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fail: dress code

image: building in canal

It doesn’t take much to realise that just because you dislike something, it doesn’t mean other people dislike it too. It doesn’t take much humility to realise that just because you dislike something, that doesn’t mean it’s bad, it merely means it doesn’t work for you. Many things only work for some people; you cannot rightly declare other people have no taste because they appreciate something you don’t.

You might as well presume that they are wrong because they disagree with you; which is tantamount to presuming that you are by your own very nature correct, you have some intrinsic correctness about you, so you are not actually human but really a deity. Arrogance leads you to dubious, even insane, places. Presuming you are correct because other people say so, merely means a group of you collectively occupy dubious places.

Now, of course, there is collective taste, agreements spoken and unspoken. But just because you have such taste, spoken or unspoken, does not mean that those with different taste have bad taste, it just means they have different taste. Societies change, taste is challenged, old taste consensus is replaced by new taste consensus. Indeed, to follow some collective norm for taste is to concede that your taste will soon be replaced; to concede it’s it’s finite, it’s limited. If you accept this, fine, if you don’t—well, read the previous two paragraphs. If you accept this, you accept that taste you don’t like isn’t bad or wrong, it’s merely that you don’t like it.

image: building in canal

Subjective taste changes. Culture changes. Indeed, believing that your taste is so good you have the right to judge other people’s taste shows a failure to understand the temporal, subjective and cultural nature of taste itself.

So what’s this got to do with dress codes? Actually, it’s fairly obvious; dress codes are a mechanism people use to exclude others on the basis of taste. Since the people doing the excluding are judging taste, they are claiming to be able to say which taste is good and which taste is bad. Since, as I’ve made clear, if you have good taste, you know you cannot judge by taste, it follows that dress codes are mechanisms used by people with poor taste to exclude people who may have better taste.

There are places who put people on doors to block those who dress in ways they dislike. They will often say that they are defending good dress, but, by barring people who dress in a way they consider bad, they show they don’t understand taste itself. As such, they are not fit to be doing what they’re doing. Me, I will not be judged by people with poor judgement. Thus I will never enter in places with dress codes.

Incidentally, I’ve never been barred for dressing badly, although I’ve come close and once had to pull rank. I have once been barred, once, rightly, for being too drunk.

image: building in canal

You might think I’m talking about nightclubs, and, if so, you’re partially right. But I’m also talking about workplaces.

Most of all I’m an engineer, and I’m an engineer who wants, needs, to do good work. For that, I need to be honest, truthful and open, and I need that back from colleagues. This requires neither me, nor colleagues, to lie or disguise a difficult situation; a difficult situation is something to be solved, not something embarrassing to be hidden and allowed to degenerate. In engineering, if a problem isn't managed, it might worsen, and if it continues to worsen and isn’t addressed, it will explode in everyone’s faces. Such things destroy projects, even careers.

The way people dress reveals their personality, and if they dress against their personality, they present themselves as not just dissembling and equivocating, as being willing to conceal things, even more they present themselves as dishonest. If someone, for whatever reason, conceals a problem, they are allowing a problem to potentially wreck a project. Thus, in engineering, if someone dresses against their personality, they are suggesting they may be a danger to a project. Such traits as dissembling and equivocating may be essential in roles where customers need warm feelings, but they represent the antithesis of good engineering.

image: building in canal

Let me emphasise I’m not commenting on people who are smart dressers by nature; indeed, I admire them: they are what I’m not.

But if I find myself being interviewed for a job with a dress code, I know it’s not a place which properly values quality.

As an aside, none of this denies the value of criticism. You are quite entitled to say why you think something is wrong. You are not entitled to then ban someone because you think their something is wrong. There’s a long history of bans because the authorities disliked someone’s taste. Do people who support dress codes know what they’re supporting? I’ve never met someone who supported dress codes who was capable of understanding this point, so I doubt it.

Actually, lets expand that last point. One thing I find very interesting about this problem with dress codes is that people who support them actually cannot grasp the problems with them. I don’t know whether they have a psychological barrier, dubious arrogance, or just lack social intelligence, but dress code supporters so quickly dismiss criticism of their error it’s very obvious they haven’t thought it through. I find that strangely harmonic with my engineering based observation that dress codes imply an unwillingness or inability to face difficult problems.

Barring people on the basis of taste is the mark of someone of poor taste; this applies to dress sense, among many other things. A dress code is associated with not being willing to face difficult problems, even being willing to allow something to be destroyed because of that cowardice. The attitude behind dress codes is the same attitude for barring and blocking people for any reason of taste: there is considerable history of the dreadful consequences of such belief.

It’s clear dress codes are social fascism, &, as such, they are a social evil.