Rules of Clothing

Am I the only person who tucks in their shoelace ends because the tapping of the little plastic aglets at the tips against the surface of the shoe causes me sensory issues? I’ve become more and more noise-sensitive over time and this sound causes me distress as I walk down the echo-y halls at work. The bonus of tucking them in is that they don’t come undone constantly that way, either.

I don’t know if it’s due to stress, or if my autistic quirks are becoming more pronounced over time, but I am having real issues getting dressed in the morning these days. I overthink everything. I have replaced a lot of my clothes with all-black versions (which helps as long as I don’t focus too much on the fact that in reality there are ‘shades’ of black and even these clothes are not as mono-chromatically harmonious as I would like) but on the days where I am venturing out into the color spectrum, I agonize over things ‘matching’ even when it’s irrelevant.

Case in point, no one is going to see my underwear but me, so do they really have to match my socks? Knowing on an intellectual level that this makes sense doesn’t stop the itch at the back of my brain when something is ‘off’ about my clothes. Wearing, say, a pair of socks that are purple but on the blue side of purple with my grey Brooks running shoes that have trim that’s more of a pinkish purple is almost like having a scratchy tag inside my shirt. That particular pair of compression socks has been relegated to ‘laundry day’ socks for when all of the black, white, or grey ones are dirty, for that reason, by the way.

While the actual rules seem to be getting more circumscribed, they are by no means new; it’s been a lifelong thing. Below is an entry from a Diary/Journal I was keeping as I was sorting out my thoughts on my newly diagnosed autism back in 2016, shortly before I decided to start this blog instead. I set out to write a simple list of ‘rules’ I had about clothes, and fell down an enormous rabbit hole of interconnected and very specific laws I had about what I would and would not wear. Not much has changed since I wrote this, except that, as mentioned above, I have gravitated more and more towards black as a way of avoiding morning decision paralysis – due to brain fog related executive function issues making it hard for me to navigate my own rules first thing in the morning.

Sports socks got replaced with compression socks, which I got for my POTS but love for the actual sensation. I realize now that my love of sports socks was related to the mild compression they offered: it was sort of like a weighted blanket for my legs. 🙂

I also almost never wear shorts, partly because I don’t shave my legs any more but mostly because it’s just too hard to manage my dysautonomia-caused thermoregulation issues with shorts. I can adjust upper layers of clothing on and off as needed but it’s kind of hard to swap pants and shorts on the fly.

Anyway, I’ve left this material mostly unedited except for removing names for privacy reasons, so it’s probably kind of boring. Read on at your own risk.

I’ve been known to proudly proclaim that I dress the same way now as I did in fifth grade – jeans, T-shirts, sport socks and sneakers with maybe an open flannel shirt over the T-shirt. There was that brief period in the early nineties when everyone around me looked like me and they called it ‘grunge’ and I suppose people look at me and assume I am still stuck in that era. But I was grunge before it was a thing, so there. 😀 😉

Now, it might seem like this is very simple. My partner could tell you otherwise. She has been known to throw up her hands and walk away when clothes shopping with me. There are rules. Lots of them.

Jeans: I prefer Levis 550s and regularly scour the local thrift stores for them. I have been known to also wear other brands if they meet a few criteria. Or a lot of criteria. They must be 100% cotton without any pre-added rips or strange dye marks – I am quite capable of wiping out on a bicycle and tearing my own jeans, at which point I will wear the tear proudly like a battle scar, but why would I pay good money for pre-damaged pants?

NO. SPANDEX. Seriously. Enough said about that. Belt loops must actually be wide enough to hold a belt and no faux pockets. Speaking of pockets, no elaborate stitching or godsforbid no bloody sequins. No hiphuggers. No bellbottoms. Pants should actually be pants; if they stop mid calf or halfway down the ankle they aren’t actually pants.No weird patterns or textures. No funny buttons.

Corduroys are OK if they meet the above criteria otherwise and once I started working in IT I also branched out to Dockers, but they have to be the original flat front 100% cotton twill kind. Sweat pants are OK if the ankles have elastic. And they need pockets.

Shorts: all of the rules that apply to jeans or Dockers plus not too short, or too long, or flared to look skirt-like. Especially that last thing. Cargo shorts a plus.

