You look around you and you are surrounded. By no one in particular. But there are lots of them there. All the familiar features are present: forgettable attire, back pack strapped on, thinning around the north pole and bulging around the equator. Similar profiles and no personality. You are standing amongst an army of yous!
No, this is not a nightmare nor is it a science-fiction flick. This is just you waiting for your usual bus at the usual time for your usual job. Public transport is a great equalizer. It does not care for designations or dressing sense. And that is just as well. You were never much of a wardrobe person. For you, people with expensive wardrobes are snobbish; people with shabby clothes are lazy. And you occupy the sweet spot of simple living somewhere in the middle.
In the middle of a particularly long-drawn week, you take an uncharacteristic decision. You decide to actually dress casual on casual day this week. Nothing else seems to be helping. Everyone else has been doing it. You have been sticking out like a telephone pole in your tucked-in shirts all these Fridays.
So come Friday, you show up in your best loose fits, looking more blunt than usual. You feel unarmed but try to walk it off with a smile. Come lunch time, you find yourself seated at a table of elders, none of whom look like they have ever owned a pair of jeans. And that is just as well. The thought of HS contained strenuously in denim and a Yankees shirt isn’t something you would want flashing across your brain at lunch time.
These senior gentlemen look particularly uptight today with ties and cufflinks. You on the other hand are cloth in an un-ironed old T-shirt. You limit your eye contact to your plate to avoid any embarrassment. You are through to desert and it has been uneventful so far. But just before you can excuse yourself and your casualness off the table, one of the elders starts elbowing HS. Maybe it’s just nerves but it sure seems like they are talking about you. And sure enough, while getting up, HS leans over and tells you to come see him in his office immediately.
‘Why are you dressed like this?’
The question seems simple enough. It can be met with various replies ranging from aggressive to submissive. But all you can manage is:
‘I can go change sir…’
‘Please do. We are giving away the President’s Award this afternoon and you will be needed up on stage.’
What a way to receive good news. You rush off to the nearest mall and end up buying the most expensive white shirt and dark trousers of your life. But it feels worth it when you are up on the stage receiving the award on casual day, no less.
You don’t say this often enough but there is a lesson in this experience. Your dressing or the lack of it is a form of misplaced rebellion, not a matter of socio-economic circumstance. You ought to dress sharper for yourself, not for conformity or the lack of it.