The other day my colleague and friend Chris mentioned that someone in the office had asked him “Has Grant been cautioned about how he dresses?” Naturally I was a bit stunned by this, because while I am never the picture of perfect corporate attire I am never grubby or what I would consider poorly dressed.
It turns out that the person in question had noticed that I have started dressing more corporately aligned, and wondered if this was because I had been told to? My friend thought that this was rather hilarious, and made the comment that I had probably just run out of clean clothes (thanks Chris, really).
What this has shown me (ridiculously, after seven years in the Public Service) is that as dry as the accepting and encouraging of diversity as it is; people are still paying attention to what I wear on a daily basis. It really is a strange realisation to have, because 90% of the time I am fairly confident in saying that I am dressing whole heartedly for myself. This however in turn begs the question: should I be?
Should any of us be dressing for ourselves, especially in a public context like work?
I know that there are many who would put forward a strong and passionate argument for individuality, self-expression and other such namby-pamby things; but take a pause and ponder this would you. When we dress for work in the morning (and this obviously precludes anyone who works in a uniformed situation), we’re essentially aligning ourselves with the ethos of our workplace. And on top of this, we’re subjecting our colleagues to how we dress, and in much the same way that I view covering my tattoos in Japan or women covering their heads in countries with firmer religious influence. It may not be something that we believe in ourselves or that we enjoy, but we do it out of respect for others cultures.
And what is a workplace if not a ‘culture’ of its own? We talk about workplace culture all the time as public servants, while never really addressing the impact that our daily dress has on that culture. More to the point I think that we should be more conscious of the fact that the way we dress has an impact on those around us, for better or for worse, and to adjust our wardrobe accordingly.