How clothing kept me sane

Monday, February 1st 2021
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Something that has consistently surprised me over the past year of this horrible pandemic, is the friends - especially in the menswear industry - that have lost some interest in what they wear every day. 

I offer no kind of opinion on that choice, and certainly no judgment. Everyone has their own preferences and pressures, and even among friends we may not know what these are. 

But it has genuinely surprised me. Because for me, personally, it’s one of the things that has kept me going. 

It has been painful seeing people I care about suffer from Covid. And more often, just really boring being cut off from pubs, cinemas, shops, society and stimulation. 

Clothing has helped keep me sane. Just as I’ve always made sure I exercise - even doing circuits in the garden when I couldn’t leave the house. Or making sure I always had a good book to read. It's these elements of normality that have kept my spirits up. 

As often seems to happen, there is a nice parallel with food. A friend said that during the first pandemic, he slipped into ordering takeaway every night, or the same ready meals. But it was deadening. Over time, it began to symbolise the depression he felt.

So when the second lockdown came - in November here in the UK - he made a resolution to take an interest in what he ate, and learn to cook new things throughout. It gave him a sense of purpose. 

Thinking about, playing with, and generally enjoying clothing has done that for me. 

Let me give you some examples. 

I bookmark images, looks and outfits that I find interesting on Instagram, or save them on Pinterest. Most often, they are clothing combinations that I could put together from my own wardrobe, but just haven’t thought of. 

They include someone like Rob’s friend Edo (@egrarchivio, above), wearing a red bandana under a grey shirt, navy knit and cream trousers. I’ve never worn that combination before, but I like it. 

I've worn it with a blue shirt rather than a grey one, and I've worn a red bandana with a shawl-collar sweater. But never this combination. So I'll try it, consider it, enjoy it.

(I probably wouldn’t wear that coat. But something like my Ciardi ulster, or a Donegal raglan, would look great over the top too.)

Another example is the image above from Gabucci.

I have flannels and a crewneck in those colours, but I’ve never tried them together. They’re so close in tone that I probably thought there wouldn’t be enough contrast. 

Interestingly, when I tried the outfit I found it didn’t work as well with a crewneck (which was all I had), as a cardigan. The cardigan exposes more white shirt, and helps separate the two browns. With a crewneck, it’s too much of a block. 

I also don’t wear leather loafers around the house, by the way. But I wear Sagan Lunes in black and brown, and they serve to try out most of these looks. 

Other images don't suggest new outfits, but remind me how much I like old ones. 

The picture of Ethan Wong shown at top, for example, reminds me how much I like Michael Drake’s old look of purple socks with brown loafers (which he, in turn, took from Michel Barnes). I’ll wear that tomorrow, and it will cheer me up. 

Same goes for the pic of Oliver and Carl above. They always wear these simple tonal looks, but this image reminds me how much I like them. Particularly the casual air, which is all but necessary when you’re working at home every day. 

Sometimes there are new purchases too, of course. Less tailoring and ties, but certainly trousers and knitwear. 

For example, I ordered the ribbed knit above from Stoffa back in October, when Maxim was here for a trunk show from Sweden.

It arrived in November, but needed some tweaks. These were delayed a little over the holidays, so I received it early in January. Since then, I’ve been trying different ways to wear it. 

As with most Stoffa designs, its pretty elegant for knitwear, so I find it doesn’t go so well with jeans. The collar perhaps makes it smarter than a regular crewneck, but then it is soft too, almost redolent of a rugby shirt. 

Still, after a few experiments, I found I enjoyed it most with my casual tailored trousers - like my heavy brown cords, or chinos from the likes of Blackhorse Lane or Real McCoys. 

This is often how my process works with new clothes - and that comes through weeks later, in a review article about what I think or have found. 

The last way I enjoy clothing - even during lockdown, even at home with just one walk a day to wear shoes and outerwear - is looking after old clothes. 

In many ways this is the most satisfying. New clothes are exciting, and new outfits stimulating. But polishing up some old boots, until they look even better than the day they were bought, is more deeply satisfying. 

I did this last week with an old pair of Edward Green ‘Top Drawer’ boots (above), before taking them out on a long walk. And I’ve been wearing more cordovan, so ‘boning’ up on my technique there.

