Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Do Clothes Make the Man?

Had a conversation with some mates the other night regarding clothing. It began harmlessly enough as reported here. However, it later morphed into a more theoretical exchange on the importance of appearance and clothing's effect on its wearer.

I'm of the belief that a three-piece suit doesn't make one perform any better or worse in their profession. Especially if said profession doesn't involve any direct interaction with the general public, as is the case in my profession of computer programming. What does a fancy suit add to my ability to program?

However, I do believe that having some pride in personal appearance can positively affect a person's attitude, without it having to cross the line into outright vanity. I'll admit that I enjoy watching the program What Not to Wear. Both the American version and the original, British version. I began watching the original on BBC America mostly because I enjoyed the two women hosts - and the fact that they frequently used the word 'tits' during episodes and weren't afraid to discuss them openly and touch them occasionally. The American version isn't so bad, either, albeit a bit more reserved in the 'tit' department. But I digress.

The point two of us were trying to make is that the people who are enlisted as guests - or 'victims', since they are secretly signed up by friends and family - are typically put off by the idea at first. Admittedly, I understand the initial indignation. No one likes to be told that they look awful and anyone would be slightly offended by such an insinuation. Eventually, however, each guest on the show is converted by the end of the ordeal. Their spirits are enlightened, thier outlook brightened, and over-all self esteem heightened. And what's wrong with that?

The third party in the conversation wouldn't have any of it. "Clothes shouldn't matter. It's what's on the inside that is important," was his general defense. That's partly true. But what's wrong with being who you are and taking some pride in appearance at the same time? It doesn't stand that simply because you're putting on a decent outward appearance that you're selling yourself short... or bowing to the pressures of a material society.

It seems to me that there is some idealism at play, here. His ideal being that clothing shouldn't make any difference, under any circumstances. What we tried to point out was the fact, if one feels better about themselves with certain clothing options, where is the harm? Believe me, I'm no fashion expert. I believe in simple, comfortable clothing. I try to avoid wearing suits at all cost. But a little style here and there isn't a sin, is it?

So, I propose to my idealistic friend, hold yourself up to your own ideal. If clothing is as utilitarian as you profess, why not show up to work in some ill-fitting, out-of-date slacks and an horrendous silk print shirt? Same outfit. Every day. For a week. I'll pick them out for you - and even pay for them. After all, why should it matter? It's just clothing.

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