Is getting boba an Occasion? Yes! Is it dumb to wear a cool fit to do it? No!
You can bet your ass I’m going to wear clothes I love to do a thing I enjoy.
I think it’s time for us to define what is an “occasion” because classic menswear (tailoring, outfits with ties, whatever you want to call it) tends to be considered occasion wear in the eyes of most people. This results in two things I experience: people wondering why I’m “wasting” an outfit on a non-occasion and people who don’t get into menswear because there are no occasions anymore.
Granted, classic menswear wasn’t always considered occasion wear; that’s a relatively new thing. For a while, outfits utilizing jackets/suits and ties were simply the de facto look for men in Western civilization. There were subtle variations like a tuxedo suit (with silk facings) for formal events, navy or grey when working in the city, and tweeds and flannels for the country or sportswear (casual). But over time, these subtle style moves to delineate occasion or dress codes within the framework of classic menswear have been lost.
To the eyes of most people (especially in Los Angeles), any combination of button-up shirt, leather shoes, tie, and jacket/suit is seen as “formal” AKA for a special occasion. With the subtle (but very real) demise of dress codes, the democratization of fashion, and the acceptance of niche fashion subcultures, the window for occasion wear has widened. This has resulted in classic menswear having even less social relevance outside of the rarest of social occasions that actually require it, which doesn’t apply to most people.
The reality is that the conventional occasion for a suit (especially in LA) just doesn’t come up for most men anymore; when it does, it can be solved with a trusty J. Crew Ludlow or Suit Supply Havana in the closet. But if you’re considering fashion as a hobby or are concerned with social benefits there are still not many “real” occasions to wear a suit. And most people don’t want to wear a suit (or variations of tailoring) on a daily basis. It would be “absurd”, and a pragmatist mindset doesn’t lend itself to “absurd” hobbies.
I’ve been out of university since 2015 and I haven’t had many required occasions to wear tailoring (or at least to the degree I currently wear it). This might be due to my chosen industry (marketing, creative), but I have no industry black tie galas; no one in my office wears a sportcoat; and outside of Isabel’s family, none of my friends are getting married anytime soon. The occasions that classic menswear makes sense for just don’t really exist in my life; I would say the same context applies to a majority of my friends or the people I interact with most frequently. Add in the pandemic nixing IRL social gatherings and replacing them with digital hangouts and you have even fewer occasions, let alone a reason to buy clothes for them. It would be a “waste” due to the lack of occasions for well, occasion clothing.
Based on my conversations with friends and mutuals, it seems that this is why guys don’t get to commit to menswear. They can understand it, appreciate it, and even want to own it, but what stops them is the lack of occasion. They don’t want to let these clothes languish in their closet, waiting for the “right” moment to wear. Even in my Patreon Discord, there is still a focus on occasion– if nothing is going on (no occasions), then there’s no need to even get fitted.
Obviously, I don’t believe in that one bit. I think it’s because I view “occasions” much differently than everyone else. While my attire may be considered “occasion” wear to most, I really just consider them regular clothes. And as you can tell from my decade of being in this, I wear them whenever I feel like it, whether I’m at an event, hanging with friends, or doing something solo (with our without leaving my house). My everyday attire just happens to look like occasion wear. Ultimately my participation in menswear is not predicated on formal occasions or life situations. I do it because I love my clothes and I want to wear them!
I’ll make my own occasions to dress up!
An Occasion in my mind isn’t about formality or tradition (like a wedding or funeral). . For my purposes, an Occasion is simply a glorious moment where intention, availability, and ability align. I might even call an Occasion a synonym for an “activity”, but to be clear, activities are special. That’s because an Occasion is special because it has intent, whether it’s internal or externally spurred, making it different than the banality of non-activity. The fun of this menswear hobby is getting to make an outfit any and all Occasions you have.
Perhaps its helpful to provide some context. Until I was in college, I didn’t really have many chances to hang out with my friends. Some of you may recall that I spent my elementary through high school years at a Christian private school. This meant that we didn’t have much in the way of arts (not enough funding, also some arts are “evil”), classes were incredibly small, and most importantly for the purpose of this essay, students did not live locally to the school which meant none of us had truly local friends. Everyone lived around 20+ minutes away. They must have really loved Jesus to make that commute.
