I hate shopping. There. Said it. A women who doesn’t like to shop. Weird, huh? Well in this world we cannot all be the same… can we? Luckily I know the lovely Nicola Texeira who loves to shop for people. She is super handy to know.

Some weeks ago, after the fab LnD Connect Unconference I was chatting to Simon Gibson about his media attire as opposed to his former banking attire. It was an interesting conversation about blending in and sticking out. Additionally, I was challenged on Twitter recently by Sukhvinder Pabial who said “something about you being a clubber and wearing smart clothes which screams irony to me…”

The tweet conversation which ensued continued my thinking around genuine whole-self working, being true to our beliefs and values in a work context, about bringing our whole self to the office. How much of that Johari window do we know and reveal? I would consider my whole self. But I must be wrong. By the very nature of the window, how will I ever know?

It is only in really looking at this with fresh eyes in light of these conversations and the shopping season, I realised that I have a habit of uniform. For me the habit of putting on a suit to go to the office suits me. I like a suit. It helps me think ‘work’. It helps frame my mind. But we cannot just think about how our dress affects ourselves, rather what do the clothes we wear tell others about us? I’ll be honest, I’ve never actually considered this before. I wear what I am comfortable in. Whilst I like my ideas and my learning experiences to challenge the status quo and stick out in the workplace, I have never been one to challenge the dress code. I even dislike dress down Friday! To actually have to think about what I would wear on a Friday hurt my head. My brain is too busy with learning theory and ideas to give my work clothes too much thought.

So with the recent conversations and thinking in mind, plus a necessary recent shopping trip (harder to shift the kilos post 40!) I am more confident in knowing that whilst I may not be wearing clubbing clothes to the office, I’m still #KeepingItReal – my uniform has changed with my age and experience.

It transpires I was uniform schooled from an early age;

  • At primary school uniform was optional, but I was proud to wear my Mum’s knitted twinsets in school colours.
  • At secondary school I was sent home for one blue line on my white socks. You don’t make that mistake twice.
  • At university I loved a bit of clubbing, so Friday night at the Student Union club was always skinny shiny pants and a tight dancewear top. Perfect for hours of jumping about.
  • After uni, teaching English in Japan for a couple of years really pushed the uniform code into me. Woe betide any culturally insensitive teacher without the obligatory scarf or knee length skirt. My husband even got a formal warning for growing a beard due to sunburn.
  • Then back to England to marry my lovely husband. Again the uniform of a wedding. I wore my Mum’s wedding dress – historical uniform. Loved it!
  • And so to my first job in the male dominated world of Global Mobility which has meant suits and business formal all the way – well, apart from the challenge of Jeans Fridays.

And so it seems I cannot help but trade one uniform for another. So what is the uniform of a self-employed Learning & Development person? Apparently it is whatever suits. And that suits me.

suits

What do you feel comfortable in at work? Can you wear that for your role? Do you think what you wear affects your work? What about the forces or medical staff? Do your work clothes help you bring your true self into work? As always I’d love to hear your thoughts.