Are You What You Wear?
June may seem like an odd month to write about what we wear to work. But as we move into a new phase of the pandemic, more of us return to the office, and things settle into a new routine, the question of what to wear comes up. Now I am a middle-aged African American man working in a major metropolis, so I can only talk about this from my particular perspective.
The New Yorker Magazine recently posted an interesting podcast on the subject that had a good deal to say about why we wear what we wear to work - https://tinyurl.com/kdav7ya9. I highly recommend you listen to it.
Personally, I wear ties and sometimes suits. I like the convenience of reaching into the closet, pulling out a white shirt and pair of pants (or a suit), and grabbing a tie. It is just easy. Now I am also a big believer in having a "look." A way people see your outward self that you define.
Now I will freely admit that being from the South, being "dressed" is cultural with me as well. When I was growing up, people just dressed up more than they do now. I also grew up feeling that as a person of color, I had to be cleaner, smarter, and more polite to truly achieve.
Then I decided to be a fundraiser. When I started, there were not that many people of color who were in the field. I was lucky enough to work for two experienced fundraisers of color early in my career. I learned a great deal from them about raising money and maneuvering my way through the society of those supporting the non-profits for which I was working.
Now I am an experienced fundraiser with over 25 years of working for all kinds of non-profits. I manage staff, work with the Board, and help lead the organization. Do my ties and suits help? Well, I don't know for sure. I know I want people to be comfortable handing me a check or, with my help creating a planned gift. But what I can't be "visually" is a different person for everyone. I have to be the person I am. The one who is comfortable in his skin - as much as anyone ever is - who understands the dynamic between his position as a fundraiser and the people he works with to support the organization's work.
At the end of the day, I wear a tie and a suit sometimes because I like it. I look good wearing it. And I hope people feel comfortable with me as I do my job.