This combined with the fact that none of my few school friends drove until college meant that hanging out was rare. They were all picked up immediately after school, so there were no after school walks to the mall or boba shop. Weekends would have been open, except we all went to different churches; Sunday hangs were at the mercy of our parent’s willingness to drive. My friend group actually liked going to school because it was the only confirmed place we could see each other.
As a result, I began to consider hanging out to be a Special Occasion, which later complimented my growing interest in menswear. I knew from the beginning that my love of clothing was due to a taste for certain details rather than being predicated on formal situations. However, I was still aware of general perceptions of tailoring and struggled with how to reconcile them with my own view on clothing. But after becoming friends with Spencer, my view of tailoring was less about Traditional Occasions and more about “what we wore” for the occasion of hanging out. We certainly weren’t doing anything fancy during our hangouts (we were teenagers after all), but it felt special because of all the factors that led to it. Spencer and I still live an hour from each other, which makes hanging out pretty special to me. Why wouldn’t we dress in the clothes that bonded us and actively make us happy?
The “hanging out as an Occasion” philosophy becomes scarily relevant the older you get. You start to move away from friends. Or perhaps you get a new job or develop a new hobby that lessens your free time. And being free one day doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have the same consistency the following week. When all of this happens, you tend to realize that any time you see your pals is special, whether it’s something as casual as coffee/boba or the rare full-day outings that involve going to the Huntington or the Getty and grabbing a bit to eat after. There’s a reason why my blog is full of diary-style posts of hangouts rather than conventional, pragmatic events like weddings or job interviews.
But what I now realize is that Occasion doesn’t have to be just about seeing your friends. As you get older, you realize that any free time at all is scarce. And perhaps that’s an Occasion too!
I’m so used to being busy. When I was in college, I worked in the school office during the day and retail at night. When I had my menswear job, I commuted over an hour each way to Beverly Hills. And now working at a marketing agency, every day is filled with numerous internal/external meetings, with campaign demands that come in at all hours of the day (even on weekends). The moments where time is yours become special, an Occasion. You see, when I am free (whether during work hours or after it), I don’t use that time just to see my friends– I do me. I do whatever I want to do.
An Occasion then becomes any activity that you look forward to, whether there are external people involved or not. I’m not saying that you need to force yourself to do “fancy”, dress-code-required events in your life just for the sake of dressing up, but I am saying that it does take a bit of a mindset change so that you get excited about wearing clothes, rather than potentially “wasting” them.
I think it’s an Occasion to be able to have a free evening and spend it watching a movie or reading a book. It’s also an Occasion to work from a coffee or boba shop instead of your room because there are fewer meetings that day. I’d also count going to local restaurants or going thrifting. We can’t forget going to the symphony or seeing my favorite local band. My life, even one with a minimal friend or even general human contact, is never boring because I keep myself busy with activities I enjoy. All of these things are special and even rare (or at least not consistent in an adult’s life). Why not take the opportunity to wear something you love when doing activities you enjoy?
With this expanded metric of what an occasion is, I would even say that being able to put on clothes is an Occasion in and of itself. I definitely look forward to that activity (or ritual, whatever you want to call it) because its fun and a bit creative , like me counting down the hours to just jam out on the piano. There’s also the fact that I truly consider my clothes special, almost like the Legos or action figures I’ve amassed over the years. Mark Cho once posted on his IG story that his watches are a bit like a faithful companion (or pet). I think I view clothes in the same way, but more like a friend I get to see and “play” with.
Most of my wardrobe has had some “work” behind it, whether it was through thrifting and extensive eBay searches or by working with Dave on the pattern on my Atelier Fugue suits, so being able to “play” with them really is a significant boon to my day. To me, the hobby of wearing clothes is an Occasion that makes me happy with each outfit I create. As I said in my hobby essay, it is not just about buying or creating outfits; it is about wearing them. Luckily for me, my clothes don’t hinder my regular day activities in the slightest!
This is most likely why I am perfectly fine getting dressed in an outfit to (largely) stay at home, because even in my room there is some Occasion to look forward to. Even if that is working on my blog, recording a podcast, or reading a book. Even if this all completely absurd, I definitely think it matters that I intentionally chose to wear something I enjoy everyday.. That being said, I do try and do something outside of the home, which is why I schedule errands across the week or treat myself to a boba or coffee after an especially rough day at work. After all, those outfits are what I envision “a guy like myself” to be wearing while doing those things.
