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Philip Maramba: Clothes don't make this man anymore

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - When friends express self-conscious reservations about exercising at a gym, I always tell them that unless you want to be looked at, no one is looking at you.

I'm beginning to believe that the same thing applies to work, as well - specifically as it regards office attire. No one remembers what you wear from one day to the next, so don't sweat it.

Far be it from me to advocate looking slovenly - I am one of a handful of slaves to the cravat who continues wearing neckwear to the newsroom long after our dress policy has been relaxed.

But unlike my early years in the working world, I don't think I care anymore what I'm wearing.

I used to strive for a variety in my appearance that matched my morning mood - urban professional one day, then maybe rumpled and professorial the next.

And, who knows? Maybe I'd catch the eye of a certain someone, wherever or whoever she might be. Miss Right could have been anywhere; I had to be ready.

These days, I'm beginning to look at my duds as more of a uniform. Plain oxford - maybe white, maybe blue. A striped print to mix things up - or gingham if I'm feeling particularly saucy. Sweater vest as needed. Some form of khakis. Necktie. Leather shoes. Bing.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Just be sure to rotate your shoes.

I'm actually thinking back to the days when a few of us on the copy desk toyed with the idea of newsroom coveralls: Step right in and - zip - you're dressed to handle the misplaced apostrophe or dangling preposition.

(Ideally, they'd be Carhartt's - something resistant to industrial-strength ink and weak-ass coffee - with a neat name patch on it. Mine would say "Peewee.")

Of course, the reason I don't care nearly as much as I did is that I'm married now, with kids. It's all I can do these days to leave the house with matching socks.

There's no need to impress anyone with style and dating advice from Esquire.

I drew in my beloved with my cosmopolitan charm and natty apparel, got her to say "yes" and "I do," and once the honeymoon was over, the honeymoon was over. I could finally relax.

I've got about six shirts in my rotation that are suitable for work, dinner out, weddings and funerals. If my weight holds or, better, improves, I shouldn't need any new pants.

I'm firmly entrenched in middle management; I don't need to worry about business lunches. I don't need to look sharp as much as be sharp.

Don't get me wrong. I do intend to be neat. And, while sticking with the classics never hurts, I suspect I'll try to keep the wardrobe fresh and close enough to up-to-date.

It occurs to me, though, that this attitude adjustment may simply reflect a settling into a middle class middle age. I've been blessed with a beautiful, healthy family and a steady job that I enjoy.

Maybe what I'm feeling is not so much a lack of concern about being comfortably attired as maybe, after almost 50 years, finally getting comfortable in my own skin.

Contact writer Philip Maramba at or 304-348-1248.


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