For those who wouldn't be caught dead with ordinary office supplies

When I was in middle school, I had trouble with fashion. A lot of trouble, according to my friends. I never thought about what I was wearing. I just threw something on and went to school, and for whatever reason, I was fond of wearing flannel button down shirts. And at some point, since this was before the grunge days of the 1990s when flannel became fashionable, someone pointed out to me that I looked like a nerd. From then on, I spent the rest of my middle and high school days always worrying about how I was dressed.

I've always liked the fact that ever since going to college, I've never had to really think about whether I'm in fashion or not. In college, you tend to dress down, and since I've worked in my home office for years, I can mismatch socks without a crisis erupting. That said, I get out into the world sometimes, interviewing CEOs, consultants and the like. I can't be completely fashion clueless.

All of this is preamble for the fact that Staples is unrolling what they see as fashionable accessories for the business person. They're calling their line M by Staples.

I'm sure if I had any sense of fashion, I'd know what the M refers to. Perhaps it's a parody of another fashion designer? As it is, all I can think of is that James Bond likes to hang around letters, like his gadget guru Q. But I have a feeling I'm getting off topic.And I want to. I want to get as far away from the topic of fashionable business accessories because suddenly I'm having more flashbacks to my middle school days, and these memories aren't pretty. And now, in my late 30s, I have to worry that my push pins on my bulletin board aren't fashionable? Or that if an editor sees my file folders, he or she might look down on me because I don't own any with patterns on them? And what about when September comes, if I'm caught putting some of my notes in white file folders? Am I going to be completely ostracized? Even I know you're not supposed to be caught in white after Labor Day.

The M by Staples line even has these cool looking binder clips, one of which is made up to look like old-fashioned typewriter keys. As their web site says, "It's the look of a bygone era with a decidedly modern flair."

Heck, I don't even own binder clips -- suddenly, I feel so unworthy.

Geoff Williams is a business journalist, a middle school survivor and the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale).
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