You are what you wear …

Last week I set-off some healthy debate (and hopefully introspection) at work about dress code and why I hate to see folks who do not wear shoes to work.

I always have believed in debating, arguing on topics because it inevitably leads to some learning for me. I get to know the folks better, there are lot of times though I may not agree immediately, I introspect and appreciate others view and often go back share my thoughts …

When I was growing-up in Chennai I used to wonder why the heck would anyone wear a tie and drive a two wheeler in Chennai heat and humidity. So though I learnt to do tie knot early in life (playing with my dads tie collection!), I steadfastly refused to wear a tie when I was in college though we hosted and participated in whole bunch of events and competition. My first work place was a small software company where there was no dress code (or at least no one told and Jeans + T-shirt was the norm), for whatever reason I was dressed pretty formally and wore shoe most of the days but no one at work wore a Tie!

For some strange reason instead of heading to “US of A”,  I choose to peruse an interesting project in Saudi Arabia. So my employer said I need to wear tie to work, I bought one along with a navy blue blazer and my employer also insisted that I wear my Tie and blazer right from Chennai Airport. Though I used to rebel at any authority I had sensibility to fall in-line and not get into trouble most of the time be it college or work place. Funnily I had forgotten how to knot the tie by this time and my Dad helped me and I left for Saudia Arabia. For some reason I remember the flight was hot and stuffy but I dared not to loosen the Tie (though I did have the sense to remove the blazer).

When I went to my accommodation in Riyadh, I made sure I loosened the Tie and hung it in the closet, so that I can wear it every day, few days latter Jambu who turned out to be good friend of mine, showed me how to knot my tie and also went on to buy me a collection of  Tie!

After couple of months in Saudi Arabia, I saw even folks doing clerical work were wearing a Tie to work.  It was latter I realized or someone told me that to distinguish an office goer from labors (from  South-east Asia), most office goers wear a tie (so that was the reason my employer insisted I come dressed in flight) .  It dawned on me you cannot change how you look or your skin color but you can still distinguish yourself from others so that you may get preferential treatment !! Probably this is something hard for folks to fathom if they have not been to a repressive environment like Riyadh in the 90s.   I learned more about humanity and bliss of freedom we enjoy in India and take for granted in that one year of living as 3rd class resident in Riyadh.

When came back from Saudi Arabia and worked in Chennai, the same employer used to insist that we at least, wear a tie when at work when there are “important visitors” – guess what ? I was one of those who did it every time and in fact brought couple of ties from my tie collection and left it at my work drawer (not sure if I would have fallen in line if not for my Saudi Arabian enlightenment).

It also struck me that most employers have a dress code for a reason, its our free will to work for any of them but if we choose to work then following there dress code was requirement (& not optional).

I have been strong headed and always been that way, have chosen to be and do what-ever I want to  but when presented with strong facts I adopt and change and thus continuously grow …


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