Tuesday, May 01, 2007

No Dress Codes Please, We're Hippies

I have a long history with an aversion to dress codes. I simply have no use for them outside of uniform dress codes for officers of the law (although some of those are over-the-top), airline pilots (we need to identify them because we sure as hell don't want them dressing like ordinary Americans -- a terrorist could be flying the plane!) and trained chefs.

I do not understand the infatuation with cloth and the symbolic underpinnings. I still maintain it's an archaic idea rooted in class distinctions -- to determine who in society is acceptable vs. not acceptable. God forbid we place what's in a person's brain ahead of what garments they wear.

And I really go batshit over sexist dress codes such as earrings being OK on women but not on men. And pantyhose. Yuck. Who on earth thinks it's their business to dictate that a woman must wear a dress and hose!

I was once fired from a job because I wore an orange shirt. Or so the story goes. I worked in a health care environment, but in a back office with no public exposure. One day some higher-ups from the corporate office came by for a surprise visit (suits) and shortly after that I was let go, despite the fact that I enjoyed what I did, I did it well, and I got along great with my co-workers (who were also casual, but wore more earth tones and muted colors). It was bullshit and I knew it.

One of the reasons I love my job is because it's a creative environment and it's casual. I wear shorts to work most days. I don't wear Lycra® running shorts, or swimwear. So no need to quibble over gray areas about what's appropriate in a work environment. No one can determine the size of my penis from what I wear. And for those curious (you sick perverts!), I wear cargo shorts most of the time.

Yesterday an email went out to all employees from one of the head honchos about a client visit today and tomorrow. Obviously I'm not going to name the client but it's a name you'd all recognize, most likely. The person writing the email explained the importance of this client visit -- our agency has recently lost a couple of high-profile clients and we're really banking on a couple of replacement clients -- and how we need to impress their board of directors. The email finished with a request that everyone make an effort to wear "business casual" attire for the next two days, and to arrive at work earlier than the usual 9-10 routine.

txrad and I get there usually around 7:00am so that's never an issue for us. I put on a very nice unique shirt and a pair of dark charcoal jeans today and headed off to work.

Some of the employees with whom I have regular contact were definitely dressed up more today, while others were less obvious. Some made no change at all. We had our department meeting this morning and the issue came up in the meeting.

Our boss remarked about the email and proceeded to suggest that not only was it a good idea, but that our department in particular should be more dressed up because the nicest conference room, one which is utilized frequently for client visits, is located on our floor and therefore we're more visible to clients. Never mind that the clients must somehow get from the first floor to the third without encountering other employees who might be more casual.

Then he made some reference to the creative folks in our department who work in production and said something to the effect that creative people get a free pass when it comes to dressing, but the rest of us are held to a higher standard, with a reference to flip-flops thrown in.

Oh, please. Now I've seen some people around there wearing shorts and flip-flops but I actually do wear shoes. I have no problem with flip-flops, but they just don't work for me if I'm climbing two flights of stairs several times a day.

He insinuated that any of us might get called into a client meeting when clients are visiting and therefore, according to his logic, we need to dress prepared.

This is just great. I work my ass off. I'm personally handling about 25% of an entire media campaign for a huge telecommunications giant (no names here, but imagine a blue orb), and I'm being told what to wear. My mama could get by with that when I was 4-years-old (well, not really; I'd strip naked and go play in the yard, but that's another post), but I'm generating a huge amount of revenue and profit for this agency; I'd at least like a little respect as far as putting my professionalism ahead of something superficial such as what I choose to cover up my private parts. And don't give me any shit about respect being a two-way street. This is about a double-standard, among other things, and it's just absurd.

After tomorrow, I'm back to wearing shorts again. And if the boss doesn't like it, he can hire someone else, and probably won't find anyone as remotely capable as I am, they'll command the same salary, but I suppose he'll be happy because what they are wearing is more important than the work they actually do.

This is a creative environment. We should praise people for being themselves, for being creative, for being comfortable, and for doing a kick-ass job. It has obviously worked up until now or the agency wouldn't be there, and it sure as hell wouldn't be a major player in the world of ad agencies.

I am not going to allow fashion, and the ugly remnants of class distinctions, to shape me into the appearance of something I'm not. I'm me. You are getting your money's worth and plenty more. You don't like it? Then downgrade.

This position I fell into was plan B of a life-change scenario I was facing as of January 2, 2007. I'm quite happy with it. But I am not afraid to switch back to plan A if some asshole wants to give a swatch of fabric more credit than my 17 years of expertise and professionalism.

Crossposted at B3

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