When Things Get Serious People Put On A Uniform.

Allow me to start this piece with the note that I wear an earring and play acoustic guitar with an untucked WOCBD, and have been called out more than once for being too open about how Ivy as a fashion should be interpreted. So I would like to think I am wide open.

Which I hope puts things in context when I throw the BS flag on a part of this article the Amazing Tom sent me.

The first few paragraphs are the set up – not sure it is news anymore that the pandemic had an impact on how people dress for work. There is even a survey in there that cites an actual percentage having something to do with jeans. I fast forwarded.

Til this needle scratch. A quote from a teacher who has a TikTok where she shows what she wears to work. Her name is Bouroncle, if you want to see it her TikTok it is here. (I don’t use TikTok but I am willing to capitalize it.)

“It’s important to, no matter what career you’re in, to be able to still express your style and your fashion and how (sic) you are. Otherwise, it would be, you know, so uniform,” Bouroncle said. 

I would make three notes for reflection. First amongst them, in a career where you risk or save lives, you wear a uniform. So, how about, some respect? Police. Fire Fighters. Surgeons. Soldiers. Maybe start your thinking with an open mind about people who are willing to die for you or save you. This idea that any conformity whatsoever (AND THIS IS COMING FROM ME) is a bad thing is just – immature. And there are areas where you are allowed to be immature. But respect for uniforms is not one of them.

Before you say, “John, I think she means uniform as in you look like everybody else,” my preface is, yes, you do, that is the point. I have never served a single day in the military so I don’t know but I can certainly imagine that going to war with people who wear what you are because we are all in this together is a good thing.

Once you get past respect, certainly an Ivy value btw, you get to messaging. Bouroncle is a teacher. Who wears sweats, but doesn’t teach gym. I get what you are saying about yourself, Ms. Bouroncle, but I invite you to entertain what you are saying TO your students. You are saying that I take your education as seriously as I do a lazy Sunday morning. Now, that is probably not the case. You might be an amazing teacher. I don’t know. But I do know that messaging for your students that you take their education seriously would help them take their education seriously. Is your self-expression THAT important that you would muddle the message?

And this is not about identity or dignity. It is about holding others as importantly as you hold yourself. And again, maybe you do. But why not make that message as clear as possible?

Finally, even in the corporate setting, at which I admittedly suck, is not showing respect for your job at least as important as your own self-expression? Perhaps (and here we go) the problem isn’t that you don’t have an opportunity to express yourself as much as it has become overly important to you to do so.

The idea that brought about the Hey Day was this – showing respect AND self-expression on the college campus. Ms. Bouroncle is missing that balance.

24 Comments on "When Things Get Serious People Put On A Uniform."

  1. G. Bruce Boyer | March 13, 2023 at 1:08 pm |

    Ms. Bouroucle asks, “Because corporate is supposed to be black and white and buttoned down. Who says what is the norm?” Well, the answer would be the employer, the law, and the agreed upon culture of the group. Within those strictures we find whatever individuality we can, if we live in a society that values individuality. As long as we live within a group, anarchy will never be considered a virtuous goal. It seems to be the almost genetically inbred tendency that humans are group animals for whom a certain uniformity both symbolically and realistically represents a measure of safety. In the modern democratic world we try to strike a reasonable balance between the individual and the group.

  2. JB, you hit the nail on the head when you said that there is so little respect today among the youth of America.

    Bouroncle’s laughable TikTok proves that she has zero self-esteem, and no respect for her profession, her young charges, or her community.

    There is a West Coast term, “ratchet”, that refers to a rude, uncouth woman.
    This person epitomizes ratchet.

    Ivy Style is the antidote to a country that is becoming less “kinder and gentler” by the day. The “most civil corner of the internet” as I am fond of saying.

  3. whiskeydent | March 13, 2023 at 3:13 pm |

    Uniforms also help soldiers identify each other in battle and prevent accidental shootings. Or to put it another way, it’s like the Texas cop who told me he was worried about the proliferation of pistols because he feared he’d walk into a scene with two guys holding guns and “I wouldn’t know who to shoot.”

    I told him to always take out the guy in the untucked white button-down oxford shirt. That guitar case he’s holding is actually a machine gun and his ear ring is a grenade. He thanked me for the tip.