T-Shirts: Men’s, usually. Women’s tend to have V-necks, or scoop necks, or weirdly short sleeves. Or sometimes fake pockets – what is with women’s clothing and fake pockets? Again, shirts should not come pre-ripped. They also need to be thick enough not to see through and long enough not to pop out of my pants or shorts when I bend over. No scratchy tags, scratchy stitching, or unhemmed edges. Either nicely fitted or big and baggy. Generally I am not fond of bright colors – I prefer greys, black, light or dark blue (but not medium) or purple that is to the blue side rather than the red side. No pink. I like heathers. I like white but am not capable of keeping it clean. I do wear shirts with pictures or band names but I’m picky. Generally it will be something geeky or obscure.

I remember in grade school – fifth or sixth grade – we had class pictures and I actually made an effort, for once. I put my wet hair in little braids the night before so that it would be wavy when I undid them (it was long like it is now, but with no bangs) and I wore my nicest jeans with my very favorite T-Shirt. The shirt was soft and a light heather blue, with the logo for the camp I had been to the summer before in dark blue on the upper left side. I loved going to camp (it was a camp for inner city kids like me and I got to spend two weeks in nature with away from all the concrete and broken glass) and the logo had a tree on it which made me even happier. The other girls in class were absolutely horrified and complained that I had ruined the class picture.

Shirts in general: all of the rules of T-Shirts plus no shoulder pads, pleats, lace, ribbon, ruffles, decorative buttons, pointy lapels, collar stays, or designer logos. Plaid OK but I’m picky. Stripes mostly not OK but there have been rare exceptions. Mostly I like low-key stuff but sometimes something ridiculously over-the-top loud will speak to me – I have a green and white paisley corduroy shirt that I adore. Button down shirts, when worn buttoned, must have a top button near collarbone level or I will make one with a safety pin. I hate low cut shirts. I don’t iron.

Tank tops: I like those stretchy cotton ribbed ones, as long as they are not too low in the neck, don’t gap open at the arms, and are long enough that they stay tucked. Or plain ones. I have one with a henna looking flower pattern on it but mostly don’t like any adornment on them.

I’m not real good at figuring out what clothes go together and usually have to ask my partner. Or if I come up with something that does match, I will wear those things together as an ‘outfit’ every time. I actually enjoyed having to wear scrubs when I was a vet tech, or wearing company shirts at other jobs, because then I don’t have to come up with what to wear. I’d probably just wear all black if I could find a consistent source of black Levis 550s.

Socks: calf-length or knee length sport socks without bumpy seams. I hate dress socks (they fall down and that drives me batty) and generally sneak around the need for dress socks by wearing outdoor-type winter socks in greys or browns with my work cloths. I used to wear white sport socks with my dockers until someone pointed out it made me look like a big nerd. Often I still do, anyway, unless my desire not to attract unwanted attention wins over my desire to wear, well, white sport socks. By the way, I generally wear sport socks and sneakers with my shorts and my partner says I look like a dork that way. I do it anyway. I hate ankle socks/footies. Except those stupid slipper socks, the ones you get for Christmas from a relative, and you’re like, “what the hell do I do with these?” I figured out that they are great for warding off cold feet when I climb into bed, and I can kick them off easily if my feet get hot.

Underwear must be cotton and not have scratchy tags, seams, or stitching, or lace. Briefs. I hate underwear crawling up my butt. I don’t really care about color or pattern so much. They are underwear – no one sees them. Unless you are taken to the hospital after a terrible accident and then you have bigger problems than what your underwear look like, right? I do have one pair that has hot pink and black cartoon foxes on them, because, hot pink and black cartoon foxes. Bras need to be unadorned and have sturdy shoulder straps.

Shoes: sneakers, ideally Asics, Keen or New Balance though a pair of old-style Addidas are nice. Old style is usually what I end up with because I get a lot of my shoes from better resale shops. Not too bright, definitely not girly. I like lock-laces, which I order and replace the existing laces with, so I am not constantly tripping over my shoelaces, which never seem to stay tied for me. I also like Dock Martin’s and similar Oxford-style work shoes. NO high heels. Birkenstocks, river sandals, and flip-flops around the house or when it’s too hot for socks and sneakers.

So most people can write over 1200 words about their clothing rules… right? No?

Featured Image: Close up of feet. The shoes, black Doc Marten Oxfords, have the ends of the laces tucked under the loop closest to the toes. Soft filter and border applied to photo.

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