Whatever it is, the activities and the outfits I wear are something I constantly look forward to. I’ll even keep the outfit on long before or long after the Occasion is “finished” (aka while working or after coffee respectively) to keep that special feeling alive to whatever I do afterward. I have no problem being the guy in the sportcoat when there is no “real” reason to be; I know that I’m dressed for something I am looking forward to do or just left something I really wanted to do.
Some of you know that I make outfits ad infinitum because I’m constantly inspired (and I have a large wardrobe). I like to think that for most things I do in my life, I just happen to be wearing the outfit I already decided on wearing for that day. But I’d be wrong to say that my fit doesn’t in some way affect the activity/Occasions I find myself in . There are times when I make an ivy fit and it reminds me that I should take some time to read at a coffee shop. Or when I put a solid tie with a jacket and the dark look inspires me to call up Spencer for local drink (or to take Isabel on an impromptu date night). I can’t quantify how many times this happens or to what degree it happens, but I’m now more aware of this phenomenon. As I said, I’m always busy and my mind is always running; there are always things to do and clothes to wear.
What I do know is the Occasion is big or small, external or internal, with friends or solo, and impromptu or planned, I have the agency to wear what I want. It’s an Occasion to wear Esquire Man for an unaccompanied boba, Safincore to check out an art gallery with Isabel, or ivy for a trivia night. The specific outfit I wear is all in good fun, coupled with a healthy dose of Cinematic Dressing to determine which framework to go with. Some of these “characters” are inspired by old school formality (like the use of black shoes) but I wouldn’t say that the event I do is inherently a formal one. The outfits are simply what a “guy” like me would be wearing while doing them, which is why I wear that fit. The outfit becomes the look of that activity by default. Does that make sense?
Perhaps my attitude to dressing for the different Occasions in my life comes from the idea behind outdated dress codes, which were made to ensure that everyone is on the same page for what vibes fit the occasion. In most cases, occasions were celebratory, which required an attendee’s best attire. I definitely think I do this for my own Occasions– I wear what I like to celebrate, have fun, and most importantly, do things I don’t normally get to do. I also tend to see events/hangs/Occasions as one-offs due to how much they depend on fate and the fact that we don’t know if the same people are going to be free again. A drink with a friend at a local bar is an occasion, because it may be months before we can do it again. Why not wear something you want to wear for such an occasion?
And to be clear, most of what I want to wear is something that involves a tie and tailoring. The pandemic has shown me that this is my “normal” look that I think I look my best in and, which is why you see it most often worn to almost anything I’m doing (within reason). In fact, you might even say it takes an extremely Special Occasion for me to break out my casual attire, which usually is activity that is “externally” motivated, like practical-yet-vintage themed wear for scrounging flea market or something with shorts and a terry cloth shirt for going swimming. In these Occasions, I’m celebrating the deviance from my regular life by wearing something else that fits those vibes, while still being a fit I and makes sense with my overall style.
Over the years, I’ve come to realize is that all my fashion-inclined friends tend to share this philosophy on Occasion. While we may have different individual styles, our common ground is that we understand that we have agency, agency to create our own occasions and wear what we want. While most things don’t have dress codes (like going to trivia or getting coffee), a few of us do take the initiative to go further and make a more “conventional” Occasion. Just look at Jay’s black tie birthday dinner or the annual Friendsgivings where we are encouraged to dress up. But most of the time, its just silly like wearing aloha shirts to go to a tiki bar.
We all know that if we don’t take these opportunities to do something and wear cool fits, nothing will happen. Occasions just don’t naturally happen anymore. If we want a “reason” to dress up, we’ll make it happen. It’s never about being formal, but about getting in the mood to wear the things you love. And it’s pretty clear that our bar for an Occasion is low, which we definitely use to our advantage, even if we Stand Out in public doing “mundane” things. What we do doesn’t tend to have dress codes, so it’s up to us to fill it out. I’m pretty lucky to have friends who are into this.
There are a few times that we have Occasions that are externally motivated, but we are still granted relative freedom; such occasions are used as inspiration rather than as a constricting dress code. Events like Dapper Day, which certainly has a “vibe” inherent to the event, come to mind. Even weddings (rare as they are in my life) are a fun thing to dress for since it allows me to get into the mindset of someone else’s expectations. After all, those Occasions are about celebrating someone else, much like Jay’s birthday.
For most of our regular life, my friends and I are able to create our own Occasions and set our own attire for them. Life isn’t meant to wait around, twiddling our thumbs for the “right” Occasion to wear our cool clothes. We should wear them now!
