Why Personal Appearance Counts

saggy-pants-computerI had this conversation with a genuine arrogant jerk a couple of years ago about how I discriminate and how I’m prejudice against certain types of people and how, as a potential business owner, I would and should get sued. But my discrimination and prejudice has nothing to do with color, race or gender – it’s about personal, unprofessional appearances.

Let’s just suppose for a minute that I put out an ad that my company – Eric Fisk CGD Advertising and Marketing – is hiring. Three people show up, one guy shows up in normal attire for a job interview with an above average portfolio and some kid wearing his hat on backwards on top of a hankie with his pants half-way down his legs has a much better portfolio; but the one with the best portfolio is genuinely odd, like a vampire – dressed in all black and his face caked with white foundation and black make up. Who am I going to hire?

For those of the people who say that I should hire the kid with the better portfolio is wrong. I wouldn’t hire him, and neither would you? Why?

Whether you want to believe this or not,  your employees are a reflection of you and your business. Their quality of work is just as important as an employee’s appearance. It’s a reflection of you and what a tight ship you run. If you let your employees look like an extra for “The Walking Dead” or a gangbanger – then what other areas of their lives are left wanting?

What kind of employer am I for letting that kind of shenanigans happen in my place of business? How your employees look and behave, how clean their work spaces are and what they overhear says more about your leadership skills than it does about them. I know of plenty of people who have lost potential clients because they allow their people to run amok, companies have lost business because someone wore pajamas to work on casual Fridays, or that someone was listening to misogynistic music in their cube.

Am I wrong? Is it fair or right that people discriminate against employees who dress odd to work? Is it wrong that a company would not hire another one because of the appearance or behavior of one of that companies employees? We could be having an argument about how the world really should be and how we should just let people (especially artists) be themselves and let them express themselves through their personal appearance and wardrobe; but such an argument would be futile.

It doesn’t matter for the simple fact that it’s the way it is and the person who writes the checks has all the power. We shop with our feet and our decisions; I chose not to shop at a specific chain of grocery stores because of the horrible attitudes of their employees and depressing atmosphere so it’s not hard to imagine that a potential client would choose one graphic design company over another. A client might just use any excuse to eliminate one potential company for superficial reasons to make it easier to choose which one to hire.

As an employer I might use the same tactic to eliminate candidates based on inappropriate attire to narrow down my choices.

Are we catering to people with money and power? You bet we are, especially when this argument isn’t just an academic exercise when we have bills to pay and a potential client has cash in hand to get a job done.

The real question is, why handicap yourself? Why hinder your potential as an artist, graphic designer, or an employee in general by wanting to make a ‘fashion statement.’ Shouldn’t you be making a statement through your work? If you want to prove to the “world” that you are an individual than do so by finishing your work with your own individual style. Make a statement by doing it on-time, under budget and better than your client or employer hoped for. And save the ultra-low hanging jeans for the weekend and the vampire make up for Halloween.

As for the jerk preaching about fighting conformity; he fell off the face of the earth and I haven’t heard from him after he posted about how he quit his job because he was tired of being critiqued for dressing like The Green Lantern one too many times. Someone told me that he’s out of the Graphic Design field and is now serving java at a Starbucks at minimum wage.

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