The proper choice of attire is crucial in any profession. When you go into work it’s important to strike just the right balance for your environment – don’t be so casual people don’t take you seriously, but don’t be so formal people start wondering if you’ve got an interview somewhere else already. If you’ve ever started a new job, you know the drill. The first day can be a little nerve-racking. After all, even if you have a dress code to refer to, you never really know until you get there. You want to make a good first impression. You want people to trust that you know what you’re doing, but not feel like you’re overdoing it. When you start your SAHD journey, the calculus is a little different. It’s really kind of a struggle because no one is giving you a dress code – if any of you SAHD bros out there have one, you can keep it, because I have some pretty well developed opinions at this stage in the game. So here we go.
On your first day, start off a little strong. Once the kids are up and needing to go to school, be fully dressed and showered, teeth brushed – I’m talking socks and shoes here too. If the rule in your house is no shoes, change it. You’re running the show now, and you need to be ready to go up and down stairs swiftly and pivot in the kitchen. There’s no sense moving slow for the chores if you want any recovery time during the day. Plus, if you have a disposition towards laziness, you want to work against that and show your business partner (wife, obviously) that you are a self-starter. Instill confidence in her that this was a good business move for the family – and not just on paper.
So, to go with your socks and tennis shoes, wear some jeans and a clean t-shirt on the first day. If you go polo and everyone knows you don’t have any special events, it’ll be obvious that you’re trying too hard. There’s no shame in dressing up enough so that door-to-door salesmen wonder if you’re a software developer on his work-from-home day, but let’s not lie here. Someday you’re gonna have to own it. It might as well be today. The day one rules are always ok to follow, but don’t start making creative changes to them until you have a well-established pattern of productivity. This way your business partner will trust you when you need to make those changes on the fly. You’re still in the freshman zone for a while, so get comfortable – but not too comfortable (yet).
Regarding adjustments you might have to make to your uniform over time, there are a few things to keep in mind. You might kid yourself on chores day that no one is going to see you, but there’s nothing worse than having to scramble to put pants on (side note – showering in the middle of the day can be ok, but it’s always a bit of a gamble) when a respectable looking workman comes to the door. SAHDs have an image to uphold, so do your part on this. If you’re legitimately sick, you can wear pajamas, but ordinarily this is not the best strategy. You never know if chores day is going to switch into errands day, in which case you’ll have to put on another outfit entirely, and we want to keep that particular activity to an absolute minimum. You’re not a girl and, what’s more, you need to set a good example for the kids who definitely should NOT be making unnecessary wardrobe changes during the day now that you’re doing the laundry. That’s another day one rule (no exceptions on this one).
As for seasonal changes, you can switch to a long-sleeved henley (or t-shirt, I suppose) when it gets colder. If you’re a minimalist, keep the clean t-shirt and just drop a hoodie on top. Unlike my summer recommendations, that’s a great way to keep the laundry from getting out of control. For the summer, wear workout clothes: t-shirt and mesh shorts all day, baby. IF YOU EXERCISE, you must shower immediately afterwards and change clothes. There is no getting around this wardrobe change for hygiene purposes. As long as you sleep in your summer uniform, that’ll keep it to one wardrobe change a day, which is what we’re going for here. Always, no matter the season: socks and tennis shoes.
Assuming you’ve followed these recommendations for a significant period of time, it’s time to move to the next stage. As Neo once learned, there’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path. Eventually you’ll be able to discern for yourself the times you can strategically make dress-code violations worry-free. If you’re on top of the chores and the food, are consistently having coffee and turning on the lights before your wife wakes up, she’s going to trust that you’re not as lazy as you probably were in high school and college. So you can, when the time is right, wear the sophomore SAHD pants on a regular basis. I recommend hitting up Costco for a two-pack (or two two-packs; it is a uniform) of black and/or navy blue joggers. You’ll see them in that middle area with all the other surprisingly consistent good deals on sensible clothing. They’re comfy, you can move faster in them than the jeans, and the teachers in car-line only ever see you from the shoulders up. If the respectable workman at the door wonders what you do, let him wonder.