Tuesday, June 7, 2011

On Jeans and Genius

I went to a seminar today at my insurance brokers' office on self-funded insurance plans.

Let's take a moment to mourn that my life includes seminars such as this.


I'm introverted.  I do not enjoy networking.  In a setting like this one, I prefer to sit down and quietly wait for the seminar to begin rather than to pass the time shmoozing with the people around me.  This is apparently abnormal, and the room was abuzz with greetings and business card exchanges and blah blah blah.

The woman next to me introduced herself and asked me where I worked.  Working for a religious not-for-profit is a fine way to halt conversation with strangers.  Usually people have no idea how to react and no frame of reference for thinking about churches/synagogues/mosques/temples as businesses.  Typically, they never move beyond this confusion.

Perhaps that explains why this woman's verbal filter slipped.  She looked at me and said, "I guess they have a casual environment there."  I responded with something like, "I start vacation tomorrow, so I can barely be bothered to care today."

I kept thinking about her comment.  I tried to step back and see how I might be viewed by others in the room.  I was wearing a button-down shirt, jeans, and Danskos.  I had wet hair (I despise hair dryers) and a tattoo on my dominant arm.

Most of the people in the room were wearing khakis or dresses.  Some of the men had on polo shirts, and some of the women were wearing heels.  It had not occurred to me to be self-conscious that I was one of the most casually-dressed people there.

What struck me is that there must be a significant difference of perspective held by the people in that room regarding dress.  Some people perhaps believed that going to an insurance seminar was an attempt to network and impress other people in the room.  Some people, or me anyway, believed that going to an insurance seminar was an attempt to figure out the self-funding model and if that model might make sense for our company.

It's a bit more than a difference of purpose though.  I don't think dress plays a significant role in my thinking when I meet someone.  My expectations pretty much end with "be clean and don't wear something revealing or politically/ethically/religiously offensive."  If a vendor is wearing jeans, I don't think that person is likely to be less qualified than if that person is wearing a dress.  In fact, there's a good chance that I'm suspicious of someone in a dress and heels.  Part of me wonders if that person is dressing up in an attempt to make me believe she knows what she's doing when she really doesn't.

I don't know if this is an age-related difference or a lifestyle-related difference or both or something else entirely, but it has me thinking.

Jeans and genius.  I don't care what you wear as long as you can do your job.


  1. Well said. Take a look at just about any university campus, and check out what the chaired professors are wearing. My money's on jeans.

  2. Interesting. My perspective is that if I am a company sponsored event, I want to make sure that I am representing my company in a professional manner. That almost always means a minimum of business casual.

  3. I reckon it's all in the way that you wear it. It’s all about how comfortable you are in your own skin. (A theory).

  4. Recently, I was having a discussion with a co-worker regarding business attire. (I work in an office building, specifically an Insurance Company administering Self-Funded and Fully Insured Health Insurance Plans ... stop judging me.)


    Me: "That's a nice tie, Co-Worker. It's sharp."

    Co-worker: "I feel that our dress and style at work has a direct impact on our success during our work day. After all, if I come to work wearing pajamas, I'm probably going to go to
    sleep at my desk."

    Me: (nodding sincerely) "Ah. Hmmm."


    Then this verse popped into my head.

    1 Samuel 16:7
    New International Version (NIV)
    7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”