Is Wearing a Tie a Nuisance?

A reader tries to convince the White Guy that conforming to standard Western business attire is equal to sexism or homophobia. Read how the White Guy responds.

Luke Visconti's Ask the White Guy column is a top draw on DiversityInc.com. Visconti, the founder and CEO of DiversityInc, is a nationally recognized leader in diversity management. In his popular column, readers who ask Visconti tough questions about race/culture, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability and age can expect smart, direct and disarmingly frank answers.


Question:

I'm still irritated by the blitheness with which you assure your readers that it's OK for everybody to be forced into the mold of hideousness which is "standard business attire" unless they have a religious or ethnic excuse to get out.

 

Standard Western business attire is ugly, uncomfortable (for those who cannot afford tailoring, anyway) and sends a message of conformity and soullessness. Must human dignity be sacrificed for everybody but a handful of lucky Silicon Valley geeks and unambitious low-end "creatives" in advertising/media? I feel that this is on some level almost as oppressive as the discrimination on grounds of gender, faith, sexual orientation, etc., acceptance of which [was] once considered proof that you were a "team player" and fit into the WASP culture of "REAL" Americans!

 

(Note: I'm a union steward; I don't consider "Because management has the power to force you to do this" a valid rationale.)

 

[Signed,]

Unreconstructed hippie without a tie.

 

Answer:

Please--wearing a tie may be a nuisance, but it's hardly an assault on human dignity.

 

You have a nice job as a union steward. Your position must give you some latitude in how you dress, but I haven't seen the shop floor that allows total freedom. For example, if you wanted to wear flowing robes with sleeves that draped over your hands around a lathe, would that be OK?

 

"Standard business attire" is a good way to keep insignificant aspects of who you are (like your clothes) from overshadowing your talent. To be successful, newcomers must adapt to some level of conformity to fit in. I've seen more progressive companies adopt a wider level of tolerance in how people dress--but I've also seen that reversed.

 

At a well-known retail company's headquarters, I noticed the relatively young and attractive work force was much more conservatively dressed than they were dressed during my previous visit. I asked about it and was told that the new CEO was uncomfortable with the increasing amount of skin exposed (bare midriffs, etc.) and tightened up the dress code.

 

There's another issue I'd like to bring up--correct spelling and good grammar is necessary if you want to be successful. I covered this in another column.

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