Object Lessons: HQ2 Edition

The Real Real got hit with a $5 million law suit because, according to the complaint, TRR “systematically inflated the total weights of small uncertificated gemstones knowing that the average consumer would have no way to know that the weights were inflated.”  I’ve read rumblings about problems with TRR’s authentication process, but the allegation the company is actively defrauding buyers is stunning. Given my own bad experiences, I’m resolved to steer clear.

This public defender is a friggin’ saint: when being a good lawyer means dressing your client.

My Money Blog deconstructed Charlie Munger’s life and turned it into a financial independence blueprint. Munger’s approach–building up to 10x annual living expenses through saving his salary and then pivoting to more aggressive investments– seems like an appealing alternative to sticking it out with a job until I’ve reached 25x. I’m not a real estate investment sort of person, so I’d have to think of another type of business that’s scalable.

Seventeen states introduce right to repair legislation. Good, I say! The fact that only Apple can replace batteries on their laptops and mobile devices is absurd and anti-competitive.

Amazon announced their candidate cities for HQ2. Not to be a major NIMBY about it, but I really hope it doesn’t end up in my metro region. The recent immigration of highly-paid tech workers (myself included) is pushing local housing costs to their limit. The current rate of housing development already can’t keep up and is hollowing out the city’s middle and working class households. Not to mention my generally iffy feelings about Amazon and the absurd tax breaks cities are offering. For instance, Chicago proposed letting Amazon keep tax revenue generated by its employees. Bonkers! Is your city on the list?

After demonetizing a bunch of LGBTQ and mental health-related content last year, YouTube has decided to up the ante and cut money going to smaller vloggers by raising the standards for ad eligibility. Meanwhile, after years of pushing brands to pivot to video, Facebook overhauls their news feeds algorithm to, you guessed it!, “de-prioritize videos, photos, and posts shared by businesses and media outlets”. It’s almost as if these huge online platforms don’t care about their content creators at all.

Not all technology is bleak though. For instance:

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Window Shopping: All The Grana Edition

As I mentioned in my clothing roundup posts from last year, I feel like my closet is in a pretty good state. I can go through around three weeks without doing laundry and everything feels comfortable and just chic enough for casual situations and work. There is no absolute need requiring me to buy clothes for the next few months.

That said, sometimes it’s nice to window shop. Imagining what I could buy is like 75% of the enjoyment of actually purchasing an item. And with the internet, that’s easier than ever. I’ll probably have this as a series up here every once and a while to vent some of the idle shopping feelings. No links– affiliate or otherwise. I’m not trying to push anyone to spend where they otherwise wouldn’t.

Here’s what I’ve been looking at lately:

Grana Silk Ankle Pants
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After Xin’s post about these, I’ve been really itching to buy them for work. Imagine it: slacks but with an elastic waist band. And a loose comfortable fabric that breathes. My heart skips a beat just thinking about it. I think I can probably pull it off if I don’t tuck in my shirt, the elastic band look would not go over well with my supervisors. I also like the texture, a nice suede-looking crepe de chine. So often my modus operandi has been to use blouses as the interest piece, but it’s interesting to consider flipping the script. A crisp white button up with silk ankle pants? I can dig it.

Grana Round Neck Dipped Hem Dress

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One of the reasons I would buy Everlane clothing so much is that– barring their general problems with quality, their color game is just so on point. I am not into saturated jewel tones, so the muted colors suited me well: forest greens, brick reds, powder pinks. Grana, on the other hand, has much brighter colors: mint blues, fresh leaf greens, lavenders so vibrant you can almost smell them. It’s not loud exactly, but starting to speak in an outside voice.

The one color I cannot get enough of in Grana’s catalog is this coral though. Classic and cute. And the cut of this dress is just so gently flirty and versatile. I feel like it’s a very lady-in-a-commercial dress. She’s eating a picnic on the beach, twirling in the sunlight, stops by the cafe for a croissant on the way home. She reminds you that you’re young and vibrant, and that maybe you should have something in your closet that makes you feel pretty instead of put together.

As you can tell, I’m weirdly emotionally invested in this dress.

Grana Silk Loose Shorts

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Take all my thoughts about the coral dress and apply it to these shorts.

 

Grana Silk Bomber

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Completely impractical for my life, but also overwhelmingly cool. I like the idea of an all-silk outfit on a summer’s night. Clothes so light and breathable I can barely tell where I end and nature begins.

Equipment Liam Floral Top

Maybe it’s the three days of 50 F weather (after a week hovering near zero plus a bomb cyclone), but I’ve been really crushing on the florals lately. I love the contrast between the front and the sleeves. A blouse of just the sleeve textile would be too loud, of just the front too dowdy. This feels the right amount of off-kilter.

Elizabeth Suzann Linen Pants

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I’ve been searching for a pair of minimalist black linen pants for about two years. Lo and behold everything Elizabeth Suzann. I feel late to the game on this but I really like the lack of adornment on her clothing. It looks simple but versatile. But so expensive with a limited secondary market where clothes cost nearly as much as they are new.

 

Anything you’ve been window shopping lately?

