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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Friday, April 28, 2006

Dress Codes

A buddy from my home town in Southeast Virginia emailed me yesterday to talk about his frustrations with not being as highly regarded at his job as he felt he should be.

He is good at what he does. I remember in college how he stood out and excelled. As I recall, he was better than most of us who shopped our wares at the campus paper.

His problem is somewhere along the line he decided that as long as he was good at his job nothing else should matter. Following an employer's dress code? Selling out, to my guy (unless of course the dress code "conforms" to the way he already dresses). Cutting his hair or shaving to comply with a work rule? Selling out, my buddy says. Part of me thinks he's right. What matters at work, but your skills?

But then another part of me says there has to be some kind of balance, and that's what we debated yesterday, that balance.

My guy says that all rules of appearance do is crush your spirit of individuality. I think that's a bunch of hippie mush. There is something to be said for taking a little pride in your appearance. You don't have to be hoity toity about it. But at least make an effort to show you care...a little.

I once worked with a brilliant guy in another city. But the guy never wore socks and his ankles were always so crusty it looked like he had gone shopping at the Michael Jackson hosiery store. It really looked like he was wearing white socks, though he had on none at all. He also rarely combed his hair and never let his clothes be bothered with an iron. Not saying anyone in that job was a better person than him. He was smarter than most and definitely a better craftsman than many. But the appearance issues were so intense that they often marred conversation about the guy. Someone would start a conversation with how brilliant a job he'd done, and within a minute or so talk turned to "Man, those are some rusty ankles!"

Fine, fine. Write me and tell me people were shallow for clowning this guy's appearance. You'll be correct to do so. But unfortunately the way things are is different than the way things should be. And as long as society is the way it is, how we look at/for work does matter to some degree.

There are limitations. When I see/hear about people being ordered to hack off their dreadlocks or be totally clean shaven it bothers me. That's not cool, unless they're hair is dirty and they're working with food or something like that. But that's another conversation altogether.

Gotta run. More tourist stuff to do with my visiting parents. And don't hate on me for my absence the past day or so. I am still on vacation.

Peace and hair grease.



  • Ankle grease, better yet.

    By Blogger Juliette, at 9:06 PM  

  • You're from southeast VA? All the reason to respect you more...

    By Anonymous we don't drink, nor smoke, NORFOLK!, at 1:01 AM  

  • I used to work with a guy that was fairly competent as a programmer that didn't know a thing about personal upkeep. Don't get me wrong, I don't dress the best all the time. This guy would have slicked over hair with 80's style gel, and typically had a booger bungie jumping out his nose on a hair. Then there was a fat (really) chick there that wore tight shirts and would have belly sticking out.

    By Anonymous ChrisA, at 10:24 PM  

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