Interesting Convo: Does Clothing Choice = Respect or Freedom?

First of all, I finally got to meet Brian Shaler last night. High in the air, handlebar mustached, halfway around the country half of the time, nerdy tech hipster Brian Shaler. He happened to be on vacation, moving across the country via train (so cool!) and had a stop here in Colorado.

And what do nerds do when they get together? Pullout laptops and look at each others’ photos. Look at Brian’s. He’s awesome. And lazy. At least in respect to photography. Get off your ass, Brian! I want more shots like this:

But beyond that, we had a really interesting conversation after I made an offhand comment about how techdudes need to dress up more when they appear on TV.

Brian shrugged and asked… “why?”

Of course I get all impassioned! It’s a sign of respect, both for the audience and the guy himself! Duh! I *almost* whipped out my favorite quote from the Brendan Fraser flick “Blast From The Past” that “good manners are just a way of showing other people we have respect for them… and a gentleman someone who always tries to make sure the people around him or her are as comfortable as possible.” And seeing as Brendan Fraser is my new BFF, I am allowed to quote him at will.

Brian saw my point, but also felt that maybe the people in question were doing one of several things: pushing buttons on purpose to change perceptions, just being an artist – which brings an artistic temperament, or maybe – they just. didn’t. care.

And should we care? Why do we get dressed up for certain things? Is it to make US feel good about ourselves? Or impress OTHERS?

Which makes me wonder why we do ANYTHING, but that’s another blog post.

What do you think? How do you handle it? Do you walk the walk, or are you a button-pusher?

This article has 26 comments

  1. Miranda

    Oh man, I’ve been thinking about this very topic! I’ve been on this big kick where I want to change my entire wardrobe, but why? When I think about it…dressing nice makes me feel better about myself. It helps me worry less about what other people might be thinking. Of course sometimes I want to impress other people, but I really feel like a nice outfit makes it easier for me to forget about how I look and just relax and enjoy what I’m doing rather than worry that something is too small, too big, or too…um…another adjective.

  2. zipper

    I usually agree with you, but I am with Brian on this one. Sick of the dress to impress fake shit.

  3. Megan

    I like the dress for the job you want thing. And I mainly do it to make MYSELF feel good.

  4. notterriblyordinary

    As a pediatrician, I get away with wearing clothes that are a bit more casual than most doctors. I wear clogs, not heels. I wear khakis, not nice wool gabardine pants. I have Ann Taylor Loft t-shirts in every color. I have been spit up on, barfed on and peed on many times in my career so machine-washability is an essential. I’m not going to work looking like a slob but for both practical and personal purposes, I like to be comfortable. Because I wear these types of clothes does that make me less professional? My patients don’t seem to think so. They appreciate that I get down on the floor and play with their kids and that I’m more than happy to hold them on my lap while I talk to them or jot down notes.

    I think that clothing + attitude determines professionalism. I have great attendings that I work with that wear jeans to work. Jeans! On a doctor! But their patients love them. Their patients love that they are straight-forward and kind and listen well. Now, if my jean-wearing attendings were jerks and weren’t as keen on how they interact with patients and families then yes, their choice of clothing would be seen as a negative one. But because they walk the walk, it’s ok.

    Interesting discussion.

  5. Aimee Greeblemonkey

    Good points, doc! But I do think being a pediatrician in your office is different than if you were appearing on the news or if you were speaking at a seminar… don’t you think you would dress differently? Like I said to Brian last night – me at Target is way different than me at work. And me at work on days with clients is way different than days with no meetings. I think it all depends.

  6. Aimee Greeblemonkey

    And good points EVERYONE – thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  7. Meghann

    I think this is a complicated question, but in the end, clothes *do* matter. People can complain about shallowness and materialism, etc., but when it boils down to it, a lot of how you feel depends on what you are wearing.

