A short story by Haruki Murakami, from the book Murakami Radio.
I was going through my closet recently and discovered that, sure enough, I own five suits along with about 20 ties. I stood there trying to remember when I’ve actually worn these suits, but I could only come up with a single occasion in the last three years, and I’ve barely worn these ties more than that. So why do I own these suits? I was baffled, and they’re my own suits! Ok, I thought, all adults are supposed to own a couple suits. You just… need one sometimes, and you have to have a different one for each season. But I refuse to wear a suit when I’m “supposed to,” and I don’t even need them for work.
Suddenly I remembered. When I turned 40 I said to myself, “You’re no longer a young man, Haruki. You’ve got to look and act respectable.” I ordered some suits and bought dress shoes. I was living in Rome at the time where beautiful suits are available at reasonable prices and there are lots of opportunities to go out on the town in nice clothes. In Italy they’ll seat you at the worst table in the house if you don’t show up to a restaurant in exquisite clothing. People are judged on their appearance in Italy. Your personality and intelligence have little to do with how you’re perceived. First and foremost is how you look, so everyone dresses smartly. There’s something I admire about the gallantry of it all, but it wasn’t my favorite.
I moved back to Japan and before I knew it I was back in slacks in sneakers. I completely forgot about the suits and the ties and the dress shoes. I’m hopeless.
I don’t think people ever change that much no matter how many experiences they have over the years. Something big will happen and they’ll say, “Alright, today is the day things will change!” with all the resolve in the world. And yet when that something fades away, the vast majority of people in the vast majority of situations will gradually go back to the way things were, like memory foam, or a turtle crawling its way back into its hole. All that determination is ultimately nothing but a waste of precious energy. That’s how I felt as I stood in front of suits I’ve barely worn and ties without a single wrinkle. But people are strange: just when you decide that it’s fine to stay the way you are, you begin to change.
Alright, so my most memorable suit was the olive colored cotton one I wore to the Gunzo magazine award ceremony 20 years ago when I won “Best Newcomer.” I didn’t own any suits so I had to run over to a shop called VAN in Aoyama and pick one up from the bargain bin. I paired it with my casual white sneakers. I felt like I was about to embark on a new life. Did life really change? Well, I guess you could say my new life began, but nothing was that much different than my life before. It’s hard to express.