Throughout my years working in the corporate world, I stayed somewhat quiet — I knew that if I divulged too much information, I'd likely be chastised or gossiped about. I smiled politely at my co-workers and reluctantly engaged in office "Happy Birthday" sing-a-longs and lavish happy hours. I'd narrow my eyes at my boss's witty mug that said "I've used up all my sick days and now I'm calling out dead." Seeing that mug every day, literally made me die a little inside. In the throes of a recession, I had little direction. Like many young people integrating into the corporate world, I struggled to integrate into the normalcy without losing who I was. The white-picket fence, the children, the house in the suburbs — well, for me, it sounded like a true American Nightmare.
When I first heard the sweet sound of Rancid at the ripe old age of 12, I was instantly hooked. I spent my entire allowance at Newbury Comics; I listened to all their albums in one night. I related instantly to the lyrics "When I got the music, I got a place to go!" Soon, I was in the depths of hardcore and punk rock music, happily stumbling upon more gory, goth-like, bands like TSOL and 45 Grave. I will not lie, if Pantera is up for grabs at karaoke? I'm already on stage. My parents supported my punk/goth/metal habit even when I shaved my eyebrows off and began drawing them on in clever shapes. When I decided to only wear a red wig, my mother told me fine, but I still needed to keep up with my hair relaxers. However, it was no surprise to me that when I entered the workforce that my fashion needed a slight alteration.
Me, refusing to conform.
Sociologists say that punks and ravers often slip into the backgrounds of their alternative lifestyle well into their twenties and state that goths tend to keep their all-black, dark eyeliner fashion. According to The Guardian's social-guru, this is due to goths largely being of a middle class background, therefore they integrate into the corporate world with higher education and a passion for all the darker things in life. Perhaps, it's more likely that punk and hardcore kids have no choice; most of us are gripping onto a movement that was over decades ago.
Most of these bands can perform a complete discography in under an hour. Pioneers of American hardcore have moved on, mainly to expand their quest for musical fulfillment, not due to lack of love for the scene. The only incentive a rave scene seems to offer is a rave; the activism of punk rock is missing and unlike goth music, its history is seriously lacking — as we grow up, our interests develop and expand, we need more to latch onto than music.
It took several trips to the Anne Taylor sales rack before I realized that I didn't have to fully change who I was for my career.. For some reason, perhaps my deep-seeded hatred for authority, I was unwilling to ditch my youthful perception and musical taste for a 401k plan. I had to find subtle ways to implement my commitment to a sub-culture while climbing the corporate latter to success. In most fields, the harder you work and the more success you achieve means you can slowly throw out fashion-caution at your day job.
Here are some basic fashion rules that helped me keep my day job — and sleep at night, knowing I hadn't completely given in to the man.
Rule No. 1: Subtle Jewelry
My tiny pentagram earrings often go unnoticed in corporate meetings and on dinner dates. It's like having a tiny adorable secret on my ears that only I know about. Bonus: It attracts the folks I really want to get to know IN the office and out. If pentagrams aren't your thing, keep things casual and ditch jewelry that will bring too much attention. A subtle ring or necklace will keep HR (Human Resources, not lead singer of the Bad Brains) off of your back. (Secretly? I say fuck 'em!)
Rule No. 2: Love your Tats
The only thing your boss will hate more than a tattoo is a jaded, faded tattoo. Be an adult and treat your tats with the respect they deserve. Clean thoroughly when you are healing from a new tattoo, use a moisturizer ALWAYS, and never leave your house without UV protection on your ink. Resist the urge to tattoo your neck and hands until you've solidified your place in your career. I know, I know, it's super hard! Ain't nobody got time to wait for a hand tattoo!
Rule No 3: The Haircut
Finding an appropriate workplace haircut that doesn't make you look like you belong on Fox News can be sort of tricky. If you are addicted to funky colors, try to use temporary dyes in the back of your hair that can't be seen in the brutal florescent lights of your new day job. If it's permitted, keep your Chelsea haircut and rock on at your desk in confidence.
Rule No. 4: Black is Beautiful
If you live in NYC, it's fairly easy to get away with wearing all-black without any stares. I had been getting away with tight black pencil skirts, black shirts, and black ankle boots for years until I moved to Oregon. If I had a spell for everyone who asked me if I was going to a funeral... Embrace that (non)color staple from your youth: It's classic, timeless, and looks good on just about everyone. A simple black dress is right for every office occasion, and you can add colorful glasses or a funky color to lighten up the darkness.
Rule No. 5: Casual Friday
Honestly, I've bombed casual Friday at least a few times... per job. I was employed largely by design firms which have a slightly less strict dress code and I STILL managed to look out of place. Here's the thing, you can only get away with a crop top if you know upper management is on a much needed golf-retreat. Here's the other thing: Almost no one appreciates your EyeHateGod T-shirt. I know, weird right???
Personally, I plead ignorance when people marvel at my casual-attire. There is nothing specific in the handbook that says I can't wear a shirt that says "Just Let Me Die." However, you'll be able to gauge what's going to pass and what's going to make you a social outcast after one casual Friday, so wait until week two to whip out your favorite muscle tees.
Image: Giphy; Kristin Collins Jackson