How many times do you look in the mirror before leaving the house in the morning? It probably depends on the job you have. The blue-collar workers throw on a pair of jeans and a “decent” T-shirt. While the white-collar workers may roll lint off of their pants, straighten their ties (men and women have ties they just look different) and wipe scuffs off of their shoes. Then there are the pink-collar workers spending an hour or more prepping their hair, face, choosing a perfume, etc. As we all converge on bus stops, trains and carpools classism is distinctly observable. Or is it? The American economy is as diverse in salaries as it is in careers. The changes in American work dress codes have revolutionized our means to perceive each other while focusing on American individuality.
Fashion trends in the 21st Century have been confusing for many of us. High-end fashion houses are selling scuffed and taped shoes for over $500 so rich kids can look poor. Flannels are all the rage. These warm shirts date back to the 18th Century as farmers used them for their durability. Throughout the centuries they have been a staple of industrialists, farmers, lumberjacks and outdoors-related trades. Upper-middle-class people to the 1%ers are using fashion as a means to connect to every class. This is a political trick as well when you see people running for governor suddenly don overalls at the state fair. Do these two trends exemplify class appropriation? No, it turns out to be the complete opposite. The fastest rising members of progressive politics is the upper class donning flannels and work boots but never having seen a day on a construction site or in a warehouse. These are the people fighting for fair wages, work benefits and work safety for their blue-collar neighbors. If the shoe fits, vote for it.
The 21st Century has witnessed the new business casual trend as well. The new norm for work in the office reflects that of blue-collar workers. A typical office worker now wears relaxed-fit khakis, jeans, casual button-down shirts, and t-shirts. Nearly 50% of U.S businesses have a casual dress code with more growth to allow a flexible dress code. The image of the customer matching the worker allows a mirrored similarity connection. The commonality between workers and customers allows a different yet familiar bond to occur. It’s not just a customer going to the “company man/woman” with questions. It’s just John or Jill who is the salesperson.
American businesses have become more adept at perception than the people. They know that a three-piece suit can intimidate a blue-collar customer. Even though construction workers make $45,000 or more a year, they need to feel comfortable in their purchase with their salesperson. That’s where We the People come in. If businesses aren’t separating us by class then why do we do it to ourselves? When we are on the bus stop talk to the people next to you whether they have shiny shoes, slacks, jeans or paint-stained jeans. When we go to the local coffee shop, the person making your drink isn’t below you because they serve you. It’s a gift of a good economy and a decent salary to have someone else make your coffee. When you get stuck in the drive-thru for lunch don’t complain at the person that finally hands you your lunch, their uniform means they are working stiffs just like you. Our careers take us to many avenues with many different people. It’s time we stop judging people by their covers and embrace our collective American workforce as equals.