December 12, 2017 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

Just going out of the house

Choosing wardrobe combinations and what to wear seem unnecessary when there is no occasion to dress up for, not even work. The thought balloon of the drifter runs like this: “Why bother dressing up when I’m just going to kill time at the mall and unlikely to meet anyone I know?” Wrong.

What do you wear when you just want to get out of the house?

Makeover reality TV programs focus on unemployed people who have time for shows like these and hoping to get into a paying job by looking the part of an already successful individual. They get a shampoo and haircut, select clothes for free (this is only on reality TV) with the help of a wardrobe consultant, and finally do a victory lap in front of astonished life partners who don’t ask -- where’d you get the money and who is that guy beaming beside you?

Idle souls, with a full wardrobe in their closets but no place to go, still need to be choosy.

Wearing a suit in a mall may get you a part in a Fellini film on decadence. So, even if you have suits from your previous work as an undertaker, give them a rest. It’s fine to wear casual clothes. There are still those denim pants you were going to wear for Baguio and Hawaiian shirts for Boracay.

Size matters. It’s time to get rid of tight shirts that hold back the flab with herculean effort (you almost hear the buttons sighing), ditto the oversized tents that you wore before your unemployment and diet, which have become synonymous. Since there are fewer dress-up days, you can segregate the clothes that still fit you and allow you to breathe normally and stow the rest in an unused suitcase.

Wear comfortable shoes. Here again you will need to clear out the old boots whose soles leave souvenirs on the floor as they disintegrate. Check the ones you wear regularly and just donate the rest to the next white elephant sale in the village.

Retaining only usable clothes will free up closet space. Resist the temptation of buying new ones to fill up the space again. Your importunate tailor who sends you text messages when he has new tropical wool will have to be ignored now. Suits have very limited use -- one of them has to be set aside for wearing while in a prone position and staring up at a glass window. One or two can be used for other more joyous occasions like captain’s night in a cruise -- even these have been dropped for more casual attire.

One way to keep away depression and a feeling of uselessness (this is not at all autobiographical, dear reader) is to dress up.

Dressing up is a cultural ritual denoting usefulness. Edmund Morris, the biographer of Theodore Roosevelt, allots a time for writing at home. When he goes down to his library to tap on his computer, he dresses up in a suit to put himself in a working mood. Putting words on paper is a real occupation, after all. Those opting for the home office (aka consultant) can follow this ritual. (Never mind if the dogs are barking in the background -- no, it’s just my piped in sounds.)

When we call a person sloppy, it’s because he no longer cares how he looks as he wears the same clothes in the mall that he wears watching TV and scratching his bare ankles in his bedroom. Careless dressing too is prevalent among native returnees. They wear undershirts and shorts as if to denote that this place they’re in now isn’t worth dressing up for.

Our former first lady used to say that she wore ternos even when visiting slums to show those she visited that she considered them important enough to dress up for. Somehow, this attitude captivated the poor folks even when on TV news the stark contrast of a bejeweled lady and the shanties around her became a visual editorial of corruption and poverty.

Killing time for coffee and people-watching requires its own attire: something neatly pressed, freshly washed, and able to give the wearer the look of a purpose-driven life. Self-respect as well as the high regard of others demands the look of being well-fed... and dressed for no occasion. Even barbers then give you a better haircut.

And if you bump into somebody you know, you can ask first -- what keeps you busy nowadays?

A. R. Samson is chair and CEO of Touch DDB.