Momentum Podcast: 217
Whats With Your Clothes?
by Alex Charfen
This is a little bit of different podcast episode around a question that I get asked quite a bit. Like why do I dress the way I do? In fact last week, I was on a podcast with Nick Bearly and he did an interview with me. And he posted on Facebook “I'm interviewing Alex Charfin tomorrow. What questions do you have for him?” And there was a lot of questions. I'll share a few more of them later. But one that came up was what's with the clothes? And the shoes? And it's funny because it's a topic that comes up pretty often.
I often get asked, “Why do you dress the way you do?” Years back a certain event triggered me on a quest for function over fashion. I’ve put a lot of research into why I wear what I do and I’d love to share it with you.
Full Audio Transcript
I'm Alex Charfin and this is The Momentum Podcast. Made for empire builders, game changers, trail blazers, shot takers, record breakers, world makers, and creators of all kinds. Those among us who can't turn it off and don't know why anyone would want to. We challenge complacency, destroy apathy, and we are obsessed with creating momentum so we can roll over bureaucracy and make our greatest contribution. Sure, we pay attention to their rules. But only so that we can bend them, break them, then rewrite them around our own will. We don't accept our destiny, we define it. We don't understand defeat because you only lose if you stop. And we don't know how. While the rest of the world strives for average and clings desperately to the status quo, we are the minority. The few who are willing to hallucinate there could be a better future. And instead of just daydreaming of what could be, we endure the vulnerability and exposure it takes to make it real. We are the evolutionary hunters. Clearly the most important people in the world because entrepreneurs are the only source of consistent, positive human evolution. And we always will be.
What's with your clothes? This is a little bit of different podcast episode around a question that I get asked quite a bit. Like why do I dress the way I do? In fact last week, I was on a podcast with Nick Bearly and he did an interview with me. And he posted on Facebook "I'm interviewing Alex Charfin tomorrow. What questions do you have for him?" And there was a lot of questions. I'll share a few more of them later. But one that came up was what's with the clothes? And the shoes? And it's funny because it's a topic that comes up pretty often.
In fact, just this weekend, I was at the racetrack at Coda here in Austin. It's Circuit of the Americas. My friend Mike Dillard was in a Porsche race and we went over to watch him. Which he actually podiumed. It was awesome. And went one two in his division. Or he and his friend Brett went one two in his division. But it was just awesome to watch. Anyway, I was there and I was hanging out with Alex and Layla Hormosi and we were talking to somebody about when we all got together and Alex Hormosi even said "Yeah you know when we first started working with Alex, Layla was the one who wanted to." And he made it clear Layla was the one who wanted to. And he even shared the dialogue. He said Layla said to him "Hey you know I think we really wanna work with Alex Charfin" and Alex said "You mean the guy with the glasses and the weird shoes?"
So I want you to understand something. The way I dress has nothing to do with trying to be cool. In fact, for most of my life, I tried that. You know I tried to wear clothes that made me feel better. I tried to wear clothes that made me look better. I tried to like participate in fashion. And I'll be honest with you, like I have no problem telling you, I was terrible at it. I wasn't very good at dressing. I wasn't very good at picking out the right clothes. I wasn't very good at fashion at all. And more importantly, I hate it. Ever since I was a little kid, I've been incredibly sensitive. And I don't just mean sensitive like emotionally sensitive. I mean sensitive skin, sensitive to chemicals, sensitive to smells, sensitive to taste. You know if I get around somebody who has the wrong type of cologne on, I start sneezing like crazy. Like I am hypersensitive to my environment.
I believe that that is part of being an evolutionary hunter. My senses are tuned to a very high level so that I feel and experience everything in the environment. Like a hunter should. And for me, ever since I was a kid, clothes were horrible. I remember if anything had like a weird texture or a material that was odd or a seam that was in the wrong place or a tag on the back of my neck, clothes would drive me crazy. There was clothes that when I was a kid, I just refused to wear. And I was always like fighting with my parents because I wanted to wear the same two or three things all the time.
And as I got older, I decided to try and you know be cool. And buy clothes and dress better and I was on a quest to find clothes that didn't bother me. And I remember always thinking as soon as I can spend enough money on clothes, they'll be comfortable. As soon as I can buy the right type of clothes, they'll be comfortable. As soon as I can get custom made stuff, it'll be comfortable. Well I went down that road. In my 20s, I used to buy off the rack suits. Then I had a company that started doing really well. I started getting my shirts, my suits custom made. And I can tell you that the same thing happened with the custom made suit with the off the rack suit. I would put it on in the morning and it would fit. I'd put on the suit. It was never comfortable. I never enjoyed it.
