I am a scruffy person.
Don’t get me wrong, I fully embrace personal hygiene – I shower daily, brush my hair and teeth every day and am a firm believer in antiperspirant. But other than that, I don’t really give a shit – I wear jeans, complete with scruffy and torn cuffs, hoodies, tshirts and trainers everywhere I go.
I grew up on a farm where you didn’t wear nice clothes unless you were prepared to have them jumped on by muddy dogs or otherwise torn/stained. I also read a lot of idealistic literature about a world where you’re judged on your intelligence and your ability to do your job right.
What I learnt the other day is that it doesn’t matter how competent or intelligent you are, you’re only judged on your appearance. I had to attend a meeting at short notice in the absence of my manager, something which I’ve never been expected to do before so I was not prepared in the wardrobe department (I was pretty informally dressed, even by my standards). I don’t work in a customer facing role and there is no dress code, so it’s never been an issue before.
I shook hands with the lady I was meeting with and she looked me up and down in undisguised contempt. I introduced myself and held my own in the meeting, the very models of etiquette and professionalism… but not only would she refuse to take me seriously, she was openly hostile and rude to me. She would defer all questions and information to the bloke in the meeting with me, because his jeans were smarter than mine.
I don’t know if men encounter this same issue, if they’re not wearing a power suit to meetings, or if a man would have been so contemptuous of me in the same situation but I found this a real eye-opener. I always knew on one level that appearance is important, but I didn’t realise that you could be disregarded so completely despite being completely competent at your job. It makes me wonder if you can get away with being awful at your job, as long as you dress well and look good?
I feel silly for being so naive but also deeply disillusioned that it doesn’t matter how good I am at what I do, I’ll always be judged on how I look.
Has anyone else encountered this? Are business women more predatory about appearance?