There’s also a shared philosophy on effort, where we don’t consider making an outfit a chore or some kind of an insurmountable task. It’s something we enjoy doing, so getting dressed for any activity is easy and something we look forward to.
In short, the “death of occasion” isn’t something to be sad about as a menswear guy (or a fashion guy in general). In fact, you should be emboldened by it because you actually have the agency to decide what an Occasion means to you. Obviously, you don’t have to share the same wacky philosophy we have. But I can tell you, the “everything is an Occasion” mantra is a great motivator to wear your clothes and enjoy them. It’s all about celebrating everything you find yourself doing in life with a fit that you feel proud to wear!
Spencer, MJ, and I discuss the topic of “what is an Occasion” in our most recent podcast episode, which you can listen to below. We did this a bit to explain why we’re so “dressed up” all the time, but it also goes hand in hand with our previous discussions on Cinematic Dressing and Standing Out. Hell, this philosophy defining an Occasion as “life and all the activities we do” is truly the basis of our style and even who we are as people.
We also do talk about the few times we have an external occasion (like a job interview or a wedding) as well as the external occasions we look forward to and have power over our attire (like Dapper Day or the events Jay hosts. There’s also some commentary on the times we do adjust our attire to the Occasion, like going to the beach or the flea market.
Honestly, this might not be about redefining Occasions at all. At its core, the essay and podcast are about looking like the person you want to look like while doing the things you do in your life. For me, that happens to [usually] incorporate jackets, ties, and leather shoes: things most people assume are occasion wear. For others, it just means an intentional look that can sometimes be considered “extra” by most. But it’s important to remember that nothing about this is meant to uphold formality. It’s about reclaiming your agency for the activities you get to do and the clothes you want to wear while doing them. In essence, it’s about the look you have for what Adorno and Marx call “leisure time” and perhaps even dressing to celebrate (or look forward) to such moments.
This is why I also realized that one of the defining pieces of this mindset is refusing to default. I don’t mean that every outfit has to be a suit and tie, but it should at least be something intentional and exciting that you are proud to wear. Spencer’s look may be more casual than me and he often repeats exact outfits, but he knows he loves those rigs and wears them as much as possible. Sometimes this may mean getting dressed right before a dinner with friends , which I have no problem with. Other times this might mean wearing the fit the entire day because it gets you amped up for that boba-and-reading treat you have planned for yourself after work. And keeping the outfit on after the Occasion has “ended” is just another way to keep that special feeling alive.
Overall, this mindset is about us having fun and celebrating life with clothes that we enjoy (that happen to look like and have roots in what other people perceive to be formal). Perhaps that means reframing what we consider to be “worth it” or diving deep into what counts as “motivation”. If that means considering the little things we do as an Occasion, then so be it! Everything in life is special enough to have fun with for any occasion, whether it’s with company or on our own. And those Occasions always involve a fit we enjoy.
I can’t imagine living any other way!
- 11:06 – Topic Intro
- 16:09 – What Makes an Occasion?
- 27:25 – Collapse of Occasion/Dress Code
- 34:45 – Seeing Friends/Occasion of Everyday Life
- 46:00 – Cinematic Dressing
- 56:03 – Being Overdressed
- 1:01:20 – Occasions We Have Attended/Making Our Own Occasions
- 1:16:02 – Wrap-up
- Our podcast episode responding to the points G. Bruce Boyer made during the Permanent Style symposium “Dressing Up In A Dressed Down World”.
- The essays on:
- The lifestyles of menswear enthusiasts
- having friends
- why we don’t mind standing out
- Put This On’s article on wearing a “happy suit” which honestly is just a proto-version of this essay.
Thanks for listening and reading along! Don’t forget to support us on Patreon to get some extra content and access to our exclusive Discord. We also stream on Twitch and upload the highlights to Youtube.
The Podcast is produced by MJ.
Always a pleasure,
Big thank you to our top tier Patrons (the SaDCast Fanatics): Philip, Shane, Jarek, Henrik , and Alexander.
Nicely put. Life IS an occasion!
At most 2-3 outfits out of all those looks that “actually” worked. Everything else was atrocious. If you knew you were experimenting and learning, then it’s ok to look like a frigging clown. Literally.
Otherwise, you got to understand what works for you, your color palette, ‘body type’, height, proportions, etc.
You still got a LONG WAY to go. Don’t kid yourself, son.
This whole blog is about doing clown cosplay, so you’re actually onto something