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Clothes make the man or woman

 
master gardener
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I was the victim of a house cleaning frenzy yesterday and was forced to confront my split personality.   While my usual uniform is cargo pants/t-shirt/muck boots, and suspenders , I do keep several suits around for those times when I need to pass in society as normal.   I find I am treated much better at hospitals, banks, etc. when I have a suit, tie, and Johnson&Murphy shoes.   At least once in my life I was virtually chased out of a bank while wearing my homesteader uniform......and three days later accepted with open arms while in a suit (heck no, I didn’t do business with them).

How many others play dress up when the need arises?  



 
gardener
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It’s a sad truth you speak of John. When I retired from healthcare I got a part time job at Lowe’s. Weekend Plant Specialist was my official title. The way I was treated was sad and eye opening. Since I had been in healthcare all of my adult life I had never experienced people looking down on me. I’m not unhappy it happened though. It simply reinforced the need to be pleasant and respectful to everyone I met.
 
steward & bricolagier
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I consider dressing up for things like that as camouflage for normality. I still dress with my own weird flair, but at least I don't look like I just crawled out from under a tractor.

The problem I have with that is if I talk to people about anything important and they have me written off (because I'm dressed "normal") as clueless, it gets weird when it's obvious I'm not. Some of them can change brain gears, some can't. Example: I walk into Lowe's dressed grubby and ask about tools, they give me good info, I walk in dressed in a long skirt and jewelry and ask about tools, I got lame answers, and when I press them for the answers I need, I often get brushed off and not answered.

So some places I do better looking "normal" and some  I REALLY do better looking grubby. I guess it's a matter of how you look to start with. If you are a male, and look grubby and like you work, maybe it sends a different image than a female who looks grubby and like she works.

I consider it camouflage, and sometimes do it just to hide behind.
 
John F Dean
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Hi Pearl,

I was once on a business trip to another state.  I was meeting with a man over a 20 mil a year company.   I was in full uniform.   It did no good. He saw through me.  He asked we about my private life ..... a telling question because it was out of bounds.  I figured I read him right, so I broke it to him I was hippie homesteader.   He invited to his house for dinner should I ever be in the area again.   There are a number of us sneaking around out there.
 
Posts: 155
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I tend to wear a simple cotton T-Shirt and Carhart Canvas pants. They are really the only things I can wear that hold up for any length of time. But I am a Carpenter by trade, and usually I have sawdust on my arms and dirt on my pants. I walk into banks, businesses and meetings dressed in my normal work clothes. I do try and put a clean set of clothes on for important things like doing estimates and meeting the banker about a loan.

I get odd looks occasionally, especially if I am in Hipster land. I'll admit I tend to look like a redneck, so I am out of place in the bigger towns.
 
gardener
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i imagine that my beard is long enough that any ‘non-weirdo’ disguise would fall short. i clean up good, but will never pull off normal.

adding to that, for the most part i am fine with people underestimating me. i think whatever opportunity i may lose is more than made up for by the avoidance of the sort of conversation i would prefer to avoid.
 
John F Dean
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Hi Greg,

Indeed, I see underestimation as a huge advantage.   Even in the business arena, I found a significant advantage to be able to hide in hide in the shadows until noticing me too late.
 
gardener
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Location: Ontario - Currently in Zone 4b
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Definitely. I'm very careful with how I dress in certain situations. You can tell a lot about people by how they dress and it's fun manipulating peoples first impressions of you, and often saves a lot of time.

I have 4 main wardrobe choices/personas -'i work  construction',  casual and outdoorsy city dweller, cheap and practical rural dweller, and "I work in a conservative office'. It reminds me of drama class , because you have to own the persona you are using.  I pull out my rural accent for two of them, my city accent for the others.  Even how I walk changes.

I don't walk on a construction site in brand new boots and safety vest, or wear leggings. I don't wear construction clothes to meet a real estate agent or when I walk into a women's dress clothing store. I might if I am going to the mechanic.  Going garage saling, thrift store shopping, or buying used furniture makes me wear very different clothes than trying to buy a house!  

Still, sometimes no matter what I wear, I can't get past the 'young blonde woman' stereotype. Irritating in the working world and in my personal life people have definitely lost my business because of it.  Sure, it's fun occasionally to reveal your not-so secret identity as a person with brains and competence to annoying and condescending  people, but eventually it's just tiresome.
 
pollinator
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I don't look at it as one type of attire being normal and another type not being normal.  It's just that one type of clothing is suitable for some situations, and different types for others.  It's not much different from needing to change what you wear according to the seasons -- we need a set of clothing for the cold winters, and an almost entirely different set for the hot summers.  It would be silly to wear shorts and a tank top and sandals when there's snow on the ground, and equally silly to wear a heavy coat and winter boots when it's in the nineties with high humidity in the summer!  We have nicer, more formal types of clothing for going to church or to weddings or funerals.  The same clothing would work for things like business meetings where men would wear suits.  When we go to town for shopping or to run errands, we wear our newer jeans and tops, and shoes that are in good condition.  Working around home is for the old, ragged jeans, the shoes that are starting to get holes in them, the stained t-shirts.  Of course, that means that if someone comes to the house without warning me ahead of time, they are going to see us dressed in our worst clothes, but that's their problem -- they should have called first, LOL!
 
pollinator
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John F Dean wrote:I was the victim of a house cleaning frenzy yesterday and was forced to confront my split personality.   While my usual uniform is cargo pants/t-shirt/muck boots, and suspenders , I do keep several suits around for those times when I need to pass in society as normal.   I find I am treated much better at hospitals, banks, etc. when I have a suit, tie, and Johnson&Murphy shoes.   At least once in my life I was virtually chased out of a bank while wearing my homesteader uniform......and three days later accepted with open arms while in a suit (heck no, I didn’t do business with them). How many others play dress up when the need arises?  


Since banks tend to have a better idea of how much money people have compared to other areas (e.g., hospitals, stores, etc.) it's disappointing that they would assume you are poor. The Millionaire Next Door by Stanley and Danko provides a great insight into what high net worth people actually look like, and it tends not to be how they are portrayed on TV.
 
Posts: 89
Location: Chilean Patagonia
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I think the concept of disguises is a very good one. There are many ways I disguise myself besides clothes, such as listening politely when my neighbor pontificates on the idea of sowing annual monoculture crops to sustain livestock, or smiling when someone informs me that my children are going to catch cold from playing in the rain, or saying, "sure, maybe sometime" when someone is trying to make friends and invites me to go shopping at the mall with them. So clothes are just part of it, but I still choose my outfits while answering the question, "would this work if I had to walk home in it?"

Today I am headed to the mechanic and then afterwards to show a remote property to a prospective (male) client. I am in nice jeans, a flannel with a long-sleeve tee beneath, leather boots with tractioned soles, and a 6-inch dagger hanging from my belt because it's wise to signal for a bit of respect when I'm hanging around with men. I feel like wearing heels to the bank is a bit of the same idea as wearing a knife on my belt when alone; it says that I'm here to do business and won't stand for any fooling around.

A funny note is that my husband wears the same uniform every day: a grey tee with jeans, a flannel button-up, and his baseball cap. It sets him apart and was one of the reasons that I fell in love with him, because I knew he wasn't trying to pretend, he just was who he was and didn't give a damn whether people approved or not. Well other women have always snubbed him for his clothes, looking him up and down then discarding him as a prospect...EXCEPT for one time when he went to the mall to buy me a surprise (unknown to me of course, as I said I'm not a mall girl) and he was carrying around a couple of bags from the higher-end stores. Well suddenly alllll the ladies wanted to make friends!! We laughed long and hard over that one.
 
pollinator
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I take my dogs with me pretty much everywhere.  They sit in the back seat of the truck, but they like to takes turns reaching over and laying their heads on my shoulder for rubs and scratches.  My dogs are big, and drooly.  I can't remember the last time I went anywhere without a giant drool spot, in various stages of wet through crusty, on top of my shoulder.  There may well be a canine eye-booger or two on me also.  I'm not sure anyone gets past all that to notice what kind of clothes I'm wearing.
 
Rocket Scientist
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Hi John;
Nope I don't do split personality's.
They like and accept me as I am or they can take a long walk off a short pier.

Liz tries to  make me clean up from time to time.
Best she can manage is cleaner jeans than the ones I had on and a tee shirt that is clean and only has a few permanent grease stains.

Seems that when I'm repairing their cars, they don't mind at all, what I look like... funny how that is ehh?
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pollinator
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I am generally well dressed. I really like nice clothes. Though at home I am exclusively in yoga pants and whatever shirt my mother in law gave me. I've been known to trudge out in my heels though. Gotta do what you gotta do.
 
gardener
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John and I went to a large outdoor outlet mall, back in IL, looking for a specific birthday gift request we couldn't find, anywhere else. We were in our biker gear, and had been riding, so we looked scruffy as hell. John had some business meetings coming up, for which he needed to look the part, so we stopped into the Armani outlet, to see if they might have something that fit well, was affordable, and that he liked. At the time, he could have picked up a few suits, and not blinked. But, the manager snubbed us, in favor of a much younger guy who walked in right behind us, in a suit. We saw through the young guy, immediately - the suit was ill- fitting - far too big in the shoulders and gut, and despite his showmanship, he looked horribly uncomfortable. I thought it might be his dad's suit? We stayed,  out of curiosity, covertly watching, as the manager solicitously ushered him around from one suit to the next, fawning over him. The poor kid looked paler and sicker with each price tag he saw. He finally made a dash for the door, and while we felt bad for the kid, we laughed at the manager, for his flustered look, when John told him, "I'd planned to buy a couple suits, but I'll go where I'm not judged by my hobbies. "

The scruffy millionaire is a thing, too. I've known a couple, myself. And there are those who are VERY good at playing the part, but haven't a pot to piss in. I have far too many clothes for my comfort, but each mini-wardrobe has its purpose. I'm not going to ride my motorcycle, wrangle goats, haul water, 50lb feed bags, & hay, and fix fences in my Sunday-go-to-meetin' dresses, and the only thing I'm doing in the biker leathers and boots, is ride. I wear something a little nicer to church, out of respect and deference.

I don't believe that 'the clothes make the man', but I do believe in wearing the right gear for the job - whatever that happens to be, and being comfortable ranks right up there in priority with safety, as it affects my effectiveness for whatever is at hand.
 
John F Dean
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Hi Carla,

In a central Illinois town I lived in in the early 60s, there were two brothers who went around town on a couple of beat up bicycles with clothes to match. Once a month, they would go to the train station to ride to Chicago for a night on the town.  As with all of us, eventually they died.  In today’s dollars they were worth over 30 mil.
 
John F Dean
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Hi John W,

Your observation is solid.  The bank was in a farming community.  My outfit shouldn’t have put anyone off.  The person I spoke to made a number of snap judgements about me.  I was shopping around for a loan to buy land.  He assumed that because I was shopping around, it meant I had been turned down everywhere else.
 
Marie Abell
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John F Dean wrote:
In a central Illinois town I lived in in the early 60s, there were two brothers who went around town on a couple of beat up bicycles with clothes to match. Once a month, they would go to the train station to ride to Chicago for a night on the town.  As with all of us, eventually they died.  In today’s dollars they were worth over 30 mil.



My dad's boss was on the Forbes 500 list, one of the wealthiest men in America. He wore jeans and camo just like everybody else, drove a beat-to-hell '97 suburban well into the 2000s, and liked to hang around the house in his worn-out doctors scrubs. He even had to borrow my dad's coat for a trip one time since he didn't have one that was adequate. You never would've picked him out as someone who was worth more than 500 million dollars. Yet, many of the losers who came around trying to schmooze him out of a few bucks were often some of the best-dressed fools you ever saw. Taught me a lot as a young kid looking on.
 
gardener
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Carla, you speak the truth when you say lots of people who dress well don't have a cent to their name.

Before my boys were born, I was a legal assistant for a bankruptcy attorney. I learned several lessons working there:

1. Bankruptcy just happens. Sometimes it's because you can't handle a dime. Other times it's because a medical emergency wipes out your savings, or a spouse wants a divorce but says he'll let you have the kids if you also take the debt. Other times it's because you got screwed by a business partner. Sometimes it's because your kid stole your credit card to buy stuff to sell for drugs. And you spend your life savings to help your kid get to rehab. Then they get out and the same crap happens again. (My boss handled all those scenarios.) So many paths lead to bankruptcy.

2. Many of our bankruptcy clients declared bankruptcy because they were foolish with money. They had fancy cars, fine clothes, and mansions. Multiple mansions. But no money to their name. I learned that dressing like you have money is often a charade. Many people who look scruffy have more assets than the fine-dressed folks, simply because they're not spending their money to dress the part. (The Millionaire Next Door is a classic finance book that describes this fact very eloquently.

3. Our town has lots of "old money." We have families who have lived here for several generations, and they even have streets named after them. Some of those old money families were bankruptcy clients.

4. If anyone treats you better for your nice clothes or worse for your "farm" clothes, they are no friends of mine. Some of the most intelligent, wealthy folks I know look scraggly at any given time. They clean up darn handsome! But they also know how to work hard. And their work ethic is what got them to be the quiet success stories I appreciate.
 
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for quite some time now my idea of getting a new wardrobe was going to a store and getting a new package of cotton tee shirts
but if I got to go to the big city and want to fit in got to put on my Sunday best button down shirt
 
pollinator
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I have little interest in dressing for others, or much of anything else for others, nor am I impressed by any of it. Something that I told my kids often while growing up was, "if they are not giving me some of their money, why should I care how much of it they have". I grew up surrounded by people with money. I am not impressed. Character is what matters.
 
John Wolfram
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So a few years ago I worked for a high-end law firm where suits and ties were quite common, and the hourly rates charged to the clients could be eye-popping. Since I unfortunately had a rather long commute, I would wear my regular clothes while commuting and change into fancy clothes at the office. Apparently my regular clothes were a pretty good disguise since rather than asking for money the homeless would let me know which shelters were giving away the good food that day as I walked to the office.
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