Friday, October 17, 2008

Do You Look The Part

I've had two teeth pulled in the last two weeks, the latest one yesterday. Both are uppers, the first one was the left back tooth and the one yesterday was the right upper. The dentists have numbers for the teeth. They talk about number 2 or number 15.

I don't know why they don't just say back upper right second from the end. I guess number 2 sounds more professional, but it doesn't really mean he is any better, which reminds me a story.

Long ago, back in the beginnings of my working career, I worked for a very conservative engineering company. They were very concerned with appearance. Everyone had to wear a suit. Not a sports jacket. The pants and jacket had to match.

I was at lunch with some colleagues and made the remark that I wished I could come to work in cutoffs and a T-shirt. They looked a me like I was crazy. Why would anyone want to do that? We were all professional people and we should look the part. I said it didn't really matter how we looked as long as we did a good job.

One fellow said "Let me explain it to you this way. What would you think if you were on a plane waiting to take off and the pilot walked on the plane in a T-shirt and cutoffs?"

I said that I didn't care what he was wearing as long as he could fly the plane.

His reply was "But how would you know?"

How would you know, indeed!

People in uniform seem to carry more authority than normally dressed people. Well-dressed people get more respect than poorly dressed people. I think we are all guilty of making judgments based on appearances. We assume the pilot can fly the plane because he has a uniform on. We assume the guy asking for help is legitimate because he is dressed nice. We assume the bum is just looking for money to buy a drink.

I wish we had a better way of making quick determinations about the intentions of people other than just their appearance.


  1. You wouldn't, and his wearing a uniform wouldn't help. Maybe he just squeaked by his exams. Maybe in turbulence he blows chunks. How would you know is an excellent question. Nice post.

  2. I liked reading this post.... made me think of a similar post I wrote back in june. I don't know if you were reading my blog then but here's the link...

    I'm sure my general opinion shines through on this topic.

  3. This is interesting becasue to me uniforms convey conformity more that authority, but they do hold power over certain people.

  4. ridge walker
    I'm always amazed at how much stock we put in a person's appearance.

    There is a little French bistro that we go to almost weekly for Sunday brunch. One of the waiters has tattoos all up and down both arms. Last week he was wearing a T-shirt that said "Tattoos are for Idiots". We both got a good laugh.

    Your general opinion does shine brightly through in your post. You are right on, but I hope you don't lose your job over it.

    I agree that uniforms do convey conformity also. We see that in "fashion statements" all the time. I suspect that our personal experiences also influence how we view uniforms.

  5. I agree, with the caveat that those who really do hold a position of true authority, such as law enforcement, always having to wear uniforms. It would be fun to experiment for a day to see just how seriously we could take each other dressed down.

    Hopefully you aren't in too much pain, down a couple of teeth. :)

  6. Sarah
    Thanks for asking about the teeth. Actually, they didn't really hurt much. At least I did not have an excuse for any hard core pain killers.