  4. William Giles | March 13, 2023 at 3:57 pm |

    Old guy, here, and straight out of college, many years ago, I went to work for a financial institution that thought casual was a navy blue blazer, grey slacks, blue button down collar shirt, tie and tassel loafers. Otherwise, suit, tie, lace up shoes, button down. The choice of tie was ours and long as it was “tasteful” and I still have a fondness for “ivy” ties because of the fabrics and choices. This dress code was rigorously enforced because we handled large sums and we were to be seen as serious about handling clients money and it was felt that one had to come to work with a mind set for work and casual was distracting. Uniform does serve a purpose.

  5. Like you JB, I feel the need to preface my comment here with a caveat, in this case about how taste is a product of economic privilege.

    …And with that out of the way, I’ll say you summed up my feelings on the topic perfectly: “And this is not about identity or dignity. It is about holding others as importantly as you hold yourself.”
    I’ve always been a clotheshorse, and no matter what genre of sartoria I’ve worn over the years (now fairly settled on Ivy-ish), I dress both to please myself and to communicate respect for those with whom I interact.
    Wearing a t-shirt in public anymore has me feeling nearly naked, like I’m out in my underwear. Wearing sweats in public? I’d better be at a gym, or someone please make sure I’m of sound mind (hint: I wouldn’t be).
    Anyone with the privilege and education to know better who goes dressed like that (and isn’t just walking the dog or something) comes off like a selfish social nihilist.

    • This might be my crankiest response on I-S yet. I only regret that G. Bruce Boyer’s eloquent comment has to share space with my rant.

  6. I am public school teacher and I wear a tie every day. Only one other person in my building does so regularly. My students know I take my job and their education seriously. I’ll just leave it there.

  7. Not to quote myself here, but I think that dressing well shows respect for both others AND yourself!

  8. Richard E. Press | March 14, 2023 at 9:16 am |

    Dressing well is the best revenge.

  9. I’ll make a couple of observations, then offer a different point of view:

    – first, while dressing very casually and a little too trendy for my taste, this teacher is actually very put-together, and well-groomed, and stylish; there’s nothing sloppy about her. I actually don’t think her outfit is “lazy” – I bet she puts a lot of thought into her clothes and presentation (even if we old fogeys don’t recognize it).

    – second, even as devotees of “trad” dressing, we should remember that in the real world, audience counts. I’ve written about this before: my professional ‘uniform’ probably looks like most of yours, but if I’m meeting with younger, entrepreneurial clients (often in tech), the simple act of wearing a tie would *clearly* reduce my credibility. So I don’t. Whether that’s right or wrong, it’s accurate. I’m not changing who I am, but to foster a close working (or personal) relationship with someone, I don’t want to put artificial distance between us. Which clothing can do. And this young teacher may not have articulated it that way, but something similar may apply in her situation.

  10. By the way – and I’ll be curious to see how this changes our discussion here – the woman in the TikTok video is not a teacher; according to the Scripps article, she’s a paralegal.

    • Charlottesville | March 14, 2023 at 12:49 pm |

      Greetings, Paul. I hope all is well in Annapolis.

      The only change in my thoughts brought on by the knowledge that Ms. Bouroucle is a paralegal would be to note that she would find herself looking elsewhere for employment if she worked in a firm where I was in charge. There are a number of law offices in my little town where her ensemble would raise no eyebrows these days, so that would not inconvenience her much.

      As Mr. Boyer stated above, the employer and the agreed upon culture of the group establish the norm for workplace dress. When dropping by to see my accountant yesterday, I was pleasantly surprised – shocked even – to see the office administrator in a very classic skirt suit with hose and heels. It increased my already favorable opinion of the firm.

  11. @JB – I’m going to take the other side of the discussion on the use of “uniform”, because I don’t read the article to be condescending toward official uniforms. Rather, I believe she’s 100% using the word to describe dressing with a sense of individualism, as in “not like others”. Which is a point I would agree with, as I typically dress different from others, and not in unison with the more casual office “uniform”.

    Society, Institutions, Schools, Places of Worship, a NASCAR race, and Restaurants all set their preferred and required dress codes. They establish the uniform requirements for clothing, or lack thereof, for entry. Dressing is not and hopefully forever should be an expression of individualism, within the structure of our lives. For example, the way I put together my daily uniform may differ from others who frequent this site, and I may have color preferences or tie pattern preferences eschewed by others – but we’re all likely wearing the same uniform. Which is not in fact an actual uniform, but my take on my day-to-day.