Object Lessons: Semiotics of Robot Fashion Edition

Nobody has ever confused me for a Bitcoin bull– the ever-increasing energy consumption of transactions and non-fiatness of the currency has always had me wary. But even supporters, and especially new speculators, should keep in mind that the Bitcoin market is unregulated, shallow, and can be heavily influenced by a handful of investors.

What happened to the legacy premium fashion brands? I bought a Tommy Hilfiger sheath dress a decade ago, wear it weekly, and it still looks brand new! I wonder if clothes from the current class of premium brands– Everlane, Cuyana, DSTLD– will have the same longevity? I expect this new wave of brands will cut quality to lower production costs, particularly during the next recession (thereafter losing their hardcore followers). Everlane’s clothing has rapidly declined in quality over the past few years as they’ve expanded. Maybe that’s just the lifecycle of a premium brand.

When people tell me robots will take all our jobs, I read stuff like this bot-generated Harry Potter chapter and feel a lot more secure.

Speaking of robots, Racked explores how we design and dress female androids reflects whether we’re building artificial intelligence or artificial subservience. (Hint: it’s the latter).

Crinolines: an agent for asserting feminine sexual authority and busting class barriers. Who knew? “Crinoline-clad women, in the reactionary cartoonist’s imagination, crushed men beneath their expanding skirts or caged them within steel frames.” Which kind of reminds me of the women crushing things under their heels trend from the past few years.

In case you haven’t noticed, reality is collapsing into a cheap supermarket tabloid: This article from the NY Times on a secret government U.F.O. research program is the best too-bizarre-to-be-fake news this country needs.

I ❤ Kristen Wiig:

All The Clothes I Bought This Year Part 2

This post reflects all my clothing purchases in 2017 after I wrote the post “All The Clothes I Bought This Year.” For the most part, I mostly got winter gear to help with the increasingly chilly season (curse you polar vortex!). There were a couple somewhat unnecessary vanity buys like my new leather jacket (gasp!) and a bucketful of tailoring.

Everything I Bought

Brunello Cucinelli silk tank (tan) – $46.50

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I got this from The Real Real to go underneath my slightly-too-sheer Hugo Boss white silk shirt. It’s also a nice addition to my wardrobe generally since I don’t have any other tanks or camis. It looks really powerful solo with my pencil skirt or with a blazer. Probably more expensive than I needed, but the delta between this (EUC) and a new lower-end silk tank was pretty small.

Patagonia quarter-zip fleece (navy) – $26.50

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This was a replacement for my old North Face shell which after five good years of service ended up twisting all up on its zipper. Being a fleece piece, it can’t exactly be worn alone especially since it gets windy out here. But it’s cozy and nobody blinks an eye when I show up to work with this and a T-shirt.

Coach lambskin leather bomber jacket (black) – $168.00

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Pure vanity buy. I was craving a quote-unquote classic piece and don’t particularly care for trench coats so I decided to go for a leather jacket instead. Seriously, I spent about a full month contemplating whether to buy it. Save for my loafers– maybe including my loafers?– this is the most expensive item in my closet. The leather is super buttery but thin (it’s lambskin so that was expected), so I can only really wear it when it’s in the 40-60 F range and not raining. Which in my New England city is, oh, approximately never. But it’s darn beautiful.

One thing I will say is that I got this off The Real Real and I was really disappointed in their team when checking this item. There were definitely more scuffs on it than the listing noted and there was a half-opened piece of nicotine gum in the pocket. Major ew. They outsource their customer service to Zendesk so I wasn’t particularly hopeful my note to them will reach their garment review team. Though I love the jacket and plan on keeping it, I do not plan on using TRR again.

Neck gaiter (black) – $10.00ng-teal_1024x1024

I lose about two neck gaiters a year so I don’t bother to buy an expensive version, else I’ll be saddened when I ultimately misplace it at a restaurant or whatever. Fleece-lined, does the trick solo or, even better, layered underneath a scarf.

Patagonia better sweater mittens (marled white/black) – $39.25

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A replacement for my old Isotoner gloves which, though they let me use my smartphone, fail miserably at keeping my hands actually warm in the freezing winter weather. I like that these can convert between mitten and fingerless glove style, makes it easier to access my fingers quickly during my commute.

REI silk sock liner (white) – $11.00

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These are to go under my thick calf-high Smartwool socks for the coldest days in winter. They’ll help with the itch from my wool allergy. Also, they’ll add an extra layer of insulation when the polar vortex comes.

Patagonia beanie (navy) – $26.50

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A slightly cuter replacement for my current beanie which looks like a nerdy winter helmet. Made with recyclable materials, which I love. Also covers and keeps my ears warm, which is a major win.

LL Bean silk long llbean.gifunderwear (black) – $50.50

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In previous years, I have used hosiery, thick fleece lined tights, and even yoga pants as an extra bottom layer during winter. All these were fine, but left a lot to be desired in terms of comfort under my trousers– so many layers left my legs feeling like sausage stuffed into its casing. I haven’t gotten a chance to take these for a spin since it hasn’t gotten below freezing yet, but they certainly are thinner and feel more flexible than what I’ve tried before.