Nicest of all, perhaps, is the way denim wears in over extended periods, like this lockdown. 

I have a relatively new pair from Levi’s, that were raw just before lockdown started. They’ve now had about 50 wears and two washes, and are starting to show some personality. 

Usually I wouldn’t be able to wear jeans so often, and see this pace of change. But that’s another thing I’ve been able to enjoy, over these long weeks at home. 

Let me know your stories of joy through clothing - and here's hoping this has given people a few ideas too. 

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A Borda

Hi Simon, a very timely article and my experience has been very similar. Clothing has also helped me to keep sane and motivated throughout Covid.

Although I haven’t done more than a handful of days of home office since February of last year, the combination of many of my colleagues and business partners working from home and travel restrictions across Europe means that my office environment is not like it was before.

Nonetheless, I still put on a suit and tie every day to go into the office. Doing so helps me to keep a sense of purpose and seriousness, and it reminds me that I and my business must keep moving forward despite this crisis.

In order to keep things interesting, I have enjoyed experimenting with ways I can scale down the level of formality while continuing to wear a suit and tie everyday and I am wearing a lot more flannel suits, wool or cashmere ties, and suede shoes these days than I used to.

All the best, Andrew

Tommy Mack

Your last Lockdown Looks post inspired me to shake up my outfits. I had fallen into wearing my oldest, scruffiest clothes in rotation to “save” better stuff for the end of lockdown. I’ve still been buying clothes as I can’t resist a bargain: I’ve got over a dozen knitwear items still in their packets.

Two things occurred to me: 1. Here in the UK lockdown is lasting a lot longer than we’d hoped 2. Who do I dress for? Since I work from home, the answer is mainly myself.

With that in mind I’ve tried to have a bit more fun with my wardrobe (while keeping in mind the practicalities of living with two small children!)

Also, after suffering with (very mild) psoriatic arthritis in my hands and feet for a few years, I’d been advised to wear soft-soled sneakers but now things happily seem to be stabilising, I’m enjoying wearing smarter shoes again.

I’m still “saving” a few things for after lockdown. I desperately need new jeans but after my current Wranglers went through in less than a year, I’ve decided to upgrade my denim (I live in jeans in the autumn/winter so should invest in something that looks better and lasts longer) but I’ve decided to wait until I can visit Blackhorse Rd and/or Rivet & Hide to try on rather than take my chances with mail order.

Peter Hall

I’ve dressed everyday-although permanently at home. I’m wearing ,and testing, my summer combinations-enjoying my linen trousers and chinos. Spending the time to buff up my derbies and oxfords to military standards – has been a real pleasure and, well… good quality socks…A revelation. Plenty of time for all those odd needlework tasks..a loose thread, a repaired hem.
I really wish things were different , but slow life has brought new . I have bought very little, appreciating what I have.

Dr Peter

Excellent topic. I have spent time during the Covid period writing and reading rather more than I would have otherwise. And working on my stamp collection. I have also spent a fair bit of time shopping for vintage clothes in thrift shops, picking up quite a number of interesting garments in very good condition and at very reasonable prices. Most enjoyable.

Like you, Simon, I have a love of outerwear and I now have close to a dozen overcoats and topcoats in styles and materials that would cost a fortune to buy new — in fact, some of those materials and styles may simply not be available new. Thrift shops also afford me the opportunity to test out colour and material combinations that I have not worn before. Plenty of Ivy style clothes around as well.


I think in your case its different because what you describe is your hobby and your job. For most of us here, it’s just a hobby. I think I’m in the club described in the opening paragraph. partly because I’m a new parent and time pressured…and partly because there is no reason to wear a nice suit, watch and expensive perfume. I have had tried to keep the hobby alive and enjoyed breaking into raw jeans, discovering drawstring trousers and the comfort of loose relaxed clothing. I guess the fact I’m reading and commenting on this means the interest is still alive. That said, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my lockdown time playing with my toddler, finding new recipes to try and playing music. I’m loving wfh life…but it would be good to find a balance so I can exercise my menswear hobby a bit more.


