Summer in the Office

Throughout the course of the day, this post has gone in and out of draft. I was going to put it on hold for a more cathartic rant, expressing exasperation and disbelief (possibly some anger too) towards various groups of people in the aftermath of the recent arseholery in Manchester (I’m not going to use the ‘t’ word – I’d rather just call it for what it is). It was enough just to write it and leave it unpublished, giving me the opportunity to scream into a soundproof bucket so-to-speak, but it’s too soon to be putting something like that online – I’m not Katie Hopkins!

Back to the originally-intended post!

Every year, around this time, I have a moan about how inflexible office wear is for men. We’ve now had three days in a row where I’ve not taken my coat on my lunchtime amble into Atherstone – three days of near-constant sunshine is almost unheard-of in the Midlands. In fact, today I’ve not brought my coat at all – all of the essentials that normally get stuffed in my pocket are now carried in a Rough Trade carrier bag (bit hipster I know, but they’re a lot stronger than the typical supermarket carrier bags). Even if I douse myself in antiperspirant, my clothes are almost stuck to me when I get back from my walk.

We’ve got the windows open in the office (which get closed very quickly when the wind changes and the stench of the nearby horse paddocks wafts in), and they’ve not turned the AC on yet. It’s warm! I’m drinking several litres of water each day to stay hydrated, which just seems to race through me like Nigel Mansell in his prime.

Most of the ladies in the office have re-arranged their wardrobes to match the current climate, but we’re not allowed the same luxury: we’re still in the same shirt-and-trousers garb we’re in all winter. Yes, we can go for a short-sleeved shirt, but having slightly cooler arms isn’t all that adequate. There needs to be some flexibility without changing the rules too much – especially for those who aren’t customer-facing.

Here’s my ideas:

  1. Allow un-tucked shirts. I know it doesn’t look as “smart”, but neither does an employee whose sweat is seeping through the fabric of his shirt, basting him like a chicken in a roasting bag. I’ve got something of a beer-belly, and tucking in my shirt just accentuates it anyway.
  2. Ditch the tie. It’s optional where I work, but not so for some places. I’ve never been a fan of the tie – particularly the way it resembles a shackle and chain worn around the neck – but when worn with a shirt in the summer, it just acts like a seal and further restricts the cool air reaching the torso.
  3. Allow linen shirts. They may look crumpled, but they’re a lot cooler (in both appearance and temperature) than the regular, boring office shirts.
  4. Allow smart sandals. Quite a few of the ladies have opted for footwear made of just a few strips of leather, so why can’t we? We’re not talking flip-flops or beach sandals – more like the Birkenstock style. Forcing our feet into socks and leather brogues makes our feet a bacteria breeding ground. Imagine that! While you’re trying to impress a potential customer and secure their business, millions of microscopic organisms on your feet are causing a stink!

If that’s too much, I do have a couple of other ideas that don’t involve dress-code changes. They’re bound to go down well with your employees.

  1. Al fresco working. Most pubs now have free Wi-Fi for customers, enabling them to work from the beer garden – just make sure to tell the bar staff your employees are on soft drinks only until 5pm. It’ll be good for the pub trade too – too many of them are closing and becoming “local” supermarkets these days.
  2. Free ice-cream. Are your employees struggling to keep cool? Are they becoming demoralised in their discomfort? Easy solution: free ice-cream! Send a trolley round filled with ice-cold treats, and they’ll soon perk up and return to peak productivity.

Mine’s a cider refresher!

I no be gentleman like that…

I’ve been listening to a lot of Fela Kuti‘s music recently. If you’re unfamiliar with the name, he was a Nigerian musician/activist, vehemently opposed to his country’s military rule, serving it up in a delicious musical soup known as Afrobeat. Think Miles Davis meets Sly Stone, served on a bed of West African Hi-Life at its most danceable. Usually, I have to wait a week or two for his albums to ship from the US or Germany, but when we visited Nottingham, I bought a few of his albums on vinyl from their branch of Rough Trade. It was good to be able to buy them and take them home straight away.

