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How To Get Dressed

9 Steps to Wardrobe Success

By: Aaron Rickel Jones + Save to a List

If the internet is good for one thing, it’s cat memes.

If it’s good for two things, it’s cat memes and informing people they’ve been doing simple tasks incorrectly their entire life. I don’t have any cat memes for you, but I do have some breaking news: YOU’VE BEEN GETTING DRESSED WRONG YOUR ENTIRE LIFE! That’s right, you may think you’ve been getting dressed correctly but you are in fact wrong. You have been lying to yourself.

Read on to discover the TRUTH about getting dressed.

1. Underwear
So far I imagine we’re all on the same page. You’ve stepped out of the shower as naked as the day you were born, dried off, and thought “hmm, what next?” If you’re planning on putting any clothes on at all, odds are you’ll be starting with underwear. Specifically, the bottom-half underwear. Whatever layering you’re about pile on top, chances are it will be difficult to get underwear on any later in the process. If you aren’t planning on putting any clothes on, you can go ahead and stop reading now. You are dressed.

If a situation somehow unfolded which required you to immediately drop everything and run for it, most people would be thankful to at least be wearing underwear. Let’s say your house caught fire or your camping partner got a fish on the line and needed you to bring them a net—and quick! It only makes sense to start with underwear. A notable exception is if you’re putting on a swimsuit, in which case swimsuit bottoms should be your first layer.

If you wear a bra, I would imagine this is also probably the best time to put it on, although I readily admit I don’t have firsthand experience in this department. Even so, I think prioritizing the bottom half is a fairly universally preferred level of nakedness.

2. Socks
After covering the necessary* bits, the next best thing to layer are socks—if you wear them at all. Why socks next? Let me answer that question with another question: have you ever tried to slip damp bare feet down the legs of slim-fit jeans? It’s possible, sure, but it doesn’t feel nice. Your toes catch the folds in the fabric and you’re left balancing on one foot shaking the other leg while tugging at your waistband like the hot mess that you are. Should’ve put socks on first so your feet could glide down the pant leg in one graceful motion, like a Kingfisher diving for a minnow.

Stylistic differences could even lead one to put socks on before underwear. Wild, I know. Let’s say you’re in a scenario where you put on one article of clothing then suddenly realize you only have time to put on one more article of clothing before you need to run for your life over rough terrain. If you’ve committed to underwear already, you’ll be SOL as you run for your life without having the opportunity to properly layer your footwear. If, however, you start with socks, you won’t miss a beat as you throw on your sneakers and make a run for it. Better safe than sorry.

*I mean, or not necessary, whatever floats your boat my friend.

3. Pants
Things get admittedly tricky at this point and greatly depend on the final layering system one is hoping to achieve. Don’t be dismayed, there is still a rational path forward. For a normal day where a single layer of pants or shorts are all you need on your leg-half, there is no question of your next step: don those leg coverings. You don’t yet have a shirt restricting your range of motion and inhibiting access to the zipper, buttons, and belt loops (if applicable). The absolute bottom line reason why pants should go on next is simple: pockets. Once again, if an emergency arises and you need to escape from your house with only the things you can carry, you’ll be happy to have pockets aiding in your mad dash.

If, however, you’re dressing for cold weather and wish to layer multiple leg-coverings, you should still start with your pants base layer but you’ll have to decide yourself whether you want your socks to end up inside or outside of this base layer.

If snow is involved, alternating layers where snow might end up inside your clothes is a smart call. In these rare instances, you must decide between socks before pants, with the mild inconvenience of rolling down the sock to flip it inside the base layer or pants before socks, with the mild inconvenience of fighting a damp foot down the pant legs. Follow your heart, it will show you the way through tough choices like these.

*If you’re putting on bibs for cycling (or pleasure), you’re in for a world of complications. Bibs are a unique fashion piece which act as both pants and a shirt. (However don’t use them as your only shirt. You won’t look cool, trust me.) You can often don bibs (sans underwear) right after putting on socks (again, for the foot-slippage-factor) but remember to save the shoulder straps until you’ve further considered your top-half layering. Do not place the straps over your jersey, that is not what they’re there for.

4. Shirt
At this point it may seem one is running out of options to consider, but be wary—there is still plenty of room for mistakes. You may think “hmm, my head is a bit chilly, time to put on a beanie” or “maybe another pair of jeans will complete this look” but you would be mistaken in both cases, my friend. The next step is a shirt. Again, always keeping in mind our simple mantra I may or may not have mentioned yet: base layers before outer layers. It may seem elementary but you wouldn’t believe how many people end up messing the whole thing up at this stage.

Don’t falter now. You’re almost there. Slip that T-Shirt over your rational head and move on to the finishing touches. The only exception to this rule is the sudden arising of an unforeseen emergency situation which necessitates the immediate addition of footwear to prepare for a hasty exit. (i.e. charging wild boars, approaching forest fire, etc.) In this case, forego the shirt, put on shoes, and run.

*If you’re caught up in a cycling bib layering nightmare, answering the question “how difficult will it be to pee if I put X on before X” is a good way to achieve clarity in your decision making process. When in doubt, revert to dealing with the bottom half before moving to the top half. This is a sound and systematic method to use as a baseline.

5. Outer Layers
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! There’s very little you can do wrong from here on out. There are, however, a few things to keep in mind to avoid any minor snags—figurative and literal. If you’re pulling a layer over your head like a sweater or turtleneck, MAKE SURE to do it BEFORE putting on a hat, beanie, or glasses. Any of these items will inhibit your progress and leave you frustrated and tangled.

Once again, channel your inner Drake and start from the bottom until you get there. Why make it harder to zip up ankle-vents by putting your puffy jacket on before bending down and dealing with your feet. Pants before jackets. Always.

6. Hats, glasses, etc.
If you’re still reading this, you truly are on the path to a higher consciousness of dressing. Many people would have given up their intention minutes ago, but not you. You want this to go PERFECTLY, and you won’t be disappointed. Simply follow the order below, omitting any accessories you aren’t planning on wearing.

Glasses/contacts > watch > neck gaiter > beanie > hat > necklace > bracelets > bluetooth earpiece > pager > wallet chain > backwards sunglasses over the hat > left earring > right earring > mask > paracord key fob > non-climbing belt loop carabiner > whistle/compass lanyard > reflective safety vest

You may be under the impression gloves go on in this step, but you my dear sheep have been led astray. Gloves are not an etc. they are gloves, and they make tying shoes extraordinarily difficult when they are on your hands.

7. Shoes
Shoes are dirty. Don’t wear them around your house, put them on right before you walk outside.

8. Gaiters
I’ve literally never worn gaiters before but according to the internet they go on the outside of your shoes. I guess that means they go on now.

9. Gloves
Gloves reduce human finger dexterity anywhere from 50% to 100%. Don’t make the mistake of putting these on before you’ve finished everything else. Everything. You will NOT be able to accomplish a single other thing that requires the use of your fingers after putting gloves on.

Mistakes are inevitable along this path, but you can now sleep easy knowing you have the tools necessary to succeed. Having the tools and using the tools, however, are not the same thing. It is now up to you to dress yourself correctly each and every day. And when you stumble, because some days you will, simply remember you should have put socks on before trying to stuff your damp foot down the leg of your jeans and get back up again.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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