Don’t worry – I am working on a botanical art post but want to get this off my chest first:
I recently visited the headquarters of the organisation I work for because I was on an interview panel (a challenge for an introvert in any case). I had to rush off for the journey home whilst still wearing a suit. I was astonished at how differently I was treated by people in shops and on buses & trains. I’m probably as guilty as anyone of judging people by first impressions so this has been on my mind ever since. Because I wear lab coats at work and rarely have meetings with external people I generally wear any old jeans and a t-shirt and travel to and from work wearing a scruffy jacket*. Plus I don’t usually care much about my appearance due to life-long low-self-esteem thinking that makes me think ‘why bother – a nice suit won’t make any difference to the scowling ugly face on top of it’.
The journey wearing a suit was a revelation, not only did people engage with me more and smile more but this resulted in my being more confident and smiling myself, which in turn made more people friendlier toward me. I’d still rather be unemployed than sell out by wearing a suit regularly. The only people in my experience who wear suits out of choice are; senior managers, lawyers, politicians, sales people & bankers. Who would trust any of that lot?
However – the gain in my own confidence was quite interesting and perhaps I should give more thought to how I project to others and how this reflects back to me.
None of this will be any news to the ladies out there of course. They are judged on their appearance far more than men are. I do, however, confess to being a bit jealous that clothing for women is so infinitely variable in style and colour, whereas us blokes have a much more narrow definition of what it is ‘normal’ for us to wear. I saw a bloke in Manchester a few weeks ago wearing a wonderful iridescent blue African style collarless shirt which I absolutely loved but it isn’t something an old white guy like me would be expected to wear is it?
A couple of years ago my niece painted my toenails gold for a laugh. I really liked it and kept them that way for three weeks before I was persuaded to remove the colour because of ‘what people might think’.
Why can’t I have my nails painted? Who decides these narrow definitions of what is ‘normal’ and what gives them the right?
You have probably gathered that I feel like I need a change. Do men get makeovers? I’m an artistic and flamboyant person in my heart but feel like I’m being squeezed into the boring conformity expected from a middle aged bloke from the North of England. I want the freedom to express myself. In a world where a man over 50 is supposed to be ‘too old’ wear jeans and a T shirt how can I start? I always loved the sixties trend for vintage military jackets and capes but, even then, it was for youngsters.
I have a great deal of respect for those who buck social trends, having been a life-long misfit. I celebrate individualism. Yes, I know, people fear bullying or social ostracism for wearing the ‘wrong’ thing. So? Who wants to be a sheep anyway? Tragedies like the murder of Sophie Lancaster for being ‘different’ make me angry but they don’t scare me into wanting to conform – they make me even more determined to forge my own path and to encourage others to do the same.
As I type this I’m wearing jeans, a Baby Groot (I’m a huge GOTG fan) T-shirt and Minion socks. This feels as radical as I get!
*I hasten to add that it wasn’t originally scruffy but any clothing in my charge seems to end up that way fairly quickly…