b Papa Dog's Blog: Two Stories About Me Wearing a Suit to Work

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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Two Stories About Me Wearing a Suit to Work

In 1987ish, when I first started working at the predecessor company of what is now YBW* Corporation, I unknowingly became a trailblazer in the arena of casual office attire. The Less Marvellous Spouse preceded me at the company and was my in. She made sure to ask, “Does it matter how he dresses?” Someone or other said “No.” I took that as the go-ahead to not fix what wasn’t broken. Jeans and t-shirts were good for me at Tower Records. Jeans and t-shirts would be good in the corporate offices of Gals Plus** too. When the LMS asked “Does it matter how he dresses,” I rather doubt the person who answered “No” was envisioning a guy in Levis and a Paddington t-shirt with a big bushy beard and hair down to his bum, but that’s what they got. I didn’t realise at the time that just wasn’t done. Within the decade, though, it was done, pretty much everywhere except places with corporate HQs in Salt Lake City or Houston, and I like to think you have me to thank for that. So you’re welcome.

One day in the early 90s, the company was courting a major contract from the United States Post Office. A big presentation was scheduled, and Postal brass was to be there. A memo came around from senior management announcing the meeting date and urging all employees to clean up their work spaces and make an effort to look that extra little bit professional that day. I called my boss and asked, “Does this mean I’m supposed to stay home?” “No,” she said, “just keep a low profile.”

I was young and cranky and contrarian and given to bouts of (I must now admit) misdirected rage, principally against the machine. I conceived of a pointless but grandiose act of rebellion. The day before the scheduled meeting, I wore to work, for the first time ever, a suit and tie. The day of the meeting, I came wearing my rattiest torn-up jeans and a t-shirt that was borderline offensive. The day after the meeting, I wore a suit and tie again.

The funny thing: you’d think this sort of thing would get me fired, or at least talked to rather severely. In fact, nobody noticed. I always came to work through a back entrance and stayed behind my desk all day. My cubicle wasn’t part of the post office tour. I was never seen by anybody who would have cared.

I believe I didn’t wear a suit to work again until one day in 1997ish, and that time I did get noticed. During my afternoon break, I was riding down the elevator with an engineer who already had one foot out the door. She looked me up and down and asked, “Got a job interview?” “No,” I said, “it’s the end of the laundry cycle and I didn’t have anything else to wear.” She scrunched up her nose with a “Sure, right” look and said, “don’t worry, I won’t tell.” She was gone from the company very soon after that. I’m still there. I never got around to telling her, “No, really, I just ran out of clean shirts.”
*Stands for “Y’all Be We.” I don’t know why they called it that either.
**Don’t know where that name came from either.


Blogger Twizzle said...

Now you go to work sporting a neat, semi-stylish haircut; a Kenneth Cole attache case; and expensive black leather Ecco shoes. (You still wear T-shirts & jeans to work, but at least the shirts are slogan- and graphics-free.) I'd like to think you have me to thank for that. So, you're welcome!

9:23 PM  
Blogger Judy said...

I'm all for comfort at the workplace...perhaps that's why my last job involved three year olds and fingerpainting.

1:57 PM  

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