Today we have a guest-post by my fiance, Doug, about a month-long challenge he did in December.

            I spent a long time trying to figure out what sorts of clothes worked well for me.  Having spent my grade school years in Catholic school uniforms (ours were grey corduroy pants and forest green polo shirts), I spent my first several high school years enjoying the newfound freedom of ill-fitting T-shirts and bulky jeans.  I enjoyed dressing up in collared shirts and suits for choir concerts, but I never thought I would ever wear fancy clothes on a regular basis.  During my last year of high school, several concerned friends introduced me to Hollister and American Eagle, and I began wearing dark-wash, pre-ripped jeans and tight-fitting collared shirts.  I was very excited to have clothes that were mostly in my size, even if I paid extra for the holes in my pants.  Before I left for college, my friends and I sorted through my wardrobe and sent everything without a collar to Goodwill.

            During my first year of college, my parents took me to get my first set of proper adult menswear—two suits, and four dress shirts with matching ties.  Unfortunately, we shopped at a certain retailer whose clothes are largely designed for overweight, middle-aged men, and paid too much attention to the salesman’s insistence that I would surely grow into larger sizes.  I loved the clothes and found that I enjoyed matching ties and shirts, but each shirt fit about as well as a sack of potatoes.  The suits barely fit after a medium amount of tailoring.

            At this time I also acquired a large, shiny, polyester tuxedo for my college choir concerts—complete with clip-on bow tie.  It actually fit better than the suits mentioned above, although not by much.

Around my third year of college, I began gravitating toward a snazzier style of everyday dress; this transition was assisted by the fact that I lived 10 minutes from the largest mall in Sacramento.  As a tall and thin person, I have a good deal of trouble finding things that are both small enough in the chest/waist and long enough in the sleeves/legs.  I was delighted to find that collared button-down shirts and dress pants clarified the vague S/M/L labels with specific measurements.  A quick consult with a salesperson at the Nordstrom Rack revealed the source of my sizing difficulties: I measure a 38 R in the chest and have a 30-inch waist.  I took this new knowledge to heart and began collecting a few properly fitting shirts from sale racks every month or so.  By this time I was performing enough that I often needed ties on hand for a more formal look; as such, once I had amassed a collection of 5 or 6 shirts I began hunting for these necessary accessories.

            I found that very nice ties could be found on the Macy’s discount table for $15-20, and occasionally at thrift stores for $2-3.  After accumulating a small collection, suitable for my professional needs, I found that I really enjoyed the extra variety and color ties added to each outfit.  I began keeping my eye out for interesting ties every time I shopped. Through great exercise of willpower (informed by a decreasing budget) I restricted myself to 1-2 per month; between this regular supply, gifts from friends/relatives, and several handmade additions from Frances, I currently have around 40 ties.

 I have also ditched my clip-on bow tie for a nice tie-it-yourself model from the Tie Bar, and am currently looking to replace the polyester tux…

            Anyway, after starting graduate school this fall I have been wearing button-down shirts with ties and jackets regularly.  One day in mid-November, a friend from school asked if I could wear a different tie every day in December.  After my house-mate Sara issued me the same challenge later that week, I decided that I would.

My self-imposed rules:

 I had to wear a different tie for each of the 31 days in December.

  • At least one person other than myself had to see me wearing the tie.

  •  I had to leave the house wearing the tie if possible (several snow days got in the way of this).  

  •  I should try to wear appropriate colors for the various December holidays.  This rule          applied to the 4 Sundays in Advent, Christmas Eve and Day, and New Years’ Eve.

  •  I had to log my daily progress on Instagram.  


Week 1:  Since December began on a Sunday, I started the challenge with liturgically appropriate purple.  I work at a church, so I often try to dress according to the colors of the season.  Several fun finds here: 1 was hand-made by Frances, 3 was a gift from my sister, direct from an outdoor shop in Florence, and 7 was an unexpected thrift store find.

Week 2:  8 is floral purple for the 2nd Sunday of Advent.  9 and 11 are some of my favorites.  I haven't seen anything like 9 before, and it always feels very English to me (something about the combination of dignity and a little silliness).  11 was my junior recital tie, and it usually comes out of the closet once a week or so.

Week 3:   I do love 15 for its nuclear purple accents (more purple for Advent 3).  16 was my senior recital tie, and it always seems appropriate for early music concerts.  20 is another thrift find; I love the paisley accents.

Week 4:  I received 22 as a gift from Frances recently and I cannot get enough of the pink paisley.  Technically the 3rd Sunday in Advent is meant to be pink (as the original chant music speaks of rejoicing, and purple does not rejoice well), but I forgot so I made up for it this week.  24 is gold for Christmas Eve, and 25 for Christmas day.  25 and 26 are 2 of my favorite vintage finds--Saint-Laurent and Dior, probably from the 70s, but with a classy and timeless elegance.   

Week 5:  29 is another fun though difficult piece, as copper is such an unusual accent color.  30 again displays my love of paisley, and 31 rings in the new year with a little pizazz.

The results:

 I really enjoyed the tie challenge.  I found that I got more creative with tie/shirt pairings as I quickly used up my most common 4 or 5 combinations.  I also wore many of the ties I rarely wear (often due to color or fabric difficulty) and remembered how much I like them.  The trickiest part was wearing enough under- and over-layers to stay warm (most of December fell in the 15-30 degree range) while keeping the ties visible.  On days when I had neither school nor church, I had to put on a tie to wear around the house and to the grocery store.  I found that wearing nicer clothes in mundane settings helped me feel more energized, focused, and happy than if I had simply thrown on a sweater over a thermal.  

Which ties here are your favorites?  I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!