    I live 99% of my life in jeans and a t-shirt. There are times, like when I get to go out somewhere, that I do dress up. It’s not for everyone out there though, it’s for me. So I can feel like that event is more special than every day life.

    I like the respect angle too. I mean, would your friend Brian show up to a state dinner at the White House in jeans and a t-shirt? (yes extreme example, but it proves my point.) In that situation, it’s not about trying to impress anyone. It’s about dressing to show some respect for the importance of the occasion.

  8. Meghann

    St-you posted while I was rambling in my long comment. In situations like that, I will say it definitely doesn’t matter what you’re wearing. It’s a long way from the White House. 🙂

  9. Aimee Greeblemonkey

    See, here’s the thing, I was talking with a friend recently about this too (clearly I have been thinking about this for a while), more in regard of how some women let themselves go… And while I totally get the I need to have a hairstyle that is quick, or I can’t afford product, there is happy medium. There is not attending a birthday party in something that looks like pajamas and your hair not having been cut for 3 years. But on the flip side, as much as I ADORE Clinton and Stacey, I do get irritated when they bring out the stealth pics at dropoff and the grocery store. Because you are right. SOMETIMES we do just get to wear whatever and not worry about it. But when you are representing a company, I still think there should be a bit of effort, to show you care. I really did get what Brian was saying, understand it. I just think you can show respect and your personality too. JMHO.

  10. Fear and Parenting in Las Vegas

    Someone told me once…”dress for the job you want, not the job you have” and I’ve generally found that to be sage advice for most professions. Personally, how I look reflects my attitude about the task I’m undertaking or the people I’m with.

    That said, sometimes you’ve got to dress for your audience. If you’re in a room with a bunch of tech geeks in jeans and tees, walking in with a suit just makes you look like a corporate douchebag.

  11. Melissa

    We all judge, so for me it tends to be a matter of personal pride. Because I am tall, I DON’T dress to try to stand out or make a statement because I generally stick out like a sore thumb anyway. But some people like the attention and of course, standards change. My parents wouldn’t let us wear jeans when we were kids. I wear almost nothing but jeans now. After going through art school, I’ve learned that it’s different strokes for everyone – When it comes down to it, as long as people don’t smell, I don’t care how they dress.

  12. tiddleywink

    I too am of the “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have” school of thought. I wish to work with and for people who respect me, and I therefore dress with respect to myself. I’m worth the effort, as are the people I surround myself with.

  13. Jennifer

    I don’t know. I am not sure it’s such a big deal in this day and age. This are just more casual.

  14. The Zero Boss

    I’m all for guys dressing up more in general – whether onstage or off. Every girl’s crazy ’bout a sharp dressed man.

  15. Meghann

    O. . .M. . .G. I swear, my entire life, I’ve thought that the words to that song were “Every girl’s crazy ’bout a shot glass man.”

    You learn something new every day!

  16. Aimee Greeblemonkey

    Meghann! the name of the song is SHARP DRESSED MAN!

  17. St

    If the nerds dressed like everyone else on tv, I’d never know who to listen to!
    I fall into the just don’t care camp. Another blogger posted this week about moms who where sweats to preschool drop-off. I’m that mom. If you can’t wear sweats THERE why do they even make sweats?

  18. Anonymous

    It doesn’t matter if you’re in jeans or a beautiful suit – I just want it to look good – that means the clothes should fit well – some people let everything ‘hang’ out and that makes a person look cheap.

  19. Mary@Holy Mackerel

    It’s a tough question, and a good one. I personally think the whole superficiality thing is lame, but that’s just me. I think the majority of people truly believe in the looks ideal, and are very quick to judge based solely on first impressions. I tend to be pretty laidback with the whole dress code, but have been lambasted for it as well.

  20. Brian

    Wow! I didn’t expect that conversation to end up being the topic of heated debate on a blog!

    I used to be of the ‘dress for the job you want’ camp, until I found the job I wanted had no dress code. When I see a suit and tie, I see a uniform. I see a slightly upgraded McDonald’s uniform. I see pretension. I see a facade.

