7 Reasons Why Alternative Style Should Be Allowed In The Professional World
If you type in a search for workplace fashion, you'll get lots of tips on what you should — and shouldn't — wear at your professional place of employment. The sad thing is that even in 2015, we're still pretty stuck in our workplace ways. What I mean is that more often than not, many of us are forced to sacrifice our sense of style and individual self-expression for a uniform, pre-made "professional" ideal of business attire.
You already know what I mean, because it's been drilled into our heads for years: "Dressing for success" means suits, ties, skirts, blazers, minimal patterns or bright colors, and hairstyles and makeup have to be reduced to what our professional culture has deemed "normal."
For the most part, only natural hair color is acceptable and body art needs to be covered. It can all feel a bit like there's a corporate mantra of "conceal, minimize, reduce yourself," and "conform, be uniform, draw no attention to yourself!"
The ironic thing is that most college graduates transitioning from the academic world into the professional one are moving from a four-year time period of creativity (where self-discovery was not only allowed, but encouraged) to a world where all of that is essentially thrown out the window and replaced with a list of rules and regulations.
I'm not saying that being known in your job for the actual skills you possess instead of your fashion is a bad thing, but I would like to suggest that the two don't have to be separated. I'd also like to suggest that a great employee/manager/business owner can be the same person who sports radical tattoos, hairstyles, and clothing choices.
Here are seven more reasons why I feel this is true:
1. Self-expression promotes an environment of creativity.
It's very often that people wearing alternative styles get pegged for the creative-type jobs — like writing, graphic design, and photography. And then also the more fabulous jobs, like being a total rock star. Because that obviously suits aesthetically diverse styles. (I'm still waiting for my record deal.)
But just because these jobs are common for alternative style lovers, they shouldn't be the only option. In fact, creativity is a skill that needs to be more recognized in jobs of every nature. I mean, hello, problem-solving requires a great deal of creativity, and I believe the creativity needed for excellent diagnostic and perceptive skills is more readily available to our brains when we feel free — to be ourselves, express who we are, and be open to the world. I don't see how that isn't something employers don't already readily embrace.
2. Stereotypes are boring.
I mean, aren't we all ready for them to be something completely of the past? Even though it seems like an impossible task to eliminate all stereotypes forever, I still feel like that individual businesses and workplaces can create environments where pre-judgements based on the way people look aren't applied in employee-boss relations.
3. Styles change.
It just comes with the passing of time! There was once a time when women only wore dresses, and heck, before that, even seeing a woman in the workplace was a shocker. Eventually, I believe people will accept alternative styles in the mainstream; but in the meantime, one of the biggest reasons they should is that trying to keep things the way the are only slows progress down.
4. Corporate priorities aren't always ideal.
Just because someone made up the rule of dressing a certain way for work doesn't mean it's the be all and end all. It's definitely unfair to give a job to someone who is less qualified simply because they can fit a mold. It's nothing short of sad that so many of us continue to buy into the lie that we won't ever get a professional job if we don't change the way we look.
Ultimately, we all have that sartorial decision to make on our own, and I'm not here to judge if you do end up changing your style for your job. But I know I want it to be my decision, not someone forcing my hand. And I just want to give a little shout-out to all the rule breakers out there!
5. Professionalism is misunderstood.
IMO, being professional shouldn't have anything to do with what you look like. I know we're an image-based society, but it should be more or a priority to employers that you can do your job well, interact effortlessly with other people (whether fellow employees or customers), and understand your job description well enough to be a productive asset to the company.
When it comes to jobs, I feel that your performance should rank higher than the way you choose to portray yourself.
6. Alternative style employees are often progressive.
Just like creativity makes a difference in the workplace, having employees who can think ahead of where the business is now goes a long way. I don't see why people who are applauded for being visionaries in certain facets of society — like art, fashion, music — are likely the same people who would be reprimanded for not adhering to dress policies at a job.
That ability to visualize and set goals and bring a business further ahead is often translated from people who think outside the box. When an employer sees colorful hair, tattoos, and exciting fashion, they should see vision and potential — not rebellion.
7. People are more than their job title.
It's just not fair to box people in. A doctor, lawyer, or banker doesn't have to be a stiff, impersonal, unstylish person. I know when I see someone's personality shine through in a professional setting, I feel a sense of relief, and I'm much more likely to do business with personable, real people.
It's also up to those of us who have tattoos or different hairstyles to make sure we're the best we can be to try to eliminate those stereotypes and pre-judgements that people make based on the way we look.
Images: Getty; Giphy