October 20, 2000
I've survived family weddings, wisdom
tooth extractions and the disco era. I've made it through grade
12 French, my high school German teacher and a full body cavity
reassessment by Revenue Canada (now the Canada Customs and Revenue
Agency - like they can fool us by changing their name).
But I can tell you this right now - I'll
never make it through casual Fridays.
I panic at the thought of going casual.
After fifteen years of wearing a jacket and tie to work, I hardly
own any casual clothes. Last month I threw out my only pair of
jeans - I bought them in college 20 years ago and I could no
longer get them up my leg past my ankle.
For weekend wear I buy clothes at a local
army surplus store. Looking like I just stepped out of the jungle
is fine for mowing the lawn, but showing up at work head to foot
in camo makes the guys at the security desk more than a little
nervous. Especially when you show up on "Boss Appreciation
Day" carrying a big box.
I also have little skinny arms - my Grandmother
called them "wiry", God bless her - and seeing me in
a short sleeved shirt makes people want to go out and buy me
a sandwich. I qualify for the "before" picture in the
Charles Atlas ads. A long sleeved shirt and a jacket hide all
of that, although I get a lot fewer free sandwiches.
Casual shoes are a big problem. I have
a bunch, but sneakers hurt my feet. And the only time I slipped
and fell seriously was when I was wearing running shoes. On the
other hand, I walked all over the Nevada desert without incident
in a pair of dress loafers.
Of course, I should point out that when
I had a part time job at college as a courier I wore a full tuxedo
one day on a bet. Couriers rarely make anyone's best dressed
list, and I was surprised later in the day by a visit from the
Chairman of the Board, who I think came downstairs to figure
out if he was paying his couriers too much.
Even now it's not like casual people
aren't around me all day. A walk through any newspaper newsroom
gives new meaning to dressing down. You're lucky if some journalists
wear pants to work. Spiderman pajamas at the office are considered
well-dressed as long as the flap in the back is buttoned.
My brother Richard is a newspaper photographer.
The other press photographers make fun of him because he occasionally
wear socks in the winter. Photographers normally only wear socks
when appearing before a judge or going to a funeral, and then
only if it was a close relation.
A lot of companies have lived to regret
the creep of casual Fridays into the rest of the week, and are
now revoking them or instituting "Dress Up" days. Clothing
stores are now running full page ads offering assistance to flustered
executives in putting together a casual wardrobe that doesn't
make you look like you just came in from the prison exercise
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to look
for my spats and top hat. I have to run down to the corner store
for a jug of milk.