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April 24, 2005

"The Man in the Blue Shirt and Black Pants."

Crashing realization today while I was pumping gas into Fabulous Babe's car. I watched a young man get out of a car to set up a "Open House" sign for a real estate agency. His attire caused me to stop and think a great deal about where we as a culture have come from and gone back to.

We're now officially 50 years removed from Sloan Wilson's "The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit." My copy was found in a Goodwill about 10 years ago and it's message about the fate of those who returned from World War II and entered the business world is very telling. It's a great book on life in the 1950's that few people my age have ever read.

What struck me yesterday was that the uniform of the novel, the ubiquitous "Grey Flannel Suit" has now become "Black Slacks with a Blue Shirt." To many young men today favor wearing that uniform as sort of a bridge of comfort to their customers and coworkers. Where I work is rampant with the ensemble. (It's beginning to become easy to recognize salesmen by just looking for it.) I know my closet certainly has several of the offending combination but less than it previously did. (Thanks to the wife.)

How did we get here? Is it the sinful nature of the Gap, Banana Republic and other chain stores that vomit forth the same combinations time and time again that go to feed the slathering clothes buying masses? In my case I'm tall and have deluded myself that stripes just make me look taller and thinner than I am. (Perhaps not a bad thing.) How did the one shade of blue come to be more favored than anything else?

I have to say I was uncomfortable at the parallels between the novel and life and work today. Are we working at becoming nothing more than a bland collective of similarly attired men working at nothing that really matters? Ugh! (Sorry for the philosophical questions.)

The next time you see someone in this damnable combination, that Blue Shirt and Black Pants uniform, stop them. Point out to them that they're becoming lost in a sea of knit wool and cotton. Tell them you favor the individual and the flair that each person brings. Tell them that the clothes make the man and "wardrobe" doesn't mean "bland and similar." I'm almost at the point of wanting to see people dress themselves poorly just because they would at least be doing something new.

When I dress Jack in the morning I always try to come up with new combinations or outfits that compliment his mood or style. The problem with the workforce's new standard is that has become a uniform of conformity, comfort and safety. My question is at what cost?

Posted by Jim at April 24, 2005 11:32 PM


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