My name is Justin, I’m 33 years old, and I have no idea how to dress myself.

Learn about a man's journey toward finding his own style and becoming a real adult.

My name is Justin, I’m 33 years old, and I have no idea how to dress myself.
Photo by Huy Nguyen / Unsplash

Last November my wife got a new job. We both work in ministry — her coordinating volunteers and myself with teenagers — and her new job was a big promotion. Translation: it required a more “professional” wardrobe. Translation: she needed to go shopping.

My wife has always looked great and known what to wear. This story isn’t about her. It’s about me and my complete lack of knowledge in all things fashion.

When I was in college I had a friend that worked at American Eagle. This meant that I bought all of my clothes there. She would tell me what looked good and I’d buy it. It was a simple system that made shopping easy and the clothing seemed trendy enough.

When I graduated and began my work with teenagers, I continued to buy new clothes from American Eagle roughly every other year. At this point, I assumed I knew what looked good, so I’d buy a new pair of khaki shorts and solid polo shirts in every color. This way I didn’t have to think about what worked with what — everything worked all the time. I’d put on a pair of Rainbow Sandals and call it an outfit.

This was my wardrobe for a decade.

Last summer, while with my 11th and 12th graders in Guatemala, I stepped off a “curb” wrong and tore a ligament in my ankle. Except I wouldn’t learn that for almost two weeks when I was back in the states and could see a doctor. As a result, I had to wear an air cast for three months.

You can’t wear an air cast with Rainbow Sandals.

I started wearing tennis shoes every day. Like, shoes that I bought five years earlier to play tennis in. Wearing shoes and socks everyday was a form of torture that I hadn’t experienced since middle school dress code.

Living in Orlando, I know what an out of place tourist looks like and my white leather tennis shoes and khaki shorts fit the bill. I was one fanny pack away from being a complete disaster. The shorts had to go and found themselves replaced with a pair of American Eagle jeans that were bought at some point in the past decade.

This was the beginning of the end for my “style” as I knew it.

This brings us back to when my wife needed to go shopping. Her new professional attire looked great — as if that was really a surprise. Next to her I looked like some slob wearing jeans and a faded polo shirt that I bought before we even met. Oh wait, that was what I was wearing.

I too needed to go shopping. I needed to become a real adult.

While I no longer had to wear the air cast, wearing sandals for a prolonged period of time caused my ankle to really bother me. This dropped sandals to the bullpen and elevated a pair of lace up Tom’s to the starting rotation. Button down shirts, from a department store no less, replaced most of my faded polos. Khaki pants replaced jeans (on most days). I had to buy an iron…

I still have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to clothing. Who knows if my new “style” is really stylish. But at least I feel a bit better when I stand next to my wife.

Justin Cox Justin Cox

Justin Cox is a donut-loving, word-writing, nonprofit consultant based in Orlando. He also runs The Writing Cooperative on Medium. Come say hello!