After a fashion

It’s not technically winter but damn close to it, and nature photography has ground, if not to a halt, at least to a low enough speed that I can step off and pick up the tortilla chip that I dropped. Which means this is the time to post about stupid shit – lucky you.

One of the other people that I check out semi-regularly, over there in the sidebar, is known for being a little bit of a fashion horse, to the point where they’re asked for advice from time to time [that was originally written, “from tie,” a mere typo that I almost left in]. And I have to admit, this is one of these places where I have to disagree significantly.

The bare premise is, we judge others on how they look, and if we want to be judged favorably ourselves, we have to look good. While most of us can only do trivial things to our physical appearance, we can at least dress nicely, to make better impressions in this manner. Truth be told, this usually works.

And yet, it shouldn’t, and it’s one of those things that makes me itch. It’s one of the most superficial ways to judge someone that we can imagine, and yet we engage in it constantly. Let’s face it, some of the biggest crimes ever committed in the past century were done by people in the ubiquitous and ridiculously unoriginal tie-and-jacket, and somehow we still find such things ‘respectable’ – males are still expected to wear them to weddings and funerals and a good percentage of job interviews, still expected to have them for many office jobs and certainly many meetings, and so on. And the variation in them is minimal at best – different styles and widths of ties come around, different size lapels for dog’s sake, but even colors are pretty damn narrow in scope. And don’t get me started on neckties – stupidest goddamn piece of clothing to ever exist, much less be considered important. What does this even do? “Well, it adds color to this ridiculous cookie-cutter getup that we consider proper…”

And don’t let me harp solely on men’s fashion; while women have a broader range of what’s ‘acceptable,’ especially in the office, there tends to be a lot more emphasis on it, with a very narrow time frame of acceptability too, otherwise we wouldn’t have such phrases as, “last fall’s fashions.” Among the myriad reasons why I wouldn’t cut it as a female, my inability to keep up with or even understand what colors go with which seasons would doom my social standing in such populated environments.

Clothes have a distinct purpose, and first and foremost, should fulfill that purpose. After that, it really should be up for grabs, with little if any attention paid to them. They reflect absolutely nothing about who someone is, how valuable we might find their advice, how forthright or honest they are, or anything else at all, and forming even a simple opinion about someone over their manner of dress is far more likely to be a product of manipulation than an accurate evaluation. Now, granted, for a lot of people it’s much easier to buy nice clothes than to develop a personality, much less a respectable demeanor within society, so perhaps I shouldn’t be so harsh. But then again, nothing worthwhile is ever easy.

Listen, I know society isn’t going to change overnight, even with the overwhelming influence that this blog has. But we can at least try to make the effort to notice how someone treats others, or the issues that they find important, or even just their basic competence, rather than if their shoes match their jacket or whatever damn thing – if you’re buying clothes for your clothes, there are probably better things to spend your time and money on. Relax, be comfortable, wear something useful, and stop thinking about petty things. Most especially, dress for the weather. I’ve been lucky enough to work at places without demands, which was good when the warehouse wasn’t air-conditioned (and that’s noticeable in North Carolina summers, to say nothing of further south.) And I’ve also been unlucky enough to work for a corporation that worried more about dress code than it did about actually producing quality products. It’s the only time that I actually wore a tie (save for a clip-on during some catholic hoohah when I was six,) and when I quit that job after several months – over more than the dress code, trust me – I was happy to destroy the ties. Except for one, since that one had already been destroyed by getting caught in a fucking machine, because only complete and utter morons require dangling cloth wrapped around your neck when you have to maintain machines with gears. That corporation, by the way, was a photo lab, CPI Photo Finish, and is long gone now because this was far from the stupidest thing they ever did…

I understand the idea of, you know, employees having a specific uniform so they’re easy to find when assistance is needed, and I understand a certain neatness of appearance helps a lot when it comes to things like wait staff – we’re not going to escape superficial impressions (but if you’re an employer that requires it, don’t be a cheap motherfucker and provide it, at your expense. If it’s that important to you.) But overall, let’s get over the whole concept that how someone dresses reflects who they are as a person. Let’s exercise just a little deeper understanding, a little more attention paid to a person’s actual demeanor and work habits, rather than some idiocy about padded shoulders or pleats or some transient stitching practice. And for ourselves, let’s wear what we want to wear and like wearing, what’s comfortable and functional, and stop worrying that someone will judge us on something so shallow that they must not be able to handle anything more complicated. We really shouldn’t value such opinions anyway.

Thanks – I feel better now.

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