Why do you dress the way you do? Any work-mandated uniforms aside, are your clothing choices driven by your own wants and preferences, or by your perceptions of what other people think of you? As you ponder that, consider the internal politics of fashion. They are very real. What’s more, they are enough to drive you crazy.
All of us experience internal politics on a daily basis. Internal politics manifest themselves whenever we experience an inner conflict between common sense, emotion, perception, and expectation. We have all these thoughts and emotions rattling around inside, each one trying to win out over the other.
Fashion choices are a haven of internal politics because, in addition to our own inner turmoil, we have an entire industry pushing and pulling in every direction to get us to buy. What happened to simpler days when clothing was merely functional and nothing else? If those days ever existed, they are long gone now.
Dressing for Success
Business professionals might have the toughest time of all with the internal politics of fashion. They have to dress for success. At bare minimum, this means wearing business formal attire to the office five days per week. But even that isn’t necessarily an easy task. Business formal is a style of dress rather than a well-defined set of rules.
Maybe Mary wants to wear a bright red blouse on the same day she has a big meeting with a new client. The blouse is one of her favorites, and it makes her feel good about herself. One half of her brain is telling her to go for it. The other half is insisting that the client will be put off by such a bold display of color. Mary spends so much time debating the decision that she almost misses her carpool.
The internal politics of fashion are not limited to women. Men are just as prone to them. For example, is it okay for a professional man to wear argyle socks with a formal suit? That depends on who you ask. Some fashion experts say absolutely not. Others welcome argyle with open arms. Bill, a trial attorney, agonizes over whether argyle is acceptable for a civil trial as opposed to a criminal one.
Presenting a Good First Impression
Above and beyond the desire to dress for success is a secondary desire that drives many people: the desire to present a good first impression. No doubt good impressions are important. Still, are they important enough to sacrifice budget and comfort just to create a certain look? It is debatable.
GC Tech is a Salt Lake City company that makes waterproof shoe covers for men. One of their marketing angles is talking about making a good first impression. As the thinking goes, the attorney or business professional does not want to arrive to a meeting with wet, spotted shoes. It all makes sense.
Protecting dress shoes with shoe covers is one thing. But running out and buying a brand-new pair of shoes for an upcoming meeting is something else entirely. Is making a good first impression a viable reason to spend a few hundred dollars on a new pair of oxfords?
When it comes to fashion, many people find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place. They know what they find comfortable. They know what makes them feel good and exude confidence. But then they also have their own perceptions of what the rest of the world thinks about them. The internal politics these conflicting messages create can be maddening.