I really enjoyed this post. Thank you. I had a pair of Levi’s Lot 1s made about 6 years ago and this is the first chance I have had to wear them consistently. They just lost that new jean look. I am rotating them with a pair of 16oz Railcar jeans (check those out Simon). Their dark indigo is coming on more slowly, but they are much softer and pleasant to wear. I am impressed with your lockdown footwear. I am in the country and working from my garden office. It has underfloor heating, but I still get cold. I wear Quoddy bluchers up to the shed and their dorm boots inside (permanently unstylish). I have been enjoying wearing knitwear in summer colours under darker cardigans, which looks smart on Zoom. Every loose button now replaced, every shoe shining, every sock darned, every jumper has been up to Love Cashmere and back (some twice). You need to set some more kit care homework.


I think the loss of interest in clothes is because clothes are worn for an occasion and in lockdown there is no sense of occasion.

More interestingly moving forward I think with ‘campus workings’ (going into the office only a 2/3 times a week) being feted as the new normal it will be interesting to see how people dress .
Personally, I think campus working will mean that going to the office will be a occasion to dress up .

Furthermore , with fewer days in the office this could mean fewer ‘outfits’ needed and the more reason to “pay more , but less”.


I would really agree with Robin.

I miss wearing more formal clothes, and have always dressed for ‘myself’ in recent years, as my work has been part home working anyway. I had the opportunity to wear a suit and tie to a meeting recently and it felt very nice to do so.

What I do need to do is stop reaching for the same chinos / shirt / jumper combination most days.

My birthday present (at the weekend) was a Drakes shawl cardigan and I can see me wearing that way too often!

Gary Mitchell

Its more about personal standards than ‘standards’ and as you say, we all get through this as best we can with no reflection on our fellow man. Like you (even on another continent) fitness regimes remain a constant, although changed as does clothing, again albeit changed. I even find myself cranking up (or is that down) the AC so its cool enough to wear woollens or leathers in the apartment. I can generally find a silver lining in any cloud and this one was no different, I would rather in not have happened but I have enjoyed experimenting and researching and changing slightly, in many ways it posed the fun problem of dressing relaxed but not over casual and I am happy to have found some new styles because of it. I am sure we will return to the old norm, already I am sneaking ties back into my working day once or twice a week, All in all and considering the shittiness of it all, I have found the time enjoyable because the alternative is just not something I would consider. As for purple socks and brown suede, I am wearing exactly that today and it will no doubt appear again this week 2 or 3 times.


While I’ve found my interest in clothing has remained high (browsing and saving on Instagram, reading PS, still purchasing items here and there), I’m afraid that on a day to day basis I’ve thrown the towel in and have been living in sweats for the vast majority of this time. I have got properly dressed on occasion but actually found this made me feel worse as it contributed to the yearning to be out and about properly.
The debate on how we’ll dress post-pandemic is very interesting though, while many seem to think (not unreasonably) that it will provide a further impetus to dressing more casually and make suit and tie wearing even less common, on a personal basis I can anticipate going the other way and getting dressed up at any opportunity.


Just love that the high and the low can now peaceably coexist.


“How clothing kept me sane” certainly embodies my feelings for the last year. The pandemic has removed so many of our usual pursuits from our lives. During that time, my interest and knowledge of clothing has substantially expanded. Central to that has been Permanent Style, and my tastes have become very centered around the principles promoted on this site. Thank you Simon – and all the PS team – for the escapism your content offers as well as for the exceptional resource and educational value.


Hi Simon,
A very timely post to brighten up a dull grey Monday morning in London. I too have been looking on line and on my daily walks at clothing combinations and looks. My wife and I usually walk together most days and enjoy spotting the ‘looks’ around the London common near where we live.
Neither of us have purchased much this year. Tending (as you have) to try out different combinations and a few basic alterations completed by my local dry cleaners, enjoying what we have. I am going to try EDO’s look, all of the items which I have except the bandana, so with a navy bandana that I have instead . I’ve stayed away from tracksuits ( I don’t have an issue with them though) wearing mainly jeans and experimenting with tops. I’ve mentioned before the physiological comfort from some clothes – you’ve mentioned boots – for me a well worn Belstaff waxed jacket, so much so as there’s a hole worn in the lining and all the better for it.
One point you touched on is routine which I believe has been vitally important for mental health in the past year. For me a short workout on a spare yoga mat borrowed from my wife (I really miss my daily swim which I have done for the last 5 years though!), a longish walk and some cooking.
Whilst I think lockdown has been less hard for us as we are both retired. We have benefited from routine essentially since we both retired over 3 years ago, so we have learnt from experience.
I really would recommend routine. It’s important not to slip into a rut. Keep up personal rituals such as shaving every day or similar, and try to watch your health and weight – if only so you can wear more formal investment pieces one day!
Finally coming together on posts such as yours is also something which I think is of benefit to your readers. Thanks Simon and long may it continue.