    When I see a person wearing casual clothing on the news, I see someone who is directing the weight of judgment on his/her words, instead of his/her important-looking costume.

    Now, I’m being a little argumentative, to defend my point, since I feel like I’m on one side of the argument and my side has to win. 😉 In truth, I’m pretty indifferent about it and I love asking people to justify their opinions. (I ask people “Why?” a lot)

    By the way, the captcha says “umeani” and I find that funny.

  21. Brian

    Oh, I wanted to add…

    On the respect front, if dressing the way most Americans dress is disrespectful to the people who attend state dinners at the White House, perhaps they (people supposedly elected by the majority of Americans) should be the ones re-evaluating their perspectives.

    (Now I feel like I’m just playing the devil’s advocate!)

    Anecdote from yesterday:

    I got lucky and scored a free first class upgrade on my flight home at the end of the vacation mentioned in this blog post. While being one of the least dressed-up (jeans, t-shirt), I exhibited ample amounts of respect toward the flight attendants who wait on first class passengers throughout the flight. When I was given something by a flight attendant, I said very clearly and sincerely, “Thank you!” She seemed shocked. She said, “You’re welcome! Wow, it seems like nobody says thank you any more.”

    What I took away from that is thanking people isn’t the “first class” thing to do. When you dress respectfully, as those suit-and-tie business class fliers supposedly do, perhaps you no longer have to BE respectful!

  22. Bryan

    A topic near and dear to my heart, because my heart is usually covered with a shirt.

    I am a firm believer in dressing in what makes you comfortable, no matter what it is. But we also have to accept that others will start to form an opinion of you based on what they experience first. I know some people who dress to make a statement, and then get pissed off when people don’t welcome them with open arms. The immediately create a barrier, and get mad when someone else doesn’t care to overcome that barrier to find the “real” person inside. I don’t agree with that approach.

    I’ve been know to be pretty scruffy/odd/colorful at times, and I understand when it keeps people away, but I do my best to be the respectful person I am, and I find that most people will accept me once we interact a bit. If not, I probably didn’t need to hang with them much anyway.

    Brian (hard for me to type it that way) hit a good point. Please and thank you go a long way. No matter how you are dressed, how you treat the people around you makes a huge difference in how they react to your clothing. We are not our clothes, but just like manners, the right handshake, the right hair style, body language, or anything else, they are a form of communication.

    Is what we say with our appearance what we intend? Hopefully. Do we always want to say the same thing? Probably not, but I have found that sometimes the the best thing to say is “No matter what monkey suit you put me in, I am comfortable with my self. And I’m wearing my Rocket Ship underpants.”

  23. Aimee Greeblemonkey

    Brian and Bryan – I really value your insights, thanks for commenting – as well as everyone else who has weighed in!

    This is such an interesting subject for me. I don’t think it’s one size fits all, but I completely get your point Brian – that dressing up can just be a uniform. And you are TOTALLY right that respect is more than dress. YOU are a very respectful person, I picked that up when I met you right away.

    Having said that, I also think that Bryan has a point (which we further discussed over lunch) that you dress to be comfortable, and what you wear sends a statement, and if you are OK with that – so be it. But also you need to understand if other people are NOT comfortable, depending on the social norm of the event. Clothes are an expression of yourself, and more power to you if you have the balls to wear a grungy t-shirt on TV and don’t care what people think. *I* just don’t have the self-possession to do that, for sure.

  24. Aimee Greeblemonkey

    ha ha, p.s. Brian, I wasn’t inferring that I have an issue with your dress.

  25. Aimee Greeblemonkey

    Or Bryan for the matter. I have worked on YOUR dress for 18 years.

  26. Aimee Greeblemonkey

    also, when I said “dress to be comfortable” – I meant comfortable in the situation.

    OK, done now.

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