(Epistemic Status: Speculative, takes time and effort to enact, may be a misattribution of something else)
I wake up. I linger in bed a few moments, before I push away the covers and shiver as I make my way to the bathroom. I brush my teeth, shivering as the New England winter air pervades my drafty apartment. My bed clothes are fairly simple, a long T shirt and some yoga pants. It’s not particularly defining or striking as I make my way back to my room to get dressed in my proper clothes – a pair of black slacks, black socks, a button down shirt, a blazer, my hat, and a long jacket. I feel warmer, but that makes sense because I’ve added 3 layers and my house isn’t that cold. I head out to the bus, into brisk winds and freezing temperatures, but I feel fine. On the bus, those around me are wearing heavier jackets, scarves, gloves, and wool hats. They have at least one additional layer and sometimes two. But things are fine for me – I would rather look like me than maximize warmth.
I have a very strong aesthetic – I have for 3 or so years. It’s very much this kind of androgynous, business casual look that I really just don’t see with most people. I’m very used to how I dress to the point that I really don’t have casual clothes or lazy outfits. I don’t really understand dressing down, or feeling the need to strip off all the clothes the minute you step in the door. I drop my jacket and sometimes my blazer for climate control reasons, but overall, I continue looking like me rather than changing into loungewear. The interesting thing about this is, I also don’t change into activewear when I practice parkour. The only thing I shift is my shoes so that I’m not wearing loafers when trying to have sure footing. I don’t add layers to match frigid temperatures when winter is being cruel. I don’t change my clothes to suit the situation. Interestingly, this doesn’t inhibit me nearly as much as it should. I am so adapted to my clothes that I seem to move in ways that should be difficult for other people dressing like me. I am so adapted to my clothes that they generally feel like they are protecting me more from the elements than would otherwise be expected.
So, what I suspect is happening here is that after several years of wearing the same general genre of clothing, my body is extremely used to this genre of clothing to the point it is almost like a second skin. My muscle memory assumes I’m going to at least be wearing a button down and slacks. It feels wrong to not wear a hat. I’m just comfortable in what I wear to the point that making alterations to adapt to the environment actually feels like it would take more adjustment. I think it is possible that other people with strong aesthetics might experience similar things. I also suspect that there are more intangibles that are carried in the aesthetic layer – ability to wield presence, access to various body language things, etc. Gestures and motions have more power when enhanced by aesthetic. It becomes part of your story, in a way.
I don’t honestly have a great method for developing an aesthetic – I lucked into mine by trying on a short sleeve, button down shirt that was really pretty, and felt a deep resonance that I explored more and more until my wardrobe basically became 7 summer outfits and 7 winter outfits. I think the key is trying different styles and feeling out what lines up with your movements and story best – but the thing is, it could easily be reverse causal. The clothes could in fact influence your story more than the story influences the resonant clothes – and if that’s the case, you’d basically want to optimize for clothes that fit the story you want to be in best.
Overall, the aesthetic layer can be modeled as effectively giving a +1 to various movement, social, and physical tasks – when you’re used to what you’re wearing and have such a deep ease with your style, it makes things flow better and feel better. It doesn’t replace having the right clothes for a given job (if I added 2 layers, I would be warmer even if I didn’t look the way I want to – if I am trying to blend into a social clime where my clothes are out of place, that +1 isn’t going to override the -4 I’m facing, etc.), but it can give an edge in some contexts. Developing an aesthetic layer is likely an individualistic task with an unclear causal flow. Lastly, it takes time to get to the point where you are reaping those bonuses – I’m not sure if this worthwhile to try, but it might be helpful for modeling purposes.
Discussion questions: Do you have an aesthetic? How does it alter the way you go through your day to day life? Do you notice other people with aesthetics? Does the concept of the aesthetic layer resonate?