Hello Simon,
Thank you for this nice article. I would like to ask you about your Sagan Lunes, that you mention, since I was considering to buy a pair. Are they comfortable as house slippers, worth their cost and would you take your usual size?

A Mano

Hi Simon,

Which color of the Stoffa knit did you order?


Back in December 2019/January 2020, I decided to redo my wardroom, and discovered Permanent Style ! A new job and going back to school made me want to refresh my style. So I went down the rabbit hole again, bought a Bridge Coat, new shoes, etc., and then Covid hit. But I still kept buying new clothes and trying out new things. To me it’s been a good time to buy clothes and experiment with style, because: 1) It creates a semblance of normalcy. 2) There’s an element of hope of looking forward to doing social events where I can dress up and wear those jackets, etc. Plus, it’s been a good time to also wear raw denim every day and work on that fade…

Alex M

Wonderful article Simon – thank you

The key point for me – having “a sense of purpose” and the benefit this has on mental health

Like others, having PS through the past year or so has been invaluable


Great to hear you’re still taking pleasure from clothes Simon. I wish I could say otherwise but, like some other fellow readers, I’ve definitely let my standards slip and probably wear sweats at least 3-4 times a week at the moment. I’m sure it’s partly to do with becoming a father, but also I think Robin hit the nail on the head saying, “with lockdown there’s no sense of occasion”. Try as I might, it just felt silly to get dressed up to go sit in a room in front of a computer screen all day. Why deny yourself the comfort when nobody is going to see you anyway.

That said, I haven’t *totally* given up; I still get great pleasure from new staples like superfine cotton sweats from Zimmerli, PS polo shirt and chunky shawl collar cardigan. Or well-worn in chinos paired with cotton sweatshirts. But honestly, it’s hard to be as excited about them as all the possibilities of tailoring. The end of lockdown can’t come soon enough!


I thought that maybe I was the only weirdo who saved images from posts or from Pinterest, etc. to inspire looks based on my own existing wardrobe. I have been doing this for a few years, but have started doing it more throughout the past year as I’ve attempted to better manage both my existing wardrobe & new purchases. I find that it has helped me to refine my style, and to help me figure out ways to wear some of my more formal items while stuck at home. Thank you for helping me (and others, I’m sure) to realize that we are, in fact in good weirdo company.


Hi Simon
A really timely article. Really resonated with me, but perhaps in a different manner than one would imagine. Whilst I’ve taken more of an interest in clothing and knowledge via PS than ever (reader John articulated this brilliantly in the comments above) you’d never know that looking at me day to day. Hear me out Simon…
I have resorted to a sporting uniform of Nike and Uniqlo throughout lockdown as what has kept me personally focussed (and sane) has been an effort to remain as fit as possible – perhaps to try and get fitter than ever- whilst having 2 young children to handle. I can draw parallels with your friend and his food resolution. I utilise any snatched moments between work calls/children to get out for a run/do some circuits/anything. Being prepped in sporting gear has made sure I can maximise any spare seconds and puts me in the right mindset.
In parallel this period has given me a chance to focus on wardrobe curation – with the PS ethos at the heart of it. I’ve had clear outs galore and curated a more capsule-led and refined collection in preparation to utilise the garments in full anger when we come out the other side. It’s just laser focused the important elements (to me) and really honed in what I want to target with my wardrobe expansion. Less. But more.
So whilst you’d look at me and think my interest in all things PS related were at an all time low, it’s actually quite the opposite. I suppose these things all manifest themselves differently in each of us.
Thanks again Simon for the continued enjoyment you bring.


Thanks for the article Simon. I am not sure why but I have been referring back to my folders of saved photos of clothing and other topics I enjoy really frequently. To your point it has helped keep me “sane” and provided comfort. Dressing up to get the Weekend FT and a coffee !! A small pleasure. Maybe to Dostoevsky’s quote, beauty is our salvation.


