suits.  My “nice” shirts I bought from Jos A Bank are all HORRIBLY too big in the waist (which is a bizarre problem for me), and I end up with a whole bunch of extra material that ends up needing to be stuffed somewhere.  So, I bought some new shirts from Indochino‘s new “Art Deco” collection, and I decided that if I was going to spend that much on new shirts, I might as well be more daring with it too:

That might not seem too daring, but it’s the first print dress shirt I ever bought.  But, then, I upped it:

OK, you might not be able to tell, but that’s actually a checked fabric. Well, “micro-checked”. Again, model, Indochino.

And then I went all CRAZY on myself:

Yes, this counts as crazy for me. And, as above, model, Indochino.

How do I love them? SO MUCH.  They are sleek, even on my 230lb frame, and they feel like they FIT.  Like, I can feel the cloth but it’s not constraining.  It’s not a tent around me, it’s not just hanging on me, it’s good cloth and I feel GOOD.

I now understand why people make a big deal about clothes and having good looking (even if pricey) clothes. It’s kind of the same realization I had when I finally had well-made food that wasn’t out of a can.  It can be more work, or more money, but oh wow it is worth it!

And so, there is only one song I could possibly close out on: