'Matter of Laugh or Death,' the award-winning humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
A WRINKLE IN TOGS
I love the concept of “business casual.” Being able to wear golf shirts and slacks to work rather than a suit and tie and wingtip shoes brings me more comfort than a lifetime supply of Preparation-H.
The recent shift to casual attire in the workplace is great, but we need to complete the revolution. Although it is now acceptable to wear golf shirts and slacks, it is not yet acceptable to wear wrinkled golf shirts and slacks.
I have one simple question: What’s so awful about wrinkles? They don’t smell. They’re not dirty. They’re not rude, risqué, revealing, or revolting (which cannot be said for much of what passes for “fashion” these days). Why is it when you walk into the office wearing wrinkled clothing, many co-workers look at you as if you just splashed on half a bottle of Eau de Skunk aftershave? It makes no sense.
Now, obviously, washing your clothes is a smart thing to do. (Otherwise you get that Eau de Skunk effect without the bottle of pungent aftershave.) And drying your clothes makes perfectly good sense. (Unless you enjoy the sensation of mold growing all over your skin.) But ironing your clothes is a complete waste of time. It does nothing to improve the level of comfort. It is pure pretension.
I must admit not everyone in the workplace is offended by wrinkles. It seems people are bothered by wrinkled clothing in direct proportion to the number of wrinkles on their faces. Middle-aged and senior workers tend to sneer at any garment not starched smoother than Formica. While baby-faced employees in their 20s seem perfectly comfortable with clothing no smoother than, say, Bob Hope’s neck. (Although I wish they would hitch up their pants a bit. If you ask me, a person’s belt ought to be closer to his navel than his knees.)
The whole point of “business casual” is to put the workplace emphasis where it truly belongs: office politics, gossip, and passing the buck to the new employees. No wait, I mean the emphasis should be on work performance and productivity.
Some companies appear to be progressive when they institute business casual dress. But they ruin it by immediately creating a 90-page dress code policy outlining all the dos and don’ts of proper business casual attire. For example:
Do wear socks which are high enough to keep your legs from showing while in the sitting position (Engineering Department excepted). Don’t wear socks which have been fermenting in the trunk of your car since last summer’s company picnic softball game (known as Eau de Trunk).
Do come to work looking presentable and appropriately groomed. Don’t worry about the previous sentence if you are the alcohol-abusing, skirt-chasing son of the company president.
Do wear clothing which completely covers your undergarments. Don’t wear dirty or ripped underwear just in case you are in a car accident. (Your mother told us to put that in the dress code.)
Do wear clothing which is neatly pressed. Don’t wear clothing which looks like it’s been tied into knots and stuffed under a couch cushion for the past three months.
See what I mean? What’s the point of having a casual dress code if it’s the same old wardrobe repression under a different guise? If garments are expensively priced and meticulously pressed, doesn’t that by definition move them out of the casual realm and back into the vicious vanity of the three-piece-suit era?
It’s time to rock the boat. It’s time to complete the casual revolution. I suggest we all go to work wearing ripped tee shirts, gym shorts, and old sneakers (you know, the same way a lot of people show up for church in my parish nowadays).
After a couple of weeks of this, our employers will surely compromise and agree to the “clean but wrinkled” look. We will have achieved our goal. However, if this ploy happens to backfire, I’ll meet you down at the unemployment office. You’ll be able to recognize me: I’ll be the one wearing a neatly pressed shirt.
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