Friday, April 10, 2015

a uniform is never thoughtless

"With a fairly important meeting on the horizon, I started to try on different outfits, lacking any real direction or plan. "Is this too formal? Is that too out there? Is this dress too short?... As I arrived at work, my stress level only increased as I saw my male creative partner and other male co-workers having a "brodown" with the new boss as they entered the meeting room—a room I was suppose to already be inside. I just stood there—paralyzed by the fact that I was not only late, but unprepared. And my sweater was inside out." 

Matilda Kahl's piece for Harper's Bazaar was the first article on wearing a self-imposed daily outfit that hasn't left me wanting to tear our my hair. (See: Stuart Heritage in The Guardian's How to be as successful as Obama and Zuckerberg: wear the same clothes every day. It may work for the President but how would that work for Michelle Obama?) 

I like Kahl's piece because I agree. Uniforms can be powerful. I love Janelle Monae's commitment to her black and white style and have long expressed admiration for the architecture professors of the world who look chic in daily black. Her feeling of panic  at getting dressed is one I have felt many times and I, too, have a standard look that I put on no matter the situation when I'm unsure- dark jeans, a button down shirt, and some oversized necklace. 

Kahl and Heritage agree that thinking about exactly what to wear takes up amount of time and brain space, sometimes distracting from other things that need to get done. Heritage however frames it as time that the busy men he profiles just can't be bothered to take. That taking the time to think about clothes is trivial or a waste. What Kahl gets, perhaps better than most given her job as Creative Director, is that no matter what we wear we send a signal. Zuckerberg does it in his hoodie, and it's a signal that works for him both because of who he is and what his surroundings are. It would not work for President Obama for the same reasons. (And when Zuckerberg met Obama? He wore a tie.) Kahl saves herself time now by wearing a uniform, but it only works because she thought through a work outfit that would always be appropriate. 

Me? I'm not giving up a rainbow of colors (okay, yes, mostly blue and green and sometimes red.) But I get it. Now excuse me, I've got to throw on a button down and get to work. 

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