Monday, November 20, 2006

Workplace crimes

Is there any workplace crime so heinous as a truly appalling fashion choice? I've just been confronted with a cow-orker choosing to wear tailored shorts and long white socks. I'm against the death penalty on principle but still, some people are begging for some extreme retribution. You know you're working in the public service in Australia when someone wears daggy shorts and long white socks to work.

I remember years ago when I had a holiday in Darwin, noticing that this was pretty much the uniform for office workers there. It's fairly intense tropical heat there, the temperature is 30 - 40 Celsius all year with the only variation being in humidity. That varied from 75% to 95%. So I'm not surprised that they don't wear business suits but surely there's a less appalling choice than knee length tailored shorts meeting knee length white socks? And the pants were always beige! White short sleeved shirt, beige shorts, white socks and brown shoes.

And I even saw one freak wearing a full-on fucking safari suit! My dad wore these getups all the time when I was growing up but at least he had the excuse that it was the 70s. I think the pinnacle of his sartorial splendour was a lime green number. I should talk, I had a denim safari suit as a kid and I thought it was the coolest thing going. Two of my brothers had identical outfits - we were quite a sight: three pre-teen boys all in dark blue denim safari suits. Sometimes I still have nightmares that I open my wardrobe and that's all there is to wear.

This has also reminded me that as I look towards my next contract, one of the many variable I have to deal with is the dress code in the new workplace. There is quite a bit of variation in Australian workplaces; there's the suit and tie places (still the most common), "business casual" (reasonably common) or full casual (the rarest).

While I actually hate wearing a suit and tie, there are some saving graces to this. Mainly, I don't have to think as hard about what to wear. Then there's the fact that there's a clear separation between your work wear and home wear. Sometimes that psychological separation can be really important. Plus, I'm also less worried about the impression I create with what I wear - a suit and tie is pretty hard to screw up. I don't move in the rarefied circles where everyone wears Armani suits and sneers at my off the rack numbers.

When an Australian workplace specifies "business casual" it usually means no jeans and men have to wear shirts with a collar (you can usually get away with polo shirts if that's your thing). Full casual sounds good in principle but it's really easy to screw up or go too far. One recent workplace had a "no rules" policy but a few people memorably pushed the limits of what was acceptable even there. Some men in particular had a tendency to wear beachwear in the warmer weather: board shorts, t-shirt and thongs (that's Australian footwear thongs, not bum-floss underwear thongs). There was one young female who famously had a tendency to wear outfits that even if you saw her wearing them in a nightclub you'd think she was a skank. But wearing them to work? What the fuck was she thinking?

Oh well, maybe I'll get "discovered" on YouTube in the meantime and I can forget all about this office shit.

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