July 30, 2010

On Self-Respect

Once, when I turned up to what was then my (rather disreputable) workplace in a suit and tie, my boss asked me if I was due in court. I’m still not sure what the correct answer to this should have been, for it was surely not my place to explain that office attire ought not to stretch to board shorts and plastic flip-flops. While it might be true that nothing about the professional world really depends on looking this way or that, there is surely a certain a sense of decency/appropriateness that ought to intercede before the rot sets in. It is the major way in which we signal our professionalism, after all.

Yesterday, I was talking to Anthony while receiving Barnet maintenance and, being the philosopher that he is, he was reflecting on the way in which the internet is changing the world. The man in the sharp suit but with an empty head used to be able to get along rather well, simply by looking perky when the boss was in the vicinity. The dishevelled oaf who went to Dickie Moore’s, but who had a head full of bright ideas, was never allowed to shine. Now, so says Anthony, the sharp-suited man competes unfavourably with the man who never leaves his living room and doesn’t even bother putting on his trousers. What is to become of the empty-headed sharp-suited man? And what should we make of our bare-legged house-bound go-getter of the future?

I do not know this person, but assuredly he is succeeding from home

Musing on these fragments relating to sartorial attitudes leads me to the following: while we used to have standards, looking the part often superseded being the part, and if we have made a meritocratic turn, so much the better; then again, if the meritocratic turn has come at the expense of all standards, then we have turned too far. There is, I conjecture, a balance to be struck. People can go to work in appropriate attire and be good at their jobs. And people who stay at home and make fortunes by manipulating the ether can don a collar and tie just because it feels good to look good.

Incidentally, in answer to the question posed by my former boss I pointed out that I have a certain amount of self-respect to maintain. I did not say ‘How about you?’ but it was probably understood.


  1. Doctor, perhaps there is not enough of the public life - one needs an audience and a common or public opinion, after all...

  2. Best picture ever?

    And even dressing in public has decreased in quality.

  3. One hopes he has been better captured, Michael, though doubtless this ranks highly among his own personal favourites. This gentleman's tanline suggests he is not accustomed to long-sleeved shirts in public.

  4. I really get depressed when I meet a man who wants to date me, then assures me he is jeans, tshirt, and running shoes type, and tells me not to expect anything else, ever.

    That means no nice restaurants, no theatre, looking shabby at occassions where I am invited socially where the guys at least wear a jacket and loafers/leather shoes/dressy boots with the jeans!

    I have been accused of being shallow for wanting a man to dress for the occasion. I don't mind being with someone not dressed to the nines, but being with the worst dressed man in the room or amongst my acquaintances just annoys me.


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