KahnJunction: Diving Headfirst Into A Sea of Low Expectations

Photo credit: Moody Air Force Base

It’s been over a month since my roommates have been cloistered in our apartment. When not thinking of new and creative ways to not kill each other, my time has been spent wallowing in our basement watching embarrassing amounts of Always Sunny in Philadelphia or playing hours beyond counting ability of Call of Duty.  

This week’s KahnJunction, nonetheless, is the follow up to three weeks ago when I preached the gospel of getting up and dressing in a way that makes you feel good. 

It would be an understatement to say that I was diving headfirst into a sea of low expectations. Maybe, I thought to myself, I’d get some more followers on Insta. Or, perhaps, an additional reader of KahnJunction.

Nonetheless, I began my week-long challenge of getting up and dressed– in more than just sweat pants and a hoodie, that is. 

Every morning, Leonard (yes, the editor-in-chief who happens to be my roommate) and I would lay out my clothing and have a photoshoot. It’s basically been Instagram influencer orientation.

My attempt to incorporate multiple styles has been a journey with stops at destinations like business casual to street wear to the outfit I later went jogging in. 

Almost immediately, I noticed a change. Posting my outfits online caused a significant change in my life.

For the first time in years, I was beating my alarm clock to get out of bed before 7AM. I was beginning to put a dent in the sleep debt racked up from the copious amounts of Always Sunny and Call of Duty. But, it was more than sleep. I began taking walks, cooking, writing, and cooking, all for pleasure. I even took up running again, although you shouldn’t expect me in a marathon anytime soon. 

In my last piece, I expressed concern that those of us practicing social distancing are not taking our physical and mental health and well-being seriously enough amidst being trapped in our houses or apartments. For those of us fortunate enough to work from home, it seems that the lines between work and home have become extremely blurred. This is a challenging reality to embrace, but after a week of working from home, I am challenging you to do the same as I have done: post your outfits or find something to do with regularity that motivates you to get out of your bed. 

I never would have believed that dressing better would have such an impact on my mental and physical health. 

Recently, a friend asked,  “How will you come out of coronavirus better?” 

For days, I have reflected on this. Coronavirus has taught me the importance of good health and adopting a healthy lifestyle beginning with habits like good sleep, exercise, and strong work/life balance. 

So far, 2020 has sucked. Neil Pert is dead. My apartment’s rent has gone up. Not to mention that we’re in a global pandemic ten times worse than the deadliest flu or H1N1

 2020, however, still has potential to not be your worst year (so far). 2020 can be the year you finally decide to start dressing in a way that makes you happy. 2020 can be the year that you decide to learn how to cook. 2020 can be the year that you learn a new language or skill.

The year is far from over. These next few months will be clouded with much uncertainty but we should all be certain that we become the best version of ourselves that we can be. 

Benjamin Kahn is a senior writer at the UB Post. He writes a weekly column, KahnJunction.

KahnJunction: Just What The Doctor Ordered

One of the many variations of Benjamin Kahn’s telecommute uniform. Credit: Benjamin Kahn, UB Post.

First, it came for the toilet paper. Suppliers were caught empty-handed with their pants down  before more could be rolled out. Then, it came for our jobs and, all of a sudden, like the partner who forgot that anniversary, people all over America found themselves living on the couch. 

Now, in our final hours, COVID-19 is coming for America’s ability to give a shit. 

No, I’m not still talking about the toilet paper. 

It’s even worse: it has come for the enthusiasm and passion of American workers. Non-essential personnel all over the country find themselves in self-isolation, and have been told not to leave their house or apartment unless absolutely necessary. This has taken a toll on all of us.

With these quarantines, unforeseen problems are beginning to reveal themselves. One issue that isn’t garnering enough attention, however, is style. I know what you’re thinking, “Ben, how I dress is literally the last thing on my mind–it’s just me, my cat, and my 70 rolls of stockpiled toilet paper in my apartment–why should I care about how I dress?” 

I’m so glad you asked.