Red Coral Necklace – $5.00

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Statement piece to jazz up my otherwise boring neutral-color wardrobe. The picture isn’t of my exact necklace, but it’s pretty similar with the same thick finger-like coral protrusions. I particularly like to layer this over my crew neck Everlane silk tops.

Coach Willis messenger bag (black) – $56.50

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Originally I was going to try to get the lock on my burgundy cross-body from Cambridge Satchel fixed. But this was the third or fourth tie it broke in two years and it costs $25 each time to get the push lock shipped in from the UK. At some point I might bring it to a cobbler to fix and then resell, but for now I’m going with a classic alternative that I know has already been through a couple decades of wear and is still going strong.

Tailoring, dry cleaning, repair – $191.50

This is how much it cost me to hem and take in at the waist four silk shirts and to dry clean and re-line my peacoat. Tailoring is expensive. It basically doubled the cost of my shirts. But now they fit slightly better. Worth it?

Total – $631.25

Next steps

Altogether I’ve spent around $1825 on clothes in 2017. That’s about six to seven times as much as I’ve spent in any other year. While I don’t regret spending that much– I wanted to upgrade my wardrobe and am still in a great place financially– I would like to ratchet it back to my previous spending levels for a good long while.

Now that I’ve finished filling all the holes in my winter wardrobe, I feel pretty set to not buy any more clothes until at least April 2018. I would like to set a budget for 2018 to spend no more than $350 total, or just below $30/month. That includes all alterations, underwear, etc. This does not include my wedding dress, for which I’d like to spend less than $250.

Insofar as I might upgrade my wardrobe next year, I’d like to keep it to cheap basic items. For one, I’d like to get a few V-neck cotton shirts (probably American Apparel or another good quality cheap tee brand) to replace my current suite of crew necks. I’d also like to streamline my work socks so I don’t have a variety of too-large-for-my-feet hand me downs making up half my food wardrobe. Lastly, a good tote bag or backpack would be nice as well. These are all minor wants though and– given how burnt out on shopping I currently feel– I think I can go without for a year or more.

What do you wear for winter? Have you purchased any clothing in Q4?

Does What You Wear To Work Matter?

I’ve been a bit of a fashion vlog binge lately. I’m mostly distracting myself from other stressors. It’s been interesting, though, to see how they talk about fashion. There’s a lot of good advice I’ve seen about clothing care and selection. But I keep seeing some concepts played out over and over and that have been bugging me. One such mantra goes something like this:

An investment in your wardrobe is an investment in your career.

Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.

Build your personal brand to get ahead at work. The first stop is in your appearance.

Translation: Our sponsors would really like you to spend more money on clothes.

When I first graduated college, I had no idea how to dress myself. As opposed to now, of course, when I have at least a half baked idea.

I always technically stayed in the realm of “business casual.” But, at the same time, I made some truly embarrassing clothing choices. Pants rippled atop my shoes and dragged at the heels. Cheap polyester button ups puckered at the bust and quickly discolored in the armpits since I apparently wasn’t aware of the concept of undershirts. I wore tons of unlined itchy wool, not realizing until a year later that I was incredibly allergic (“Oh, that’s why I’ve been getting all these rashes during the winter…”). There were many cheesy asymmetrical collared faux turtle neck tops. It was all kind of a mess.

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My workwear style circa 2012. Model pose included.

Flash forward to my first review, though, and you would never have guessed I was a fashion train wreck. I ended up getting a 15% raise, was on track to get a promotion (which happened a year later), and was generally on the good side of the people I was working with. All in my only-scraping-off-at-the-toe faux-leather loafers.

Nowadays, I have things slightly little more together in the clothes department. I plan my wardrobe around simple, quality, and comfortable basics. Silk shirts and slacks are my go-to. I finally have a suit. And I make sure everything fits. On the overall clothing scale I’d rate myself a solid 7/10. Good, but nothing flashy. But between then and now, I’ve noticed no real difference in how I am perceived based on my clothes. Looking at my own style changes and those of my colleagues over the years, I don’t think what we wear has made much of a difference at all.

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My workwear style circa 2017. 

When I look around at my office, folks usually do the strictly business/business casual thing. Everyone is professional, but nobody stands out as a particularly sharp dresser. It’s not like when I walk downtown, seeing all the finance guys in their custom made skinny-fit grey-blue suits, carrying their empty patent leather briefcases for show. The company wunderkinds, the young directors and rocketship-type upstarts wear the same slightly-too-large trousers as everyone else. That’s not to say that there aren’t a few folks who are a bit more fashion forward, but from the new interns to the CEO, sartorially I’d say we’re probably closer to The Office than Suits.

This is slightly exacerbated by the fact our office (as opposed to the company’s other locations) works mainly in the tech space. It’s pretty common that I’ll show up to a client meeting and be better dressed than they are in their tees and jeans. Frankly, our managers are lucky that I accidentally shrunk most of my old hoodies.

And so, in my day-to-day life, above a certain level of put-togetherness I see pretty much no correlation between style success and business success. Maybe this is true in more creative fields? Or I’m just not high enough in the corporate echelon for this to be an issue? I’m curious:

Have you found that your clothes have affected your career success? What do you wear to work?