On Creativity and Dressing Professionally

I’m not interested in clothes that just convey a certain look or fashion. Clothes for me have always been a form of self-expression. ~ Phoebe Philo

When I first joined the technology work force I had just quit playing music full time. This was a huge turning point in my life as writing and playing music had been a huge part of my teenage and young adult life, but it wasn’t fulfilling me as it once had anymore. I knew I wanted to strike out on a path that would lead me in the direction of financial freedom and eventually bring me to working independently on a creative endeavor of my own design that was also financially gainful. So with this change in work and effort came changes in my attire.

Probably the most pronounced of these changes was a haircut. I went from a long haired rock and roller to a short haired professional overnight. I also began wearing collared button up shirts. Those who knew me were mostly aghast and confused, they were used to ripped up jeans and band t shirts. but I kept up my new look while working on my technical skills through studying and tinkering and started to land contract jobs fixing computer hardware and software. I continued keeping my look clean and professional and the jobs kept rolling in. I’ll never know if the new look I had embraced made much difference to me getting hired, in fact it probably didn’t as most of the companies who hired me did so over the phone.

The Lesson.

What I have realized in retrospect is that, if nothing else, the professional look definitely had an effect on my own internal philosophy in relation to who I was. I now saw myself more as a machine, I was no longer the creative, fun, and adventurous artist that I once saw myself as. I didn’t need to pay attention to my own emotions anymore, I was now above them. I didn’t need sleep, my sole purpose in life was to make money and progress in my career. This went on for a year or two, while I slowly realized that my creative side had not ever gone away. One of the real benefits that came from my mentality at this time was that I gained some mental discipline, but looking back I’m not sure that the cost of suppressing my own personality and true desires was worth it. In fact I know today that it’s my creative energy that has enabled me to continuously outdo myself and progress in both my career and my own self development.

I’m now gainfully employed (almost ironically) by the U.S. Government, I have longer hair and though I generally look well kept and still wear button ups, I don’t feel like a machine. And generally I am not that concerned with being completely perfect in my attire. I’m taking coursework for a computer science master’s degree and working on attaining the skills I need to become self-employed and have more creative control over the work I perform. I’m now aware that having my own flair and style is much more important than being concerned about what other individuals may construe as unprofessional. Ultimately, the lesson I learned here is that it is much more important that my outward appearance is aligned with my internal dialogue than it is that it makes a contrived statement to those around me. Sure, it’s important to be presentable to others, but not at the expense of your own unique need to express yourself.