Clothes Maketh The Man?

I have a new phenomenon in my life. It's called the gym. I've never really "worked out" in my entire life and always relied on being just a naturally strong farm boy, but it's part of the suggested post-op program and I'm actually enjoying it. Earlier this week as I was changing into my workout clothes and putting in my headphones (Rage Against The Machine radio) I experienced a connection with the preparation and what I was about to do.

I started to think about the other times in my life I have the same feeling. Most notably I've spent decades culturing the state of mind that accompanies wrapping my body in armor and strapping a sword to my hip. Whether or not there's any combat demonstration, just putting on the armor brings out a side of my personality that is more forceful, decisive and authoritative. I link it to wearing the armor through years combat competition and demonstrations where hesitation can equal loss and possibly injury to yourself or your opposition.

I have the same experience when I go to work at the hospital. In the OR I wear scrubs. The act of putting those on signals the upcoming expectations of the surgeons I work for. Furthermore when I don the sterile surgical gown and gloves this becomes an armor of it's own as I enter into what is kind of a different world with new rules of sterile conscience, boundaries, and mental compartmentalization come into play.

There are routines we all use to align our mind to the events about to take place before us, but also wearing a different costume can course correct a practiced state of mind. It's true that people will often behave differently a suit and tie than a ratty Metallica T-shirt. It seems superficial, but we are all superficial creatures at heart.

All this comes back to the thoughts I had as I headed into the weight room and started my new stretching routine. I don't have a costume for working in the shop. I don't really have a specific routine that signals "game on" to my mind and attitude. When my shop was a twenty minute drive from my bed I had that journey as prep time and I was very productive but the last few years of having my shop less than twenty yards from my bed has broken down the routine and the mindset. I'm more easily distracted and I have a large number of other things I can do (sometimes should do) easily at my fingertips.

To that end I'm going to try and make a change. I ordered a new shop apron, not a fancy custom one, a cheap POS that was probably sewn in a sweatshop. I've never liked wearing a shop apron much in the past, especially when they had pockets, I hated pockets in an apron. But many of my other clothing choices are evolving these days as I more from "if it actually fits it'll have to be good enough" to "do I want to wear this." My experience with a shop apron may evolve too. Maybe I'll love pockets now, maybe I'll like wearing the apron. This one will be easy enough to modify if I want and not feel bad about the bucks I've spent.

Once I get, if I get, acquainted with what I like or don't, I'll know what to shop for in a better made version.

What do you do to get yourself in the right state of mind for the shop?  I'm curious to hear other strategies.

Ratione et Passionis


  1. the act of changing out of my work clothes and donning the t-shirts, shorts or jeans I have set aside for the shop focuses the mind wonderfully. Mike Pekovic talked about this a little on the FWW podcast. He was discussing having a separate pair of glasses for the shop. The routine of entering the shop, putting them on and beginning was his mental cue for Shop Time.

  2. Great post, but who is that guy in the last picture? Looking good. Congratulations! I bet your knees thank you already.

  3. I have shirts with Old Sneelock patches on them. Those are a nod to trying to brand the channel. I wear them when I'm shooting video or calling on potential customers.
    Most of my "real" work clothes are the stuff that has too much paint, holes, missing buttons, outsized, or just too weird for wear outside the shop.
    With the logo shirts on I'm trying to be focused.
    I can see where you would think that might be good. Focused, productive, lots of words meaning conforming to the pattern.
    My shop time, as opposed to work or video creation, isn't focused or productive. It's unfettered fun that often makes nothing worth while but a sense of peace.
    I'll take that.
    One word on aprons. Strings suck. Let them laugh. Velcro is a good thing.

  4. I make it a habit that the first things I do when I go into the shop are to put on my dust mask and safety glasses. It gets me ready to work and helps to keep that safety thing in the back of my mind.

  5. Donning that apron when I get to work in the morning seems to flip the switch for me. My brain just associates it being off with the end of the day or lunchtime, and I feel a bit lackadaisical .


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