One of them was his early-70’s classic Gentleman – the title track being a 14-minute attack on the effects colonial attitudes were having on Nigerian men: etiquette in particular.

According to Kuti, when a gentleman is invited to eat, he eats only as much as is considered polite. When someone causes trouble, a gentleman does not react. End result: “you go suffer, you go quench”. Fela also has a go at the fashions imposed on said gentlemen, which is effectively the “full Sinatra”: jacket, shirt, tie, trousers, socks, shoes and hat. While that makes sense in the temperate climes of northern Europe, the city of Lagos is just north of the Equator: it gets HOT! These gentleman sweat, faint and “smell like shit”. Never one to mince his words was ol’ Fela!

Most of what I get from Kuti’s music is a first-hand account of life in 1970’s Nigeria, under the brutal military regime. Some of his rants against colonialism take a little getting used to, mostly because I am part of that British culture that sought to impose itself on Nigeria, but one can still gain a sense of empathy by listening to Fela’s point of view. Gentleman, on the other hand, conveys a message that extends its influence across time and across continents: it’s not always appropriate to impose one’s culture onto another, regardless of whether it’s perceived as more superior or “civilised”.

Even more than forty years after the album was released, in a country several thousands of miles away, the words ring particularly true to me. There’s still this prevalent thought that the suit is the epitome of style for men, ascribing such traits as smart, professional, capable, successful and trustworthy upon the wearer. I’ve even read a few comments on-line stating that wearing a suit indicates a man is showing respect to the company they’re in. Without diving back into the “me vs. the church” narrative I’ve written about recently, I do recall getting more than a couple of dirty looks when I led the music group one Remembrance Sunday dressed in jeans.

I absolutely detest wearing suits and I only have one in my wardrobe which has only ever been worn for my brother’s wedding over a year ago. I wear them so infrequently, paying fair whack for a tailored suit doesn’t make sense, but I’ve got such a funny shape, the cheaper off-the-rack suits either look too big or too snug. They’re bulky, stifling andworst of all, I don’t feel right. Compare these two pictures, taken only a month or so apart:

IMG_20170125_214649
The real me. Earphones in, as per usual.
IMG-20160217-WA0013
Me… fully suited and looking like I belong on a Tory campaign leaflet… ewww!

 

In a suit, I don’t feel smart or professional or even all that respectful… there is not a single, formal bone in my body, and looking so formal just makes me feel fake! My past experience with other suit-wearing gentlemen also leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth: the pushy sales-people that won’t take no for an answer, the managers more concerned with their career than the welfare of their staff, the politicians who talk to their constituents like they’re common idiots (unless, of course, you voted for them – here’s looking at you, Christopher Pincher) – I guess I don’t want to be associated with that kind of crowd either.

 

If such behaviour is common of these so-called “gentlemen” then, as Fela says, “I no be gentleman at all

The Menswear Liberation Movement

I’ve written before about the progress of, and the resistance to, blurring gender lines – I’ve also written about how men’s fashion should be allowed to cross the same lines women’s fashion has in the past 50 years.

This has been an area I’ve been researching and learning more about – I’ve also been rather keen to embrace, albeit rather apprehensively. It’s quite encouraging to see free-thinking and creative men discarding the traditional notions of gendered clothing and developing their own individual styles, but for it to actually become less of a ‘taboo’, I believe there needs to be more inspiration coming from those whose business it is to inspire.

This would work…

I’m a member of a group on Facebook called “Men’s Fashion Freedom”. I don’t really need to tell you what it’s about – the clue’s in the name. The men in this group wear whatever they feel comfortable in, regardless of where in the clothes shop it’s come from. I’ve scanned through a lot of the historic posts, and the pictures its members have posted of themselves, and there there are a lot of practical and creative ideas flowing through the group, ranging from the simple to the extravagant, but everything works for the individual. They’re not chiselled catwalk models either – they cover all ages, all builds and all walks of life.

… considerably better than this

Switch to similarly-minded posts on Tumblr and Pinterest, and it’s a different picture. On here, I saw a lot of gender-blurring ideas that were coming off the catwalks – ideas that are, supposedly, where men’s fashion is heading. Not wanting to criticize their ideas, but Nuno Gama and Marc Jacobs aside, there were a fair few ideas that looked like costumes out of a Sci-Fi movie; think The Fifth Element meets The Hunger Games rather than the skirted tunics seen on Star Trek; all very well and good on the streets of Soho, but rather out-of-place in Sutton Coldfield unless you’re performing some Gilliam-esque street theatre.

For those who agree that menswear should be less restricted, I feel the fashion world is doing the cause more harm than good by presenting ideas that are too radical to be accepted by the general public; there needs to be many smaller challenges and short-term goals rather than looking too far ahead. Encouraging men to break into their pre-defined “masculine” programming and re-code it for themselves may take away those “traditional values” many still treasure, but it also allows us to bug-fix, reconfigure and optimise for our own architecture. (Sorry for the software engineering analogy)

Opening up a new market for men’s skirts and dresses needs a movement in order to be successful. A movement moves – it does not leap. Designers need to inspire, support and, most importantly, be patient; rules are best broken down one-at-a-time as opposed to broken all-at-once. To many people, seeing a man in a skirt is radical enough without being so bold in the design.

 

Bowie or Barlow: Dealing with Ennui

This time last year, when I really started assessing who I was and what I wanted, it felt as if I was undergoing some sort of mid-life crisis at the age of 37. At the time, my job security was uncertain and was having to deal with a lot of extra pressure. I’ve not been writing much here in the past couple of weeks because that’s all coming back.

While I was spared from the cull, the role I moved into was not what I was expecting and, with my current objectives, I could do with having an extra brain and an extra pair of hands. I had a pre-assessment for an internal position in the Procurement department last week, which I think went pretty well, and I should know some time next week if I’ve made it through to the face-to-face interviews. A change of scenery and a fresh set of challenges and experiences would be good for me right now, so if I am invited for an interview, I want to put everything I can into it. (I was invited for an interview, but taking recent events into consideration, I felt moving roles at this time would not be a wise decision and so withdrew my application)

With the weather starting to warm up, I’m also looking forward to getting out of this winter slump. I’ve been in jeans most of the winter and I don’t find them all that comfortable, especially when you’re active. I feel so much more comfortable in looser clothing, so I’m looking forward to getting my kilts out once more.

I watched this video on LaylahTalks earlier this morning about blocking out negativity, and it did give me some food for thought. I recognise that there are still some things I over-think to extremes, particularly when they don’t conform to majority opinion, but once I actually go and do it they don’t turn out anywhere near as bad as I think. It just needs a little confidence and a bit of a reality check: I’m lucky to have the support I need.

It boils down to this question: Would you rather be a David Bowie or a Gary Barlow? Both are, without argument, successful musicians but the big difference being that Bowie was always breaking through the boundaries Barlow wouldn’t cross. Almost everything about him was chameleonic, yet always one step ahead of everybody else. He didn’t follow, he inspired. 

Let’s just say that, in my record collection, it’s Bowie 6 – 0 Barlow.

 

Meet Brother Hyles Part 1: God wants REAL MEN.

I was in major need of a laugh, so I went back and had a look at the Divided by Truth website that I talked about earlier – in particular, the page that equated Feminism with Satanism. I’m not really going to comment on that article in particular (I’m still seething at the sexist “Mack Truck” comment) but, at the bottom of the article is a link to a sermon by Pastor Jack Hyles decrying the whole “unisex” movement.

As the page contains a transcription and not a recording of the sermon, I’m going to take it that the sermon actually took place and was not just fabricated and posted on the website posthumously. From the plethora of exclamation marks within the text, I’m also going to take it that there was a lot of shouting coming from the pulpit.

I’m going to go through the sermon, much in the way I did with their “kilts are for sinners” article but, as it’s quite long, I’m going to go through it in two parts – much like the sermon itself – and focus on some of the more “absurdly alarmist” points.


One social expert has said, “By the year 2000, Father will do the dishes and wash the diapers while Mom washes the car and mows the lawn.”

