22 February, 2010

Dress for the Job You Want

In the corporate world, and most other jobs that are not super casual, people often say "Dress for the job you want, not the job you have." I have a huge problem with this.

First, there is the assumption that someone can afford to dress for the job they want on the salary for the job they have - an incorrect assumption. Dressing like an executive when you're mid-level, or mid-level when you're entry level, is incredibly hard on a wallet. You may be able to thrift, make some wise choices with basics, but it will never quite be enough. Everyone who tries this always looks one step behind (particularly if you have a body type outside of the fashion norms - read: you're not skinny, in uniform sizing, with good skin and magic hair). Going to a stylist for haircuts is expensive, and a hairstyle is a vital part of an outfit. Good shoes - hard to find if you have any orthopedic issues without going to a higher price range - are also important. It's a little rough for those of us on the low levels to try to achieve style nirvana that will help us make it to the top.

Second, almost every corporate workplace still suffers from the most ridiculously antiquated ideals of what is professional. It causes me such rage.
Dyed hair? That's unprofessional - but there are double standards. If you dye your hair a natural color, that's okay, which is reasonable (but the range of natural color, to me, is a little wonky). If you're over 35 and dye your hair a non-natural color (black with streaks of red or purple, outright deep eggplum) - no big. You've earned the right to dress outside of the traditional norms, right? Or, if you work in graphics or editorial review and are over a certain age (past mid-20's), it's okay if you dress a little more stylish or a little more non-traditional - after all, you're in a creative position and you're a grown up.
However, if you're under 35, or under 25 in more creative jobs in corporate, and you do anything even vaguely outside of conservative, traditional, and plain it often will get you dirty looks and comments about being unprofessional. I mean, unless you're thin and an 11, of course. A chubby girl dyes her hair, wears big earrings, or bright colors and people assume she's "rebelling" and that it's unprofessional.

On a similar note, tattoos and piercings. I'm not talking full-arm sleeves or even tramp stamps, no facial tattoos, gauging, just simple ones and nothing garish or vulgar - on the top of your back, your arm, your leg, wrist, or neck, small nose piercings or multiple earrings. All of these - ALL - can be hidden in various ways (clothing, accessories, hair left down, makeup). Black and white ones are even easier. But if they are seen, even if it's just a glimpse through a thinner shirt or the top of one peeking from under a sleeve, or wearing a small stud instead of a plastic filler, it's just sooo tastless and unprofessional.

I call bullshit.

You know what is unprofessional? Wearing clothes that are unkempt and don't fit. Pants that hang low or shirts half-tucked. Stains. Tears. Messy hair, too much makeup. Disrespect. Bigotry.
Even more unprofessional is judging people for wearing ANY of the above things based on just those things. Looking down on someone who branches out of their typical style basis and making comments or considering them somehow less than you because they aren't afraid and rooted in restrictive traditional conservative values. Treating them like a freak because they think that adding a new piece of art to their bodies - whether it's clothing, tattoos, haircolor, or piercings - is beautiful.

It's goddamn 2010 and we're still worrying about people wearing nice jeans and having a tattoo and purple hair. I think there are many more things we could be focusing on - like men making kissy faces at random women or talking about how pregnant women are "just fat", or senior employees treating younger employees like they're idiots, and professionals treating support personnel like their own personal bitch.

I do consider the outside to be a reflection of the interior, but that doesn't mean it's everything that is there - but I'll tell you what, I definitely lean towards people who look like they might have just a glimpse of creativity in their minds. There is nothing wrong with being plain, but there isn't anything wrong with not being plain, either.

I intend to dress for the job I want. The job I want? A job where I'm respected no matter what I wear, for the work I do, and allowed to dress professionally - but creatively.