The Clothes Make the Man

IMG_1592If by some chance of fate I was told that the outfit I am wearing today is the only  style of clothing I would be allowed to wear for the rest of my life, I would drop to my knees and shout “THANK YOU!” unto the heavens.  Ridiculous?  Dramatic?  High potential for skinning of knees?  Yes, my friends… all of these things… but also very true.  If I could pretty much dress as pictured (you cannot see my snazzy Adidas sandals, unfortunately) for the remainder of my days, I would be one happy and comfy guy.

The t-shirt/shorts/baseball hat/hoodie/sandals ensemble may not be a perfect example of sartorial splendor to many, but for me, it’s the outfit that… well… I just feel most like me in.

The title of this blog post is, admittedly, misleading because my take on “the clothes make the man” is about 2 things: how people perceive you and how you perceive yourself.  I am only interested in the latter in this case.  For me, I put on this gear and I can feel myself unwind and have a much more relaxed outlook on my day whereas wearing a suit immediately sticks me into a “GAME TIME!” sort of focus.  I also tend to feel overly formal in a suit (I know… truly surprising) and if you know me that well, I am not one for overly formal.  I am more one for random and inane comments out of the blue because life is way too short to take myself overly seriously.

Over the past few years, I’ve developed an increasing fascination with the effects of environment on the way we think, live and act.  Your clothes form a kind of environment for you, but I’ve also am curious about how where we work and live effects each of us.  It could possibly come from working in a big corporate environment where so many people (including me for most of my working time here) reside in gray/beige cubes with fluorescent lighting for 8+ hours every day… 5 days a week… 49 to 50 weeks a year.  You don’t think that effects your outlook to some measurable degree?  Or how you problem solve?

Let’s compare and contrast.  Look at the following two photos and focus on where you think you would be a better worker and (for purposes of this blog post) a better thinker:

cubicle2 Emerald and Onyx Office

Am I cheating to make my own argument easier?  I honestly don’t think so.  Now granted, I am not expecting the Fortune 500 to suddenly ditch cube walls and give everyone an office with panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean or to create a veritable indoor rainforest as pictured here.

The big question I have is this: Is the trade off in cost and space efficiency worth more than the potential creativity and new ideas generated through more open and engaging workspaces?  I believe this to be true, but I obviously do not have hard empirical data, fancy charts or a glossy report assembled by McKinsey & Company to back me up… and that’s what big corporations expect for making big decisions.  It’s just a fact.

I think there is certainly a better path forward away from a soul-crushing drabness to something more engaging and intellectually stimulating for office workers every where… and I think it’s a true win-win.  Happier employees in better environments are also going to be more productive.  That’s just science.

Now I am going to go and enjoy a different piece of environment to reset my focus: back patio and in the sun doing a whole lot of nothing.  That’s a good mental state in which to reside.

4 thoughts on “The Clothes Make the Man”

  1. Oh, there is tons of data to support the bulldozing of the cubicle environment-here is just one article: http://blogs.hbr.org/hbr/hewlett/2009/08/bulldoze_your_cubicles_for_bet.html

    Think of the highly publicized working environments of some of the most creative businesses – Pixar, Google, etc. Sterile white walls make me feel as though I should be walking through the halls holding my johnny closed in the back! Now I know that this will sound ungrateful and could be infinitely worse, but I am in a gigantic office in the middle of a large office building with no windows and stark white walls. Now if that doesn’t scream “straight-jacket” I don’t know what does. All I need is a little padding on the walls and I’m all set! Of course, I’ve tried to liven it up a bit with bright lamps and artwork but if I had my way the walls would scream “stop in here and talk to me about your best ideas!” Someday, when I have my own company……..

    Here’s an idea – save the companies millions on two fronts – they don’t have to re-decorate and, in fact, they don’t have to have maintain office space at all – let’s use the technology we have and let the majority of the teams telecommute – it’s working all over the country on a large scale basis and will ONLY require an complete and absolute culture change! Then I can decorate my office any way I’d like and you can to! BTW, love the kicks!

  2. I am truly surprised more companies have not embraced telecommuting as a cost-savings measure. Less space to rent or less space to own and pay taxes on. Overhead alone would be a ton cheaper and better on-line collaboration tools are better developed all the time… well, for those companies willing to embrace the possibilities such tools offer.

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