I’ve been just like you, for the past month or so, navigating the world of telecommuting.  Believe it or not, I do have a real job–surprisingly, writing a weekly piece for a college paper does not cover rent. Every morning I get up, put a t-shirt on, slide into some sweatpants, and slip on my slippers (if I’m feeling bougie). I then go and sit in front of my laptop for 7-8 hours and wish I was doing basically anything but exactly what I’m doing. I slowly feel the ability to give a shit slipping from my grasp.

Prior to the pandemic, going to work involved a commute to Washington via MARC train with a 16 or so odd block walk to the office. My morning prep routine was more complicated (and longer): wake up, suit and tie, trainers (Oxfords are under my desk at work), lengthy commute, and sitting at my desktop for 7-8 hours and wishing I was doing anything but exactly what I was doing. 

But guess what? During this time, I felt like I had a purpose.

Notice the only habits I am repeating are what I find to be the worst part of my work day–the actual work. 

Now with telecommuting, my walk to and from work is gone limiting my exercise.  Unless I make a special effort (or my roommates chase me out the door), I’m not really getting any fresh air. 

Also, the suit and tie are out the window and while I never enjoyed dressing formally for work, it gave me something to be proud of. Putting together an outfit is something I enjoy–from the suit to the belt, shoes, and a nice pair of cufflinks⸺that’s the stuff I enjoy showing off. 

Research from more than 10 years back illustrates that your work outfit DOES impact your mood. So, during this time when the lines between home and work are becoming more blurred than ever, for the love of G-d, please put some effort into your outfits now! 

Look, virtually no one enjoys self-isolation. Take it from me, a guy who started self-isolating a month before his state instituted it and has stared into the abyss of loneliness to only notice it looking back. 

Consider the following a prescription for the rest of the pandemic:

  1. Stay inside. 
  2. Wash your hands. 
  3. Don’t touch your face. 
  4. Dress to impress. 

Don’t worry, I’ll actually practice what I preach. 

For the next few weeks, I’m going to be posting a photo of my outfit every day, and I challenge you to do the same. Check me out on Instagram, and start posting your own outfits!

Benjamin Kahn is a senior writer at the UB Post. He writes a weekly column, KahnJunction.

Bye Bye, Necktie

Andrew Yang. Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before–what did the shirt say to the tie? “You’re antiquated and do not belong in a professional setting nearly as much as gatekeeping elitists think you do.” Classic. 

On June 27, 2019, former presidential candidate Andrew Yang stood on stage in Miami, Florida, for the first Democratic debate of the 2020 Election. He stood there without a tie. The move provoked the ire of Brian Williams and led to the ascension of Yang’s missing tie to meme-status. It fascinated me that an act as seemingly benign as eschewing a necktie could elicit such an intense response. As Americans, are ties an indispensable facet of our professional discourse? Can we simply not function without them? I would say no. In fact, I would argue that the age of the required necktie should come to a close.

The internet is awash with clips of good samaritans aiding Millenials and members Gen-Z tie ties. Most people describe these videos as heart warming–or they say something like, “this restores my faith in humanity,” but to me, these videos reveal a more serious truth: The de facto requirement of neckties is another layer of unnecessary gatekeeping that disincentivizes both young and lower-class people in particular from participating in professional and formal settings. The simple fact of the matter is that one can dress professionally without the added complexity of a necktie hanging them up (no pun intended). 

It was refreshing to see Andrew Yang appear on a stage in front of millions of Americans with the implicit message, “You do not need a tie to be taken seriously.” When Yang visited then-President Barack Obama in the White House he arrived without a tie. One of Obama’s staffers removed his tie and gave it to Yang to wear, which he did. It seems ridiculous that Obama would be offended by Yang’s lack of a tie, but Westerners, Americans in particular, seemed to have it ingrained in their psyche that not wearing a tie is somehow unprofessional.  

