I’ve never had a job where I had to wear a uniform. But a post by Carmen Esposito on the AVClub, an article on Medium.com, and the subsequent thread about the topic on Metafilter got me thinking about these things.
When I was in high school in the early 70s there was a definite way to dress, even for guys in a small town: big bell jeans, a long-sleeve shirt with the sleeves rolled up on the forearm (preferably flannel), tennis shoes or boots (but not cowboy boots or you’d be labeled a shitkicker), and of course, hair as long as you could get away with. There were those that did not adopt the uniform but those were more a case of being clueless rather than nonconformist. I read an interview with Roger Daltrey where he talked about the “blue army” at Who concerts in the 70s, young American males in jeans and jean jackets creating a sea of faded blue under the house lights. And really, few articles of clothing were more comfortable than a pair of Levis that were faded to the point of softness and then eventually cut down to shorts. Yes, I remember it well.
I used to consider myself a somewhat sharp dresser. I learned early on that while I looked ridiculous in anything that smacked of the current fashion, classic menswear hung pretty well on me. A sharp suit, navy blazer with khaki slacks, a crisp dress shirt, polo shirts and Levi 501s, crewneck sweaters, vests, all of those worked on me. Especially when I was thin.
Most of the jobs I have held in my adult life have required some variation of business casual and I’ve had little problem with that. When I used to work as an analyst for an insurance company I was always taking meetings with VPs and directors so I had to dress the part of the Corporate Warrior. I saved money by ironing my dress shirts rather than going through the dry cleaner and had built up enough dress clothes that I had some variety. A few years after I lost that job (a tale of corporate skullfuckery if there ever was one) a former coworker told me that whenever a man came into that department the women there would judge him on his “Jerol factor”. One of the analysts always dismissed them with a “nope, not crisp enough to be Jerol”. I admit, that did my ego good.
At the publishing company I started with Corporate Warrior and discovered that no one, even attorneys who were management, bothered. I had no issue switching back to business casual and even wore jeans half the time. We editors had absolutely no contact with customers and needed no image to project. It was a very loose atmosphere and I got quite used to it. When I started working with for the oil company here in North Dakota our manager tried to subject everyone to her standard of what business casual should be. It was ridiculous but at the time it paid the bills so I adhered to that rigid witch’s standards.
Now days, I am responsible to no one but myself. But I have to admit it’s a uniform of sorts. There’s a couple pairs of Old Navy jeans that fit my fat ass, I have a plethora of t-shirts, long and short sleeved, and it’s is cold I wear a flannel shirt or a sweatshirt over that. In other words, I have reverted to high school. The photo above is from seven years ago, on a sunny day in Central park. Yup, I’m the heart of America’s fashion world wearing jeans, a crewneck shirt, and blue Chuck Taylors.
But it’s getting to be time to change the uniform. Half the problem is that I am a fat bastard. I’ve gained a good twenty pounds since breaking my ankle and I was already overweight. But I am turning the corner on that and once the weight sloughs off enough I think it’s time to start dressing like I care again. At least when I’m in public…