Right before Kevin Moriarty came to Dallas to interview for the job of artistic director of the Dallas Theater Center, his mother called and told him, “Be sure to pack a suit.” At that point, in 2007, Moriarty owned two. He wore them to funerals and weddings. Working as an artist in New York City, he rarely needed to get more formal than jeans and sneakers. Even at fundraisers and the like, artists outnumbered benefactors, and it was the latter who had to dress down to fit in.

Hurredly packing his bag for Dallas, Moriarty did as his mom instructed and threw in a suit—or what he thought was a suit. When he arrived in Dallas, he discovered that, along with the rest of his mismatched clothes, he’d packed only a sports coat. So it was an accident that on the day he met with the “impressive and imposing” leaders of the search committee, Moriarty was wearing Nike running shoes, jeans, a bright yellow shirt with a tie, and that sports coat.

When he returned to New York a few days later, the headhunter who’d arranged the interview called and said the committee had really liked him, and, to a member, they had each commented on his clothes. They especially liked his shoes. The headhunter asked Moriarty what he’d worn and was surprised by the answer.

Moriarty, of course, got the job. When he moved to Dallas, he stuck with the sneakers, jeans, and sports coat ensemble. But he quickly learned that to fit in at society functions here, where the benefactors generally outnumber the artists, he’d have to dress more formally. 

“I’ve pretty radically beefed up my wardrobe,” he says. “I now own more ties than sneakers. And I’ve learned that at least my shoes should match my tie. That makes me fancy.”