As I'm talking right now, I'm walking around because I'm getting physiologically uncomfortable. Because I remember getting up in the morning and taking a shower. And getting out and putting on my underwear and having to put on a t shirt, then a dress shirt, then folding over the French cuffs. Then getting the cuff links in. Then a tie. Then a pair of pants. Then a belt. Then the dress shoes. Or then the socks, then the dress shoes. Hopefully not the dress shoes then the socks. And like that whole uniform sucked. There was nothing about it I like.
Now I will say this. There are guys out there and women out there who dress clothes make them feel like they're wearing a superhero costume. Like literally, I have friends who a really fine tailored suit for them, there is nothing that makes them more confident. And I respect that. In fact, I'm not saying anything against the people who wear normal clothes. Sometimes, I wish I liked them because let's be really honest. For me, it would be a lot easier if I dressed like everyone else. It would be a lot easier if I just dressed for status. If I went out and started buying a bunch of clothes that were worth more money, then people wouldn't talk about it and it wouldn't be weird. And it wouldn't be the thing where Alex Hormosi says "You mean the guy with the weird glasses and the shoes?"
Because once I had hit the end of the road as far as buying clothes and getting custom suits and doing everything I could to be comfortable and I still wasn't there, I just got frustrated and decided to change everything. A few years ago, my father-in-law passed away. His name was Mike Maio. And this was the day that I made the decision I wasn't gonna put a suit on again. I spoke at Mike's funeral. And I remember being uncomfortable that entire day. I was uncomfortable with the funeral. I was uncomfortable with the fact that just two and a half months earlier, we had found out that he had had cancer and we had less than 75 days from the diagnosis to the day he died. I walked into his funeral wearing a suit. And I can remember, as I talk right now, I remember how the half lined pants in my custom suit felt. I remember how the jacket felt, how the shirt felt, all of it felt like I was wearing somebody else's clothes even though I had paid thousands of dollars and they were custom tailored to me.
And what happened that day was what happened every day when I was younger. I would put the suit on, I would wear it, and by the end of the day, the neck was tight, the shoulders were tight. I mean literally, the inflammation in my body made the suit get tighter as the day went on. And I remember thinking that day, "You know what?" Mike wore a t-shirt or a Hawaiian shirt and a pair of shorts and sandals wherever he went. And he just did his own thing. He was an entrepreneur just like me. And I decided I just was gonna opt out. And I wasn't doing anymore.
And I went on a quest to find the absolute most comfortable clothes I could. Because if I wasn't gonna dress for fashion, I decided to dress completely and totally for function. How could I find the most functional, the most comfortable, the most easy to wear clothes that are out there? So I went out and started buying clothes that wear like pajamas. That feel like you're going to bed. I wear Lululemon t shirts because they're by far the most comfortable shirts out there. You can wash them 100 times. They don't shrink. The color doesn't get weird. The arms don't stretch. I went out and found pants that I like that I wear most days that are by the company called Kuhl, K-U-H-L. They have spandex panels in them so they look like cargo pants but they wear like sweatpants. I can do a full squat in the pants that I wear everyday.
And the shoes, I've had feet problems for most of my life. And at the same time that I was going through a lot of other stuff and realizing that I didn't wanna wear suits anymore, I was also curing my feet with some content that we have called Primal Foot. And part of that is the fact that the feet are the control system for our lower body. When you look at your hand and in relation to your arm, if I was to take your hand and put it in a mitten that kept it straight. If I could put it in a stiff mitten. Or if I put your hand in a shoe and you kept it there for weeks, when you finally took your hand out, it would be hard to move around. You would have some tension. You would have some compression of the tissues. You would have some tissues that had gone dormant because of being shoved in a shoe. Well that's exactly what happens to our feet.
And so many people, including me, experience foot pain and plantarfaciitis and shin splints and all kinds of other things in our lower body. And the fact is it's because we're taking the ability of our feet away. Our feet have more interoceptors and exteroceptors than anywhere in our body. There's more nervous tissue in our feet than anywhere in our body. And that nervous tissue is connected directly to a part of the brain that's responsible for proprioception, our understanding where we are. So the same part of your brain that tells you where you are spatially in the world and where you are spatially in your thoughts is the part of the brain that's responsible for and stimulated by the feet. And the challenge is when we put our feet in coffins called shoes and we walk around all day getting barely any stimulation, neuropathy can't help but start happening. And neuropathy is the condition that happens in the body when nerve tissue goes dormant because it hasn't been used. And when nerve tissue goes dormant, you don't get the same nervous reactions, the same nervous system stimulation, that you did before.