Hi Simon,

I understand what you mean but from my perspective and somebody working in healthcare and got infected by covid and got really sick….. what should keep you sane is the thought that you have a job and your health ect.
Being bored.. I understand, it sucks but try to realise everyday that you don’t have to work in those awefull conditions in the hospital and that you can work comfortably from home for example.
Things like that…

Sorry for sounding like this but like you mentioned in one of you posts “Clothing is not important” I think a situation like the covid 19 pendemic points that out even more. There are so many people that have a hard time right now. Thinking about clothing and being able to spend money on clothing is a luxury on it self during these times. Personally I don’t need something like that to keep me going/sane..

No hard feelings here I just think that that should be pointed out and missed it in your article.



I’ve got to say that as much as I browse this website not once have I felt compelled to take my shoes on a walk.


I’ve used lockdown to sort out my wardrobe. Inspired by that diminutive Japanese lady, Marie Kondo and her garment folding techniques, and having ordered several sets of pull out boxes, I’ve been amazed at the extra wardrobe and cupboard space I have been able to create, as well as now being able to see at a glance what I’ve got. I confess I have spent too much online with ‘The Rake’; ‘Privat White VC’; ‘Son of a Tailor’ and ‘Asphalte’ but have been really pleased with most of the remote purchases (and even in a pandemic it’s been easy to return what didn’t fit or match expectations). I even got one of those expensive Anderson & Sheppard safari jackets you reviewed, Simon, at 40% off through The Rake, though it is stuck in a wardrobe awaiting the time when some normality allows us to travel again. One great pleasure has been discovering the joy of thin merino wool t-shirts. You don’t overheat in them, they keep you warm and they can be bought for a very good price.


In The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle described a similar form of over spending as a form of addiction with a craving for happiness and validation underpinning it. During a pandemic and a lack of normality these emotions can be stretched. A defined purpose is the best way to overcome it.


50 wears and only two washes on a pair of cotton jeans ?

Keith taylor

Where I live we managed to keep the virus out until last November so we’ve only been through the frustrating lockdown/relaxation/back to lockdown cycle for three months. For most of last year our pubs were open, and I made such ready use of them that by the time we entered our first lockdown I’d found that, over the last couple of years, around 15lbs had crept virtually unnoticed onto my waist on top of the 175 that I consider a comfortable (or at least achievable and sustainable) weight for my height.

The day we went into lockdown I began to address this, and by the end of January I was back to 179lbs. What’s been keeping me sane is that with every pound I drop another item in my wardrobe has become available once more. My sweaters hang more as they should, without stretching over my belly with the stretched ribbed hem flipping up when I sit. My sewing machine has been dusted off so I can return the waists of my favourite trousers to their original circumference. The trousers themselves even hang better, as my natural waist has once again become the slimmest part of my torso, so I don’t have to awkwardly cinch them over my gut and fasten them beneath a chubby muffin top.

The biggest psychological boost, though, came when I fished out a forgotten navy Brioni blazer (a ‘might as well roll the dice’ $20 eBay find) that didn’t fit when I received it early last year. It spent the last 9 months or so balled up at the back of a drawer, and when I pulled it out with a view to donating it I found that it now fits perfectly, and after a quick pressing it looks like new. Thinking about the prospect of wearing it when the weather warms up fills me with the same joy I feel when I find unexpected money in my pocket 🙂


Simon, sorry for Q here, not sure where else to put it.

Is there anywhere in UK that does a fade & wash service for shirts? I have a couple of university stripes that I would wear a lot more if I could tone them down.

If not – would it be too brave of me to dump shirts in a bucket of bleach for an hour?


hmm ok… I also particularly love when I start to get fraying on collars etc and wish I could speed that up! A brutal washing regime might ensue for selected shirts


You old dog you


I have been working from the office everry single day since last March bar Fridays when I work from home ( and alwys have even before). I run a team of front line workers and have worn a suit and tie every day. My team used to ask me why and I told them that because that keeps me sane and in the right frame of mind. I even managed to get a new bespoke suit in this time and I wear this to the office every 2 weeks. For me nothing has really changed besides the trains being empty so i can get a seat and the City of London being completely devoid of human life. I do not dress up for my team who come to the office in jeans (usually they have to wear shirts, suits etc) but for myself and to show respect to the job and the service we are providing. My friends at first thought I was a bit odd but now more and more are saying they miss wearing suits and want to get our of their leisurewear.


