Sunday, November 23, 2008

Dress code

Why do we dress as we do? Is it just to attract attention or there is something more to it than that meets the eye? Is attracting the opposite sex the sole motive? If that is so nature would not have made men and women different. So dress must have a meaning other than mere sexual attraction. My own theory is it has to do with hierarchy and expression of power. Well dressed person [well dressed has different connotation in different societies] attracts attention. One can go to any extent to get attention. One can deck himself with brightly colored clothing however ill fitting it may be; deck himself or herself with heavy jewelry. May even have attachments like bright feathers, caps, hats toupees and the like. Medieval rajas had a decorated umbrella over their heads and sat on ornate thrones. The desire to dress elaborately and thus be identified as different and important is not confined to the rich and the powerful. It applies even to the clergy. One has only to look at the way the clergy of different communities dress to see my point.

Are they comfortable in their preferred dresses? Surprisingly comfort is something that is often practiced. I asked a consultant friend of mine who was in a full suit on summer morning, the rationale behind his attire. His reply was that without his suit he feels naked! I would, given a choice, rather be naked than wear a suit on a hot Sunday morning. Our beurocrats too like to be suited; that they stick out like sore thumbs in most of the gatherings is another matter which does not seem to bother them.

Doctors and white coats are synonymous. Add a stethoscope strung around the neck you have the complete uniform. This is ostensibly to ward off dirt and germs? Or is it for the patients to identify the class? For many the white coated figure of the approaching doctor causes extreme anxiety bordering on fear.

Now those of you who are my patients know why don’t wear a white coat.


Anonymous said...

Doc, you can afford not to wear a white coat and a stethoscope since you are a private practitioner.You could not have done this if you were employed in a hospital.
Dress is for class distinction.Otherwise who can make out the difference between a king and a beggar ? To be better dressed or colourfully dressed is the icing on the cake.

Anonymous said...

Interesting topic, Doc. I enjoyed reading your views on this.

A related incident from the non-medical field came to my mind :

In our office, the senior management recently laid down some rules as part of "dress code". It was done because we had people turning in slippers, torn-jeans, etc ; the staff were taking advantage of the freedom given so far and showing up in tardy attire, inappropriate for a professional organization.

When the "dress code" was enforced (and it was quite a mild code - formal trousers, formal shirts, shoes, no tshirts, jeans permitted only on Fridays), some people in our teams came to managers like me and said that they did not have enough money to buy a formal trouser. Interestingly, these 22-25 year olds were also the same people who were carrying mobile phones worth Rs.15-20,000 and spending 80% of their monthly salaries on credit card purchases for "luxuries".

So we (some of the managers) decided to give these 'rebels' a standard response - "We will give you 2 months. Set apart just 10% of your salary over these two months and buy yourself some decent clothes. Nothing flashy, nothing grand. Just get yourself a good, professional wardrobe".

It worked. We have far few rebels today. The office looks much more professional today. Although some people also added another element to their attire - a grumpy look for their managers :-)

So besides hierarchy and expression of power, I also think dress codes are about providing a certain message of professionalism and a sense of the culture of the environment.


Anonymous said...

we wear clothes for our physiological needs. but soon we outgrow our needs and want to wear clothes to feel secured in them as they make us feel that we can afford it hence they give us a sense of comfort/security.
now we have taken care of our individual now what ..we want society to accept us ..hence we start seeing what society wants us to now we move on to social needs...we see fashion magazines ..check what the manager wears..our wearing dress to fit in the society is also a part of this need . Are we still content no way we want society to show us RESPECT coz our need feeds on itself & think we need to be looked up by the same society ; which were so desperately trying to be a part of..

Digressing a bit here..people fail to understand that when young guys are wearing jeans torn or otherwise , when trousers start slipping to show JOCKEY strap..all they are doing is conforming to their social circle ( READ SOCIAL NEEDS) as that is what their society needs..are you doing anything else ,you as a manager want them to dress up as per your society ( READ OFFICE DRESS CODE) ..they day you make their working life more their own than their friend circle , they will identify with the office dress code & wont be forced to cut 10% of their salary & be termed REBELS. THEY ARE NOT REBELS , THEY ARE JUST A PART OF ANOTHER GROUP.

getting back to the topic of dress code now we have hit the zone where society starts showing repsect to us..and we realise that all this is useless..we are just pretending..leading a life just to live up to what others want & hence the SELF ACTUALIZATION dawns on some lucky individuals..who realise that i am just me ..everything is a farse..Fortunatley for the corporate world this need never pretend more and more start using bigger jargons.
For those like Dr Rao ( my uncle), they ask Do I Really Need It? Do i need to fit anywhere. DO i need people to think i am good because of what i drape myself with or what i know and how i can benefit the lives of people i touch.
To distinguish a beggar from a king you need to just spend 2 minutes with will know..BUT we dont have 2 mins for ourselves these can we spend that much time on someone else.
Just My Thoughts too

Anonymous said...

It's an interesting point of view, but I still think if you are in an office which is enabling you to earn your livelihood, you need to conform to the rules of that office. If torn jeans is more applicable and 'fits in better' in a music rock-band 'society', then the person should be in a rock band, not in an office. Then, nobody can force him to cut 10% of his pay for anything.

I agree with you that these rules are not based on the needs of the individual, but on the desire of the organization to feel more secure or appear to be something.

But that is how all societies are and it will always be that way. The wicked corporate world is just one such society.