About 10 days ago a email went out to my entire company. The topic was one that is all to familiar "The Dress Code." I've worked at my job for almost a year now and that was the 4th dress code email I've seen, one of my supervisors joked that it comes every time the seasons change. Well the atmosphere in my office has changed rather dramatically since that email as everyone's been somewhat concerned if they were adhering to the dress code. All this hoopla surrounding the dress code made me think about the power of appearance, or rather the power we have given it. Dress codes serve one major purpose: to establish a professional look, with hopes of being taken seriously at the given profession. The thought line goes as followed: if we look good, people will: a) take us seriously and b) think we are good at what we do. Appearance is a measure of our respectability and productivity. The problem is that the measurements are based on how others see it.
When I played high school football one of my favorite parts of playing was dressing for game day. I was one of the pretty boys. I had fancy cleats, nice nike gloves, had the Under Armor, wore wrist bands on my forearms and had a clear visor. I even wore a pretty number: 24. I would always say "Look good, play good." A small percentage of my performance was based on my appearance. If I looked good, I'd feel good and in turn play good (and even if I didn't or my team lost, at least I looked good lol). My appearance had more internal importance than external. I needed to look good because I felt it would influence my performance. I did it for me.
What seemed immature and foolish then, actually makes a little sense now. When we are first taught of appearance we are taught that internal importance, that if we look good we'll feel good and do well. As we get older we learn more about the "feel good" part of the statement. The reason we feel good is because we look "capable" in the eyes of others. If we look the part, they will see us as it. In football, pretty boys are seen as playmakers (more often than not). That pseudo-respect leads to expectations. Now we must perform a certain way because they are expecting us to do so based on our appearance (you know how I feel about expectations). This is where it all gets problematic.
The man who walks in the room with a business suit on immediately gets our respect, not because of the suit, but moreso because of what we expect him to do. We expect him to have a profession worthy of that suit (Lawyer, Banker, Executive, etc.) and thus we give him respect. On the converse, if we see someone in jeans and a white tee shirt what do we think? In some cases our perceptions may indeed be true but what about the instances in which they are not?
I prefer the comfort of jeans and a white tee. This doesn't mean that I don't own a suit, that I'm not a professional or that I don't deserve respect. I must admit that I do enjoy the low expectations that people make of me when I'm dress that way, I like to surprise them. I would however, enjoy it more if people didn't form expectations on me based on my appearance. I'd enjoy if we stop giving appearance the power we currently do. I know that some appearances are necessary (I wouldn't take a police officer seriously without his uniform) but for us to make "glaring" assumptions and expectations on individuals based on their appearance is wrong. Lets stop assuming that because someone looks good, they'll play good. Lets watch them play, then make our judgments.