On a hot summer day in Central Texas I exited my apartment in a linen skirt, white short-sleeved sweater, and sandals. My neighbor, who is also a friend, greeted me on this bright sunny morning with the comment “you look like such a counselor today.”
At first I wondered what this meant and felt it might be negative in nature. However, throughout the day I embraced this idea. What does it mean to “look like a counselor?” What could it mean to look like a teacher, attorney, housewife, or barista?
How does our clothing define us? If I wear my big black sweater with pockets in the winter and linen in the summer, does this exude a counselor vibe?
I look at my clothing as a way to express myself, but additionally as something practical depending on the environment I am working in: tennis shoes for a juvenile detention center or business attire for outpatient practice.
When we dress in the morning, how does our attire affect how we view ourselves and how the world perceives us? Having clean, business casual attire is necessary in the work environment I am in, but I did not realize it defined me as a “counselor.”
While labels identify and classify, they can also separate us from each another. What does labeling my look “counselor” mean? I believe it is classifying and creating a divide, placing a person in an arbitrary box.
Is this a common issue in other professions? How is the attorney in the business suit categorized, the barista in black casual attire regarded, or the soldier in uniform identified?
Rather than turning to labels and categories, why not look for the similarities in each other? We have more in common than we do differences, but why is it so easy to let something as simple as style of dress create a divide? Issues such as religion, race or politics already create this separation.
It is important to be mindful of how our perception of others and self affects how we treat those we interact with daily. I accept that I “look like a counselor” — but will you accept me, too?
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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 22 Jul 2014
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.
Grasher, E. (2014). Are We What We Wear?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/07/22/are-we-what-we-wear/