I acknowledge the last 12-months have been difficult for many with loss comparable to a world war or medieval plague.

Notwithstanding, 2020 was the year I got into the shape of my life. I have never been so lean and fit and clothes just seem to wear better. It has rekindled my interest in the “most important unimportant” thing as someone calls it.

Losing 25% of my body weight (commencing in autumn 2019) and under going a “body re-composition” has required a complete wardrobe overhaul, which I started but I’m not expected to complete for a while yet.

Reading books and perusing sites like this, Instagram and Pinterest until my eyes burst has enlightened my decisions on what I need, want and equally don’t.

Each purchase has been deliberate following research and rejecting impulse. All this within a framework list of just 20 items of clothing and 6 for footwear – underscored by the constraint of a strict budget. This will include Bespoke, MTM, MTO, RTW and preloved items. My biggest issue has been finding clothing to fit my 29 inch waist (down from 40). Many places stop at 30 (which often is a 32 or bigger circumference!).

As I have gathered the odd item of clothing now and then, the fun has become one of trying them in different combinations sprinkled with an accessory to unlock heretofore hidden options – which is very satisfying. A secondary joy has been decluttering and raising funds to recycle.

It might be reverse psychology and the realisation of mortality but I am ready to hit the ground running when we finally emerge from our cocoons. A day I often visualise as a source for motivation. I sense widespread pent up emotion and jubilation ahead.

Finally, sites like PS continue to be a go-to for inspiration, entertainment and interaction in my journey. Thank you Simon. Thank you everyone.


This pandemic is nothing like as destructive as a war or medieval plague. People need to keep a sense of proportion.

Alex M

Also a good link to your article on medieval clothing Simon !


This is a great piece, well articulated. I find I’m much more structured in the way I dress now. Not as in structured garments, but as in structuring my activities through clothes. Like playing a part I play, I need to convince myself I not in a pajamas state of mind. So I’ll put on designated running cloths to run, then change to “training clothes” to lift weights or to bibs to ride the trainer. I’ll put aside weekend clothes for the weekend (and if not sure, I’ll consult guides such as the Weekend Capaule), to remind myself what day it is, and wear a jacket to even the most casual of dinners with friends or family. Workwear for working in the house, etc.. A bit sad, really. Like a stereotype of a man in search of meaning through rigid rules. If anything, I feel this time has made me more conservative and more literal with the way I dress. I wouldn’t be surprised if I am to wear morning dress in the mornings and dinner jackets for every dinner by the time this ordeal is done.


Amazing post, Simon! Thank you for the inspiration, both with ideas and the storytelling!

claus Lüpkes

Dear Simon,
such a wonderful post! Many many thanks.


I’ve also enjoyed maintaining old clothes as a pastime during these times. I’ve built a shoe wardrobe (from one of those modular IKEA series) so they’re now all in one place. I have spent considerable time cleaning, conditioning and polishing them. Given the amount of snow and ice here in Stockholm, I’ve mainly been wearing boots so most of those shoes will have to wait till spring to see the light of day. Nonetheless, I have to confess that every now and then I open the wardrobe to gaze at those lovely shoes!

Initials CG

Glad I’m not the only one ! I get strange looks from the woman when she catches me pouring over pictures of suits or shoes on the computer. “Shoe porn, again?” She chides. “Just trying to get ideas on how to dress up or down my new suit for spring summer,” I try to sound all confident like. To which she points out that with my new linen suit, I will look like a walking banana!
Yeah, it is a vintage Irish linen- the heavier kind in a… well, banana color. So I’ve been looking for ideas on how to make it less flamboyant for the post covid casual renaissance.
I dunno but I gotta feeling ties will still be around despite this pandemic. The tie has survived worse ….
The real horror is scrolling through Pinterest. While there are some wonderful photos of the well dressed, I notice they’re usually the same bunch (you too, Simon). The rest-the majority of pictures are really weird, or just horrid. Someone should really intervene before it gets out of hand!


Good article but then again I find all of them enjoyable..enjoy your day….