I’m guessing this quotation is meant to imply that, by the turn of the century, traditional gender roles will have swapped around. They haven’t – they’re still the same old-fashioned gender roles. The only real difference is that very few people actually pay them any attention.

I became a father in 2007, and I have changed my fair share of nappies. Even some of the really nasty ones. I’ve cleaned up almost every kind of fluid my kids have spewed, spilled or excreted over the furniture. I do the washing up, I mow the lawn, I clean the car (well, as we don’t have a driveway or a garage, I take the car to someone who will do a far better job than I can for a few quid), I cook, I clean and I do the ironing.

And so does my wife. It’s called “co-operation”. It’s what married couples do.

When a little boy is born, we let him grow long hair and look like a girl, (now I’m going to make someone mad here) we name him Francis, (and one of the best friends I have in this world is named Francis) we curl his hair and put him in what we call a diaper shirt, (which is no more than a dress) and then we wonder why he turns out to be a sissy! Brother, when a boy gets home from the hospital, put him in blue jeans and cut his hair! If you don’t, he’s going to grow up and look like some of you Samsons sitting here in this room tonight!

For the first 18 months of his life, we let my son’s hair grow long. We never curled his hair (he has my genetics so it’d go that way on its own eventually) nor did we put him in a “diaper shirt”. Having had to attempt to remove my son’s dungarees after a rather nasty nappy, I can see why some parents would put their boys in (ahem) “dresses”.

If my son turns out to be what Brother Hyles so bluntly defines as a “sissy”… great! I’d rather him be an honest, compassionate and sensitive member of society than a brutish, domineering oaf.

I believe that ladies ought to be feminine and sweet and lovely and charming. I believe men ought to be strong and masculine and decisive. I’m opposed to anything that makes a man and a woman act alike, look alike, dress alike, or talk alike.

Okay, fair enough. It’s not my place to tell you what to believe, but you are kind-of describing a fantasy land. If you expect women to repress their negative emotions in order to be that sweet, lovely and charming woman you want them to be, you’re likely creating an emotional time-bomb. When she explodes in front of you and gives you a harsh lesson in what reality is like for a “conservative” woman, you’d be wise not to remind her just how ‘un-lady-like’ it is to have an angry outburst. And what happens to the men who are more creative and intellectual than strong and decisive? One person from history had an idea of what to do with the less-desirable members of society. It wasn’t pretty.

But I am the man about whom Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey them that have rule over you.” You’ll be a lot better off to tell your girl she can’t wear her slacks because the preacher says it’s wrong- by the way, it won’t hurt her not to wear them- than if you just go ahead and let her wear them.

If you’re going to give people a list of expected behaviours based on what’s between their legs, you’re wasting your time. Micromanaging children is a futile and completely counter-productive effort: the more you try and control them, the more likely they are to resent and rebel against you. I’ve mentioned before – if you are in a position of authority, you must be able to justify why you hold that authority. The same goes for parents too. If you want your children to obey you, you’ve got to convince them as to why it’s in their best interest to do so. Finally, if you want them to approach God with a pure heart, making them so shit scared of eternal torment is NOT going to achieve that.

I am never purposely unkind to anybody who dresses contrary to the way I preach. But I’ll say this much: You’re going to face God for being a part of the unisex movement just as much as a man who wears makeup.

Somehow I think God has bigger fish to fry than who is and isn’t wearing makeup. Personally, when Eddie Izzard goes to meet his maker, I think said maker is going to be far more interested in his inexhaustible charity work than his shade of lipstick.

You know it’s true that if you’re walking down the sidewalk behind some couples, it’s hard to tell which is the male and which is the female.

Why is it so important that you need to be able to visually identify the sexes of two people YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW!? They’re walking down the street minding their own business – perhaps you should try doing that too.

“Today, mothers continue to work their way steadily back toward babyhood, trying on the looks of baby doll, little soldier doll, and little boy doll.” Let me stop and say a word about this. I don’t mind your boys having little soldiers to play with, but don’t give your boy a doll to play with.