So when I look at people who are older who can't find their way around, who walk out in front of their house and they get lost, who can't really understand things as well as they did, how much of that is constraint caused by putting our feet in shoes? Some have said that's kind of a long shot of an argument. But the fact is if you look at the science behind it, it really isn't. And there is no legitimate argument for shoes anymore. I mean protecting the feet? Sure. But there's no reason why we need to wear the shoes that we do.
When we look at 100 percent of the shoes that are out there for running, most of them, at least 90 percent, are on a downgrade. So the heel actually puts you on a downhill. Human beings are walking around all day standing on a downhill. What would it do to someone to be constantly on a downhill? Subconsciously, what does that do to you? Does the downhill make you feel accelerated, pushed forward, over reactive, maybe a little overstimulated? I'm glad most of the population isn't walking around that way. The fact is almost everyone is. And when I switched from normal shoes to first somewhat functional shoes and minimalist shoes.
And then I found Vibrum Five Fingers. It was like my entire lower body came back to life. My flexibility increased, I feel better. When I get out of bed, like when my feet hit the floor, I no longer feel pain. I used to have a hard time walking across the room barefoot just a few years ago. And then when I switched and started the Primal Foot exercises, you can go check them out at primalfoot.com. And I bought Vibrum Five Fingers, my entire lower body changed. My entire physiology changed. My back pain went away. My shoulder pain went away. I mean it's been one of the biggest changes I've ever made in my life is deciding to wear what I wanna wear no matter what.
And a few years ago, after I had made this decision, I had a large, billion dollar plus company sign a big consulting contract with us where I was gonna go out and train their company four different times throughout the year. And I remember we were on the phone with them and we were finalizing the deal and they said "Hey, you know, we just wanted to bring up one thing. You know we've looked at your speaker reel, we've looked at all of Alex's stuff, we saw you know his TV appearances. And we understand that he wears a t shirt all of the time. And now we've never had anyone speak in a t shirt at our even before." And I was on the call. So I said "Well it's gonna be great to see how your audience reacts. It'll be a great pattern interrupt for them." Because I wasn't switching.
Here's why. I can't explain how much different it feels to feel confident in the clothes I wear because I'm comfortable in my own skin than it used to feel when I wore clothes that I was uncomfortable in that were supposed to inspire confidence. I used to wear suits that were thousands of dollars, shirts that were hundreds of dollars. It was ridiculous. At one point, I threw out six figures worth of shoes from all over the world, some custom made, because I had tried to get to the place where clothes just felt comfortable. And the fact was that no matte what I did, as long as I was wearing dress clothes, I was painfully uncomfortable. I was itching. I was fidgeting. I just didn't wanna be there.
This morning on Facebook, a friend of mine, Albert Harapedian, posted a series of pictures from eight years ago. And in that series of pictures, I'm wearing a suit. And I'm seated in a suit. I'm standing in suit. And I can tell just by looking at the pictures how uncomfortable I was. I stand different in a suit. I sat different in a suit. And so for me, when somebody asks "What's with the clothes?" It's not a short answer. See for me, the clothes are about showing up as who I wanna be every single day and being able to feel comfortable in my own skin. Because nothing has made me as comfortable as declaring who I am and accepting it. And a big part of that for me was wearing what I wanna wear every day regardless of what I'm doing and feeling comfortable.
And these days, when I go into my closet, first it's about 80 percent empty because I used to have this massive dressing closet, dressing room where I had tons of, dozens of suits and 20 or 30 shirts. Maybe more than that. 50 or 60 ties and dozens of pairs of shoes. And I got rid of all of it. And today, I go into my closet. I grab a pair of the same type of pants that I wear every day. I grab one of the shirts that I wear every day. They all match each other so I don't even have to think about it. There is zero decision-making fatigue. I come down, I put on my Vibrums. And all of that dressing stuff, all that energy that used to be getting ready in the morning is now reserved for something more productive and moving me forward. So that's what's with the clothes.
If you're interested in understanding more about your feet and understanding why so many of us have challenges with our lower body, our mid-back our low back, our shoulders, and so many entrepreneurs have challenges with flexibility and body pain and literally foot pain, chin pain, heel pain, ankle pain, go to primalfoot.com and check out why I stopped wearing dress shoes and started treated my feet like they're supposed to be. Like the control system for our lower bodies.
And the next time you go out to buy clothes, take a chance. Try it. See what you can buy that feels comfortable. See what you can buy that feels good on your skin. See what you can buy that makes you feel more grounded, more calm, more present, and more aware. Because for me, that's exactly what's with my clothes.