For my woke readers out there, I will present another argument for why you ought not to wear a necktie. You may not know this, but neckties are successors of the cravat–an ascot-like neckband that was the height of fashion in Europe some three hundred years ago. The word “cravat” is actually a bastardization of the Croatian word for Croat, “Hrvat.” The Hrvats were a Croatian mercenary troop hired by the French emperor as auxiliary soldiers. So, by wearing a necktie, what you’re really doing is appropriating Croatian Mercenary Culture. You should be ashamed of yourself. 

Unlike Americans, Iranians typically do not wear neckties. Sure, there are those out there who will tell you that they do this symbolically to show that they are throwing off their perceived oppression by the west. Some will even tell you that there is a nationwide ban on the accessory because it is deemed “unIslamic.” But I’ll tell you the truth–Iranians have figured out the neckties are just confusing bullshit that should have been left to Croatian mercenaries, not a 22 year old car salesman dependent on his commission to keep the lights on.

I look at neckties the same way I look at wristwatches, or cufflinks, or any other accessory. Yes, they can look nice, but they are by no means required to look professional. Just look at billionaire Mark Cuban–unless you google, “Mark Cuban necktie,” you probably will have a difficult time finding a picture of Mark Cuban in a necktie. Even when you do google “Mark Cuban necktie,” you’re greeted with more photos of him without a necktie. This is all to say that ties are not earmarks for professionalism and success. They are overly complicated pieces of fabric stuck out of time, and thrust upon western men of all walks of life; from the lowly interns navigating coffee orders to the stock broker doing line equations with his fellow dude-bros, every man will find himself in a situation where he is required to look in the mirror and don a tie.

Indeed, it is time to close the door on this accessory. Maybe, even slam it.

Benjamin Kahn is a senior writer at the UB Post. He writes a weekly column, KahnJunction.

Four Items for Four Looks

Wanna change your look? 

Here’s four suggestions based on four personality types and items to help you get there. 

The Dad

Saturdays are for Costco runs. Your New Balance sneakers just arrived in the mail. Your response to, “I’m hungry,” is, “Hi, Hungry.” If these statements apply to you, consider the following. 

Starts at $9.25 on Amazon.
$18.99 from Costco
Starts at $21.25 on Amazon
Starts at $38.34 on Amazon

Eviscerate the other fathers at the neighborhood barbecue with this reasonably priced and stylish ensemble. You will earn the coveted title of “World’s Best Dad” when you step on the scene looking like you walked off the set of HBO’s Silicon Valley. 

The Dude-Bro 

Saturdays are for the boys. You watch stocks during class but you don’t really know what any of those funny numbers mean. You told that girl she’d look better if she smiled more, because she would. You probably already dress like this.

Starts at $6.06 on Amazon
Starts at $13.63 on Amazon
Starts at $15.48 on Amazon
Starts at $37.99 on Amazon

Nothing quite says, “Do you know who my father is? What’s your name and badge number?” like a pair of loafers. Cover your drinks ladies, it’s the Dude Bro. 

Mr. Street Smart

Saturdays are everyday. Bank account on E. Shows up to class toasted. 

$9 from Thread    
$35 from Thread 
$72 from Thread
$52 from Thread

If it looks like you could have paid $50 for your outfit, but you actually shelled out more than $100, you are Mr. Street Smart.

Heaven’s Gate Cultist

Saturdays are for Earth being recycled. You live an ascetic lifestyle. You respond to “I’m hungry,” with, “Hi Hungry, are you ready to graduate to the next level?”

Starts at $8.35 on Amazon
Starts at $11.09 on Amazon
Starts at $63.80 on Amazon
$10 on Etsy

Who knew that graduating to a higher plane of existence could be achieved on such a modest budget.

Benjamin Kahn is a staff writer at the UB Post. He writes a weekly column, KahnJunction.

KahnJunction: Follow These Rules (Or Don’t) At Your Own Risk

Even the most uptight of dandies broke a rule or two. But, the rules in this article simply should never be broken or at least without the most severe social consequences for the rule breaker. Maybe someone will even call the fashion police? Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Continue reading “KahnJunction: Follow These Rules (Or Don’t) At Your Own Risk”