“Better Off Naked.” Why Do People Worry So Much About What They Wear?

No more dress code stress!

Erik P.M. Vermeulen, PhD
3 min readFeb 25, 2022


Photo courtesy of author

A roomful of horrified faces. All staring at me. Complete silence. Was that a suppressed giggle?

Has he done that on purpose? A bold fashion statement, maybe? It can’t be a mistake. Can it? Didn’t he read the dress code?

The crowd has spoken.

The only tuxedo in sight. A major fashion blunder. The stuff of nightmares.

Thirty minutes earlier, in the car. I am discussing the situation with my wife. Wriggling uncomfortably in the most ridiculous piece of clothing ever invented, the bow tie.

“I have a feeling that I am overdressed.”

“Oh please, quit complaining,” my wife said. “It’s your fault you lost the invitation. You should be more careful next time.”

We knew the time and place but couldn’t remember the dress code. Was it “black tie” or something less formal?

“And it’s certainly better than being underdressed. Or, would you be happier buck naked?”

It was clear that she was having fun.

Then serious.

“Women go through this all the time.”

Before sympathy kicked in.

“And even if you are wrong, get rid of the bow tie and unbutton the collar of your shirt. A bit of fashion magic. Instant smart casual. Problem solved.”

I wasn’t convinced that ditching the tie would help. It would only make me “the guy that doesn’t understand fashion codes.” And no one wants to be that guy.

The oppressive summer heat and humidity completed the traumatic scene. The world was closing in on me.

Usually, I don’t mind being the center of attention. But on my terms. That night, I would have preferred to blend into the crowd.

No one wants to be the object of the crowd’s derision. The fool of the evening.

I will never forget my shortest party ever.

Living in a Material World

I’ve always struggled with the “what should I wear today?” question.



Erik P.M. Vermeulen, PhD

Prof (Law) | Sci-fi | Sociological storytelling