As a kid, when you’re asked what you want to be when you grow up, nobody ever says “a manager,” “an accountant,” or “the hot secretary.” My theory as to the reason why we all choose firefighter, astronaut, ballerina, or milk truck driver is simple. The uniform.
Sure, most of us will wind up becoming some variety of office lackey, and maybe there’s less glimmer and shimmer in being “that dude from IT,” but the real reason is ‘cause most of our nation’s workforce is required to dress the same. Even look at Starbucks. There’s a uniform.
And let’s just admit it, we all want to be terminally unique, or at least terminally ourselves.
When I graduated college I remember going shopping for so-called interview outfits. They were usually grey or black skirts, paired with a button-down shirt of subtle hue, and the whole ensemble was pressed, put together, and perched atop a pair of heels.
These outfits were boring as hell, but at least I had the confidence going into each face-to-face meeting knowing that my tattoos were covered and I looked pretty much just like everybody else who declined a glass of water and hoped their smile blotted out any resume discrepancies.
For a year as a paralegal I wore business casual attire that had tiny flairs of my personality, a sweater with skulls on it here, a pair of fishnets there. Over time the tattoos crept down my arms, and the mowhawk started to announce itself on my head a little louder, and I realized that I wasn’t just rebelling against the quote-unquote system or seeing how flustered I could make my conservative (and saintly) boss. I just was me. And I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do, other than getting tattoos and trying to look like a general badass.
If you offered me a book deal, or full-time writing gig, where the only catch was that I had to wear a bear costume every day, I would ask you “Polar or Grizzly?” We’re all willing to make sacrifices, especially those pertaining to our exterior, if we’re getting paid to do what we love. Feel free to disagree, but I’d say that if you’re balking at the idea of donning what our boss deems acceptable attire, you’re probably still in college and think the world is your oyster.
The world has all the gunk and grit of a bivalve, but to get to the pearl you have to have a solid shell.
I’ve learned a simultaneous privilege and hindrance to the freelance lifestyle, and that is the wardrobe. Sure, I can wear pajamas all day every day, or just eschew doing my laundry until my clothes fall away into rotted, scabie-covered tatters, and nearly no one will care (except for my roommates.)
After scoring a phenomenal client a few months ago I arrived to eat a celebratory burrito wearing an outfit that included pink leopard print tights. My friend Noah asked me, “Do you two, you know, dress for meetings?”
I can only speak for myself, but the answer is yes. But how I dress depends on a client. If we’re about to embark on a technical writing assignment and we were to meet with a site manager, well, I think I’d put on some conservative pants and a sweater. I’d look like I could coach a women’s basketball team, but at least that’s professional.
If we’re meeting with a creative design firm, however, I’d feel a little less inclined to put the visual pitbull of my personality on a muzzled leash.
You dress to impress. Not yourself, but the people who put food in your mouth.
Truth is, the clothes make the man, and not just by how you present to potential clients or bedmates. If you feel good about your appearance, you have swagger. Confidence can seal the deal as a freelancer, especially when you already feel like you’re the best at what you do. Shouting it out from your threads – and head held high – can help.
That said, I would kind of adore a Ministry of Imagery uniform. Maybe a jumpsuit for Simon, an embroidered French maid outfit for me, or vice versa. Or maybe something more along the lines of Devo mixed with a Robert Palmer video…
Take off your word clothes, write me at AinsleyDrew at the gmail one. A massive thank you to all of you who donate! It keeps the shirt on my back, or at least off of my back voluntarily.
Like It. ‘Cause masturbating in front of an open window just isn’t enough.
Check out Dress for Success, an organization dedicated to providing professional attire to disadvantaged women entering the workforce.
”The mission of Dress for Success is to promote the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and the career development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.”