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The only clear memory I have of my maternal grandfather is of him in a somber brownish three-piece suit, a hat and a cane in one hand. He was ramrod-straight and looked stern. But then, I was about five years old and any ramrod-straight “ancient” man was stern, if not outright strict.
As this was way back in history, in the decade known as the fifties, his attire was probably nothing remarkable. In the right context, that is. But it was summer-hot in an arid area of South Africa. We were in his chicken run. He was feeding and watering. I was watching and learning.
Decades later, my mother-in-law liked to tell a story, the same story, again and again. On different days, but still. (I pay attention when older people are in repeat mode because I am watching and learning: How to best to get the maximum eye-roll from grandchildren. In my case, my unborn grandchildren.) The repeating story was about how, on a Saturday, her father would mow the lawn wearing a suit-pants and a tie. I am not sure whether the suit-jacket was on or off. Maybe that detail varied in the repeating. This happened in a different part of South Africa, with a different heat. But if you are doing manual labor in a suit, then hot is hot.
Both those gentlemen had an air of self-discipline, a can-do vibe, an aura of dependability, that I have seldom encountered in my generation, no matter how close in age my generation is now to the age of that generation back then.
And yet, my generation knows that dressing up in public is the wiser option, even though we seldom act on what we know. We think Polonius, the guy in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, is mostly right when he proclaims:
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express'd in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man.
Because we know that power dressing is a strategy much, much older than Shakespeare. After all, the statement “Clothes are the man” appeared in Homer’s writing. (Or in his tablet chiseling.)
But that does not explain the attire of the two grandfathers working at home. Or does it? Did they know something we are now re-learning, now that more and more of us work from home?
What to wear working from home has been on my mind since about 1990, when my first home office took shape. Below is my attempt to figure out a dress code (in a radio piece and blog post from 2010):
Should You Dress To Impress When Working From Home?
A benefit of mostly working from home is the saving on clothes. Come on, you wouldn’t dress up either if you only had to crawl down the hall to your office. Who would I impress by dressing up? My PC already loves me just the way I am.
For years I have fooled myself into believing it a benefit not to dress appropriately. I am no longer sure that it is a benefit.
I’ve always realized the truth in “dress to impress.” What I did not realize is that the person most often in need of being impressed is me.
It concerns the self-image I create for myself. In other words, when I dress like a slob, I feel like a slob and I work like a slob. When I dress for success, I feel a success and my work shows success.
How I dress does not change my ability, but it does affect my success.
Welcome to my side of the nonsense divide.
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