Sunday, October 19, 2014

Have we lost the ability to present ourselves professionally in public?

I'm veering off the arts beat this weekend to address a pet peeve of mine simmering on the back burner for several months now, and prompted by a post I saw on Facebook today.

The newspaper clipping in the illustration quotes a woman as saying she prefers to shop at a popular dollar store in the area, since she doesn't have to "dress up like when you go to Wal-Mart."  Pardon me?

The last time I was at Wal-Mart I was totally unawares people dress up to go there.  Dress down is more like it, like just about everywhere else these days.

I know I will probably paint myself as an old fogie or something worse when I say I miss the days when people actually cared enough about their appearance when out in public rather than care less.  Time was, even flying on an airplane meant you dressed up for the flight rather than look like you are ready to hit the beach at the end of the flight.

That may be considered extreme in this day and age even by me, as I like to be comfortable on a long flight, too, but do you have to try so hard to be casual?  Can't you put even a little effort into looking good when others see you?

Lest you think I have worked in a profession where everyone dressed nicely, I should point out for the first 40 years of my career I worked in radio, where it is assumed so long as you are not in pyjamas you are dressed for work.  More often than not, I was in the minority as I always tried to look my best no matter what the job was.

Even last winter when I led a more bohemian lifestyle working part-time at the Brock radio station CFBU-FM, although I was more often than not in jeans and a casual shirt, I usually dressed more presentably when interviewing guests for my show, even though they often were very casually dressed themselves.

These days, though, I work weekdays at a job where you are in the public eye in a corporate environment where you are expected to present a proper image on behalf of the company.  I welcome this change in my lifestyle, as I rather enjoy wearing a suit or sports jacket and slacks and a shirt and tie.

Both in my work environment and in my off hours, I often see people making poor wardrobe choices that with a little more thought on their part, could easily present them in a better light.  Not everyone needs to nor should dress up to the extent some like myself take pleasure in doing on a daily basis.  But if they could just look at themselves in the mirror before heading out the door, they might see a person staring back at them who isn't well put-together.

Two examples come to mind from the past couple of weeks for me:  the first was a young woman in yoga pants and a bare midriff who should clearly have taken that extra look in the mirror before heading out.  Now I like a young lady in yoga pants as much as they next red-blooded male, but not when said person's midsection overflows like a muffin top.  It was mind boggling to me she could not see this for herself.

The second example was during a recent visit to a local grocery store and I was preparing to pay for my purchases that had just been rung through.  I happen to glance behind me to the cashier working the lane next to me and couldn't help but notice this person, while at work, had her baggy jeans slung below her butt-cheeks, exposing a wide swath of black cotton underwear nobody needs to see.  Where was the work decorum here, and more importantly, where was her boss?

I resisted the temptation to ask my cashier if she was receiving danger-pay for having to look at this sight all day while she was working, but the thought did cross my mind.  The drive home was fraught with images of what this woman might do if she had to make a mad dash to catch someone who had perhaps forgotten an item they had just paid for.

Men, you are not immune, either.  The notion of taking your hat off (more often than not it is a backwards-facing ball cap now anyways) while indoors seems to be lost on most men these days, even if they are in a nice restaurant and their lady companion is making an effort to present herself nicely.  And the number of men who either intentionally or unintentionally let their pants hang far too low on them, exposing more than anyone needs to see, is troubling to say the least.

I imagine one day one of these souls showing digital images to their grandchildren of when they were younger, and the child wonders aloud why they look so darn goofy in the picture.  Better prepare your snappy comeback now, while you have the time...

What it all comes down to is this:  it doesn't take a lot of effort or even money to look good while out in public, just a little common sense.  And it might even make you look more professional if indeed you are out looking for work at the moment.  But whether you are working now or not, looking good in public should not be looked upon as a chore or even a necessary evil.  Take pride in your appearance and you'll find you have a better outlook on life.

If you are at a public event, be it a symphony concert or even a sporting event, it won't hurt to try a little "event" dressing to show you care about your appearance.

And while I would never advocate judging anyone on their dress, good, bad or indifferent, leaving a more favourable impression on those you meet is never a bad thing.  You never know where things can lead.

There, I have gotten that off my chest.  Now a new work week awaits, so let's see how we can change people's outlook on life...

October 19th, 2014.

1 comment:

Justine Cotton said...

Thank you for this post! Made me think how people once dressed up to fly...I can remember my Nana dressed up in a pantsuit to fly over from Britain and, as a child, being dressed in a dress and hair ribbons to fly over to visit relatives in the UK. I'm amazed by what people leave the house in these days. Pyjama pants in the grocery store. Yoga pants at work. Sigh.