(I am wearing an old sleeveless shirt, a worn out pair of athletic shorts and no shoes. My hair is disheveled and messy)
Hello everyone and thank you for listening to my speech. Since we mostly know each other already, I decided to introduce my clothes rather than my person.
Right now, I don’t think I’m wearing very nice clothes. My shirt is tacky, my shorts are unattractive and I’m not wearing any shoes. If I were to go to a job interview dressed this way, would you hire me? If I asked you for a date, would you agree to see me? If I went to a party, would you speak with me or, if we made a study group, would you think my contributions worthy of consideration?
I rather doubt it.
When I was 22 years old, my nicest clothes weren’t much better than what I’m wearing now. I wore second-hand socks, I bought my shirts from thrift stores and, sometimes, I stole the clothes left in locker rooms.
During that time, I remember feeling a continual sense of embarrassment. I remember people laughing at me, I remember the benign condescension of my rich acquaintances and, most of all, I remember hating other people an awful lot.
(I put on a nice, collared shirt and a pair of designer blue jeans.)
When I was 24, I came to Korea for the first time. With my first paycheck, I immediately purchased a $50 shirt, $30 worth of sashimi and the most expensive leather gloves I could find – unimaginable luxuries just a month before. I noticed how, suddenly, my interactions with other people changed. Where before I’d had to fight and claw for respect, my overpriced shirt and soft leather gloves meant that respect just sort of floated to me.
(I put on an expensive suit coat, fashionable Reebok shoes and matching fedora.)
Last year, I returned to the United States. I had a closet full of $50 shirts and $300 dollar jackets and, when I visited the same editors and publishers with whom I’d never previously been able to gain audience, I found the doors wide open. As if by magic, my opinions regarding literature and culture interested these people immensely. All of a sudden, my rich acquaintances wanted to me visit them at the country club.
Between the ages of 22 and 29, what actually changed? My personality is largely similar, as is my skill-set. I think, if you’re honest, you’ll say the biggest change was my packaging.
It won’t be long before you are conducting job interviews and deciding who to fire. You are already deciding whom you will grant admittance to your study groups and audience on your date nights. When you make these decisions, I would ask you look at more than clothing.
Special thanks to Profession Oh Yong-sun for editing the Korean version of this script.