The next morning I rolled into the office, took off my jacket, put on my leopard print desk-coat the way I do every morning, and told a colleague that, by God, we’d hire people who came in wearing a bikini and a gas mask if they did their job well.
My colleague stared for a second – I think there was tacit agreement in her silence – and then we discussed how we’d be inclined to see a man in an ill fitting suit not as a tramp-y idiot coasting by on his looks, but as the kind of eccentric who must be brilliant if lacking in social skills. We’d actually assume he was so smart that he didn’t care what he looked like.
But we work in… I don’t even know what people wear in our office. Once a girl came in with no pants on. And I think, pretty much to everyone’s credit, no one mentioned it until halfway through the day when the girl exclaimed, “I forgot to put pants on!” And we all nodded, because it was true.
I deduced that we didn’t really put the thought into office attire that some people do. Our work dress code seems to be “Try to remember to get dressed all the way in the morning if you can.”
So. I called a male friend of mine who works for a hedge fund and hires, almost exclusively, people who wear pants.
“Would you hire someone wearing an ill fitting suit?” I asked.
“For what job?” he replied.
And so we discussed the exciting opportunities available to one at a hedge fund. I will not share any of them with you, because I want to have an edge on you should this blogging thing not work out. Suffice to day, there are many different jobs.
“Alright,” I said, “that was a good talk. I will rephrase: would you think that someone wearing an ill fitting suit was less intelligent than someone wearing a properly fitted one?”
“I wouldn’t think he was less intelligent,” he replied “but I would think he was – DO NOT USE MY NAME – n.o.c.d.”
“I love it when you do that trick where you open your mouth and my grandmother’s voice flies out.”
“Come on,” he said, “come on. You know these things. If you were brought up a certain way you’ve been in a blue blazer since you were four. It doesn’t make you a better person, but it makes you a person who knows how a suit fits. There’s definitely a symbolic almost coded nature to knowing things like how suits are supposed to fit, or having the sort of watch your father gave you, or knowing that you buy Nantucket Reds at Murray’s. You see someone who also knows those things and you think you are alike. And if your boss grew up in Greenwich or New Canaan or wherever, he also knows those things and he wants to hire people who are like him. You see the same thing with people in Silicon Valley where they all want to hire guys who wear hoodies, because those guys are like them.”
I pointed out that I would like to hire someone wearing a bikini and a gas mask.
“Right,” he replied, “and maybe that says that you’re a space alien.. from the future.”
I learned a lot about myself, but nothing about the sartorial items that could undermine men in the workplace that way a tank top and a miniskirt can. Though I do think it’s not a bad idea to Single White Female your boss provided you can do it subtly.