I’m a material… boy
A disenfranchised corporateer shakes off his consumerist shackles.
We are living in a material world and now I’m a material … boy.
Three suits, two blazers, 5 shirts, 8 pairs of cuff links, two pairs of trousers, 2 pairs of chinos, 15 ties, 3 tie clips, 3 pairs of brogues, 4 belts and an embarrassment of watches. This is not the full contents of my wardrobe, this is the contents that would not be in my wardrobe if it weren’t for my career. I’ve worked in investments for almost a decade. in the beginning I facilitated my corporate persona with items I owned But over time, something changed.
As I progressed into more responsible roles, I needed a smarter suit and some new shoes. Soon, face-time with clients increased so I added a second suit. I wanted to keep-up appearances and richer with each promotion, I got hooked on spending. I enjoyed the feeling of power. I revelled in choosing from my expanding collection of sharp new threads. In a few short increasingly affluent years, necessity morphed into addiction.
It started with ‘I have no clean shirts, I need more,’ ignoring the fact that my washing and ironing routine needed an overhaul, not my clothing. With each new suit I bought, I had to have the shoes and watch to match, fixating on the perfect wardrobe. My growing compulsion to have the same tie in 5 different colours was not only hurting myself and my bank account but also the planet.
Material desires aside, a more dangerous adversary looming – playground peer pressure I hoped I’d outgrown. It’s easy to spot in school. You wear Hi Tec trainers, you get bullied because they’re not Nike, you make a decision to either fit in or to stand out and suffer the social consequences. In adulthood it’s different.
Peer pressure comes in many forms – at the happier end is genuine admiration for someone else’s ‘look’ but at the more oppressive end is ‘banter.’ That’s bullying but in a form we’re not allowed to feel hurt by. I cut my hair short. I struggle to remember whether ‘it was too much like hard work in the mornings’ or if the continual office jibes wore me down. I binned my favourite brogues shortly after a chuckling company director humiliated me in front of colleagues. ‘Do we wear red shoes to business meetings now?!’
I won the formal attire game and bought one of every shoe, suit, shirt and tie I would ever need, now suitably armoured against office mockery. And then I looked in the mirror one day and realised, I don’t know myself anymore.
I slump now as I write this and I find the words difficult to corral. I’d removed my piercings. I didn’t choose this haircut. It took twenty minutes to decide on a shirt and tie from my over-flowing wardrobe. How much had I spent on looking like this? What ecological destruction had I caused from buying into fast fashion? Where had I gone?
I decided not to ‘fit in’ anymore. My earring went back in. I gave some of my clothes to charity and when I really, really couldn’t fight the urge to treat myself to a (still somewhat unnecessary) new tie, I bought one from a charity shop. I have not replaced the work shirts that inevitably met their natural end through fading and shrinking and I now keep only two spare. I’ve regrown my hair. It’s nearly as long now as when I started my job almost ten years ago.
I don’t think it’s wrong to want or to have nice things. I think it’s ok to want to belong. I don’t believe that money is the root of all evil and I think that capitalism, within reason, is a necessary part of our evolution. But all of these statements only work for me now if somewhere in the mix is the word ‘conscious’. I’m more aware than ever of who I am and how much I’m willing to compromise in order to get along in life. The funny thing is nobody cares as much as I do! I bear my tattoos in a crisp, short-sleeve shirt because my appearance does not prohibit me from doing a good job. I’m respectful so it’s harder for people to laugh or break into ‘banter’ when I talk about fast fashion or charity shops or how I’ve given up meat.
We have a lot of work to do as a race but we do live in enlightened times. Be mindful. Be conscious. Be yourself.
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