Thursday, December 02, 2004

The Fashion Police at the Workplace: How Legitimate are Their Dictates?

Over at the blog, there was a post yesterday by Steven Carson about how not to dress at work. He provides a link to an interesting article from USA Today on the subject. (who would ever have thought that I'd acknowledge an article from USA Today as being "interesting"?)

Dress codes are something that I've always had a serious problem with, although in the workplace they may have some utility to them. Many of the examples provided in that USA Today piece do strike me as being a bit outrageous, such as the scantily clad women and the woman who wore slippers to the office as if she rolled out of bed and went straight out the door. The utility comes from having to represent the company you work for and having to deal with customers who may not want to buy financial services for example from someone whose dress is perhaps better suited for providing escort services, or perhaps working at a store like Noir Leather.

I really don't have a problem with dress codes in the workplace as long as they allow employees to be reasonably comfortable, along with allowing an outlet for some personal expression without going overboard. Aside from strict notion of utility in regards to dress codes (which is a justifiable excuse for imposing dress codes), I do have a problem with the mentality that often coincides with dress codes. Jennifer Bosk, director of alumni relations at the joint campus of Indiana and Purdue Universities in Fort Wayne, IN, is quoted in the article as saying
"I wish there was a college course on how getting ahead doesn't depend just on how smart or good you are — it's partly playing the game and looking the part. But it doesn't seem to matter to this group."
Unless we're talking about euchre, Scrabble, basketball, or other games that people play for shits and giggles, I'm not game. "Playing the game" in this sense euphemistically sounds like conformity, which is something that a free-thinking person such as myself does not necessarily jive with. I view conformity as a mindset that comes from the same overall genus that harbors statist thought. A conformist is the one who is always bound to say that a particular societal problem is best dealt with through political means, usually by stating that "there ought to be a law...". The impulse to vote for the lesser of 2 evils also reeks of conformist-type thinking ("everyone else is doing it", or "maybe i'd vote 3rd party if enough people supported it", or "you have to support established parties if you want your voice to have weight and have any effect). I wonder how many young rebels start off a conformist adulthood by putting on a tie and sport coat every day, then eventually rise to the level of voting for the elephants or donkeys?

This is not to say that I want to be able to go to work wearing an old stinky t-shirt and ripped jeans, since I understand and appreciate the utility factor of dress codes. I also like to look good when out in public, but at the same time I would much rather express myself to a certain degree rather than look like I sprang forth from a cookie cutter mold. This is why I stated earlier that good dress codes are those that allow for some degree of expression, even if that degree is relatively small.

The other problem I have with this article is that there were a couple of occasions where critique of personal appearance went beyond the realm of clothing and accessories. I happen to have a shaved head and a goatee, and there were references to both of those things in the article, and the references weren't positive. I've gone through quite a few phases with my hair over the years, and it's now absolutely, concretely evident to me that I look my best with a shaved head -- period. I also happen to have a receding hairline and baldness is in my future, and I'll be damned if someone is gonna forbid me from shaving my head, forcing me to slowly take on the Homer Simpson or George Costanza look. I also happen to be a big fan of the natural occurance known as facial hair, and I see no problem with such a natural thing as long as it's neatly kept. Clothing and accessories are one thing, but attempting to intervene in our own personal tango with what "God" or "the force" gave us in terms of a body is another thing.


Post a Comment

<< Home