Janet Urquhart: Dressing down at The Aspen Times
September 12, 2003
God forbid I should fail to do my laundry in a timely manner and be forced to wear “good” clothes to work. I’d never hear the end of it.
If I wear earrings, co-workers want to know what’s up.
There’s an unwritten dress code at The Aspen Times. It doesn’t mandate any particular wardrobe, just consistency. If you want to be stylish, you’d better start out that way on your first day on the job.
Any attempt to upgrade your appearance later on will be met with: A) ridicule; B) disbelief; C) suspicion; or, more likely, a combination of the three. In short, a day in khakis is akin to a day in hell. If one of the guys here wore a tie, he’d be ready to hang himself with it by lunchtime.
I’ve often said (well, once anyway) that if The Times instituted casual day on Fridays, people would have to dress up in order to comply.
I swear, one of my colleagues wears pajama bottoms to the office. They’re plaid and they’re flannel. What else could they be? Besides, he’s often wearing slippers, too.
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He got married wearing a crisp, new, unfaded pair of blue jeans. Later, when he wore them to the office, I’d chide him about wearing his dress pants.
On the other hand, anyone else wearing something dressier than denim is accused of having either a job interview or a date.
I observed this phenomenon recently, when an editor showed up wearing pants that weren’t jeans – something none of us had ever seen before. Usually, we know when he’s dressing up for an important occasion because he tucks his shirt into his jeans instead of leaving it out.
When he showed up wearing green cotton pants, with his shirt tucked in, and shoes that weren’t athletic shoes, every single person in the office was moved to inquire about the ensemble until he screamed, “Enough, already!” and slammed his door.
The weird thing was, he wasn’t dressed up. The pants were wrinkled, one of the flaps over a back pocket was sticking straight up, and they were too short, exposing an inch or so of his white athletic socks between the bottom of his pants and the brown leather shoes.
In any other business office in the land, he’d have been sent home to change into something more presentable. Here, we all wondered about the spiffy attire.
As it turned out, he just didn’t have any other clean clothes. It was the laundry thing.
When I was interviewed for a job at this paper, I came to town late one autumn afternoon, anticipating a meeting with the editors the following morning. I had my “interview clothes” in the car. Instead, the editor in chief at the time instructed me to wander around town for an hour and then come back over to the office for a chat.
I wore blue jeans, athletic shoes and a faded flannel shirt to what turned out to be my job interview and I knew I’d found a home.
I think the interview clothes are still hanging somewhere in my closet. I’ve never worn them again. The harassment would be unbearable.
[Janet Urquhart may have to stay in Aspen forever, if only to avoid ever wearing a dress again. Her column appears on Fridays]
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