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The origins of the blue shirt

It was springtime, about five years ago, and thunderstorms and tornado warning weather had taken over the city. I worked downtown, and we had lots of sporadic power outages due to the weather, sometimes for hours at a time. Life at the office would grind to a halt due to the power outages, and everyone would simply stand around and talk until the lights came back on.

On one of those days, I had just read an article about Steve Jobs and how he wore generally the same outfit every day. That article discussed the theories as to why he made that choice: that he wore the same thing every day to pursue simplicity and to free up time and mental energy so he could be more creative. During one of those stand-around, lights-out conversations with co-workers, I brought up the article. My co-workers thought that it made no sense at all to wear the same thing every day and that only a nut would do something like that. But for some reason it resonated within me.


What resonates inside you?

As the people around me declared aloud how strange it would be to wear the same thing every day, I started quietly plotting in my brain how I could accomplish it. Over the years, I had realized that I really enjoyed wearing a certain blue shirt to work. On days where I wore that blue shirt, I liked how I looked, and I felt more confident and often moved into a more productive zone. I loved this idea of making things simpler and freeing up more time to do and think about things other than my wardrobe.

In that moment, I realized that I could buy multiple shirts like my favorite blue shirt and test out the idea. And the rest is history — I’ve been wearing blue shirts to work for 5 years now. It took all those naysayers about six months to realize that I was wearing the same shirt every day, and initially it was a great novelty and joke, but over time, it’s simply become my normal.

The blue shirt

People jokingly ask if I wear the exact same shirt every day. It’s not the exact same actual shirt, but I do wear the exact same brand/style and color of shirt every day. I own about 15 of them at this point. My closet looks much like that of the cartoon character Charlie Brown. Blue, blue and more blue. As the shirts age and fade or get worn, I have to swap them out with newer shirts, but it’s always the same blue of the same brand, style and cut. I’ve thought about contacting the manufacturer to cut an endorsement deal; if you know anyone in marketing at Jos. A. Bank, have them get in touch.

Why did it stick?

Why did I do this and why did it stick? Honestly, the reason is because it felt right deep inside for some reason. I couldn’t really explain why it felt right, but it just seemed like it was something I must try. I’ve recently started digging deeper and asking why it felt right. What about the simplicity, what about the freeing up of my time and my mental space resonated?

As I’ve worked through this thought process, I think a big reason this shirt choice works for me is that I don’t want to be about what I perceive to be frivolous. You may not think clothing choices are frivolous, but in my life, standing in my closet, staring at clothes and making choices of colors and styles feels like a waste of my time. I want to be about more than that. I want to do things that matter and want to spend my time doing real things and building real relationships that will have an impact, and for me, it helps to not spend too much time thinking about my clothes.

Back when I made this shirt choice, I realized that, for the most part, no one really cares what I wear day to day, and no one will remember what I wore yesterday. What’s ironic is that now that I wear the same thing every day, people seem to remember what I wore yesterday more than ever. But what they’re actually remembering is that I wear the same color shirt every day. Some of them don’t quite understand that, but for others, it makes a little sense to them and makes them wonder why.

Why do certain things connect?

This is a very small example of paying attention to why you do the things you do and why certain things connect with you at a deeper level. We’re each unique, and thoughts and ideas connect differently with each of us, but we should be paying attention to why things resonate. I changed one thing I do every day to more reflect on a daily basis how I view the world and what I find important. I did it and continue to do it because I believe there are more important things to think about than what I wear every day. That reflects something very basic about my worldview and what I want to be about in this life.

There’s a TED talk out there featuring Simon Sinek called “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.” It is very popular and is one of the most widely viewed TED talks. The ideas in that video have been a revolutionary thought process for me. Sinek’s ideas have helped me look at myself and my place in the world differently.

The Start with Why video led me to hunt down more information on Simon Sinek, and then I actually read his book Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action. I encourage you to do the same. Don’t just watch the TED talk. Read the book Start With Why and dig into his ideas on both a personal and professional level. He is onto something, and I respect his pursuit of helping people answer the important questions of what drives us and moves us forward.

Seek out and pay attention to what’s driving you

There’s more to life than just the day-to-day of what we wear and what we eat and the like, but we spend so much time on those things. And there’s more to this life than just making it through one day to get to the next. Maybe it’s time to pay attention to your WHY – that thing deep inside that drives why you do what you do the way you do it. You can go to work every day, but without paying attention to your WHY, you’re just producing widgets and burning energy without a clear understanding of purpose.

Understanding your WHY will help you understand how you, in your own individual way, can change the world. It will help you work better, create better, connect with people better and live out your unique way. It will ultimately help you figure out how and what to do with your time, both big and small. For me, one small step was as simple as making the clothing choice to end all clothing choices. It will be different for you. But if you can figure out some of your why, how and what and refine your day-to-day (in the same way that my shirt choices have helped refine mine), and we inspire others to do the same, maybe together we can change the world, one refining choice at a time.


  1. When you view your life as a whole and look back over the defining successes and relationships in your life, what are some of the underlying emotions, drivers, and motivators that help you feel more confident in action and more ready to move forward, and that nudge you to seek a more fulfilled life?
  2. Knowing why you do things makes a huge difference in your decision-making day-to-day. Who in your life is best situated to help you sort through your thought processes and life choices and help you figure out the WHY that drives so many other things in your life?
  3. What is one small lifestyle choice that’s been lingering in your mind that might bring you one step closer to being what you want to be and to helping you do more of what you want to be doing?
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