    If her employer has accepted the Ath-Leisure approach to work attire, so long as it’s still in the “modest” mode, then I say so be it. Teaching is hard hard hard work – if wearing comfortable and flexible clothes helps make the day – then by all means, you be you! My father wore a tie every day as a businessman and then as a teacher, and then one day he stopped. The requirements of the institution no longer deemed it necessary; most of his peers had given them up, and after 40+ years of living at the beach he finally decided he didn’t need the tie. Doesn’t make my dad no longer what he is – it just means the uniform requirements were relaxed long enough that he did the same.

    Finally – young people often have opinions based in a complete lack of experience or real-world crushing defeats. We all grow up, we all (mostly) mature. If we check back with Bouroncle in ten years, I’ve got a $20 on her approach being modified from where it sits today.

  12. Charlottesville | March 14, 2023 at 12:28 pm |

    I could not agree more with the general tenor of JB’s post and the comments above. As Sarah Cooney has said, “dressing nicely shows respect for yourself and respect for others.” On occasion, when asked, “Why are you so dressed up?” I have responded, “Because I thought that I might see you and wanted to look my best.” At least it sometimes gets a laugh, but so far no noticeable sartorial improvement from the other parties.

    I wish I could work in the sort of atmosphere Mr. Giles describes. I got a glimpse of that world at the start of my career in Washington, D.C. around 1985, but it has since been swept aside in a tidal wave of athleisure and worse.

    Bravo, Mr. Ward, for wearing a tie to teach in public school. As I am sure we all know, that is sadly not the norm, even at some formerly very traditional universities I could mention.

  13. I can’t imagine many professions and/or cultures are (still) friendly to the more “dressed up” versions of Ivy, including but not limited to tweeds, printed challis and woven stripe neckwear, gray bottoms, OCBDs, and mocs (either tassel or penny). It’s an academic (“collegiate”) vibe, for sure–one that suits certain old-fashioned professions and cultures well, but, otherwise (in other settings) retains a profoundly anachronistic vibe. I feel sure this is why it appeals to the clerver, hip GenZ’s– the “Bard College B.A./Bernie supporter” crowd whose tastes tend toward the antique and antediluvian. I delight in Ivy in part because it’s such a subtle snub (rebuff?) of several styles simultaneously, including the slouchy and earthy/crunchy — but also hyper-cosmopolitan Pitti Uomo and the Paul Stuart-is “Updated Traditional,” which is ubiquitous.

  14. Gregory Carrara | March 14, 2023 at 9:38 pm |

    I am an attorney and live in the land of bad dressed lawyers in a capital city in New England. I cannot believe the legions of them…I am moving more and more to the ivy look…but, good god…the huge shoulder pads, extra long sleeves or pants…sneakers/athletic shoes with suits….my 14 year old dresses like the rest of the kids, but, I have some nice khakis, oxford cloth shirts, ties, and nice blazers and sports coats when it is time to dress…I coach the local mock trial team, and love helping him get ready and we have been working on him tying his own tie…all striped rep ties, of course…I am finding that even on my non-court days, I am wearing the “uniform”. Feels damned good.

  15. Prioritizing “comfort” above everything else used to be common among old people, especially retired ones. And who can blame older people, many of whom are almost constantly in physical pain, for preferring to dress in clothes that are designed to be, first and foremost, comfortable? But I wonder if young people realize how outright silly they look when they can’t even put on a pair of pants that doesn’t have an elastic waistband and must have sneaker soles even on the shoes that are supposedly in the “dress” category. Every time I see that I want to ask them — are you really THAT lazy? Or do you really have problems with your feet? Are you 90 years old that you can’t wear a pair of buttoned trousers and some leather dress shoes?
    Speaking of “uniforms”, young people also wear a “uniform” that consists of sweatpants, hoodies and sneakers (and leggings for girls). So much for “personal style”.

  16. Stefan Sego | March 15, 2023 at 3:39 am |

    I will certainly wear a coat and tie to walk my dog from now on.

  17. Charlottesville: great to hear from you! Things are good in Naptown, although these “false starts” for Spring are annoying me: come on dependable warm temps!

    Re: our paralegal friend in the article: I agree – her style would not have fit in at any of the firms where I’ve spent my career. But as you allude to, that may be a function of the types of places I’ve worked, the work we did and the clients we served. Which is not to sound snooty (I’ve come to respect – mostly – all my brothers at at the bar, regardless of their area of practice), nor to impugn Ms. Bouroncle’s professional skills.

    Stay in touch!

  18. You took the bait and I don’t blame you, many major news networks do the same, but I think the fewer think pieces about TikTok the better.

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