[in sarcastic, mocking tone] Because it’s a sin for boys to learn how to become confident parents! That’s a woman’s jon! Men should be out shooting and killing foreign people and stealing their oil! Pacifism is for sissies!

Ad nauseam.

She goes on to say, “Simultaneously the teenage boy, the source of all this feminine emulation, was revolting against his father in the strongest way he could find to express disapproval- unmasculinity. Ornamented in fancy clothes, the young men now seem to dress as young women, masquerading as boys.” That’s not a Christian person saying that; that is the world saying that men and women dressing alike is part of the unisex movement.

This does make some sense, but as I’ve said before, if you’re more of a dictator than a parent you shouldn’t be surprised that your children turn against you. I’ve heard stories of how children in similar relationships can’t wait to start college/university so they can get away from their fathers’ strict control and constant condemnation.

The fact that celebrities like Mick Jagger and David Bowie were crossing the gender boundary shows how lateral thinking became more liberated during the 60’s and 70’s. They had an air of femininity in their appearance, but you never doubted their masculinity. That post-war generation saw women becoming more independent in their appearance and aspirations – the fact that young males were keen to emulate women’s appearance can be regarded as validating their independence and equality. This effeminacy in men was by no means undesirable – a man in tune with his feminine side (we all have one, however small) was less likely to become an abusive or misogynistic husband.

Girls come to my office in deep trouble, and practically every one who does has been told by her mother or dad, or in some cases by both, “Brother Hyles isn’t God. You don’t have to do everything he says.”

Correct. Brother Hyles is a human being and is as corruptible by “the devil” as everybody else. When I was an active church-goer and Bible-studier, I theorised that if “the devil” is the ultimate trickster and liar, then it’s not improbable for him to sow confusion by pretending to be God. This is why I always felt that, if it wasn’t in the Gospel, it wasn’t a true reflection of God. Even though I no longer identify as a Christian, I still follow the Gospel from a philosophical point of view.

Dr. Ralph Grimson is a clinical professor of psychiatry at U.C.L.A. School of Medicine; he told the American Medical Association, “I believe one of the reasons that young males and females wear their hair alike and dress alike stems from their fear of the opposite sex.”

I’m beginning to think this whole sermon is a result of Hyles’ own fear of the opposite sex. He doesn’t seem to have a lot of respect for women. Or for men, if I’m honest.

For 14 years and 3 months there has been a man behind this pulpit. I may be mean and stubborn, and I may be bigoted, and I may be right-winged- in fact, I happily plead guilty to all of those things- but there is one thing you have had for all of these 14 years. You’ve had a fellow whose tail you couldn’t twist! This country is in dire need of men!

When you have such a stubborn and inflexible approach to life, you lose the ability and the willingness to move beyond the obstacles in your way. In those 14 years and 3 months, the congregation has moved on with their lives, but Hyles refuses to. Rather than catch up with his congregation, his stubborn and conservative solution is to get everybody else to roll back to a point more suitable to him.

Maybe that’s why, almost 45 years later, his words still sound stubborn, bigoted and right-winged. Throughout the course of the sermon, he has chastised and brow-beaten many of the people present. That was never going to work. If you want people to change, you inspire them… and you can’t inspire people with such hostile negativity.

Back in my Bible study days, I concluded that God doesn’t make mistakes, but challenges. If you believe that God created two sexes, male and female, and that all people are created by God – where does that leave the intersex minority? They’re not mentioned in the Bible anywhere purely because the people of the time would not be able to comprehend the complexities of child development and hormones, but if they’re still God’s creation, where do you stand? Do you twist some OT verses into black-and-white rhetoric like “God created Man and Woman – you’re neither, therefore you must be the work of the devil”, or do you follow Jesus’ commandment to “love one another”? Last time I read that chapter, there weren’t any specifications or conditions.

I don’t believe anybody ought to be a big bully and go around picking fights. I don’t believe you ought to want to fight. But I’ll tell you one thing! I don’t believe a boy ought to open his purse and get out scented tissue to wipe his tears because he is afraid of the big bully in the school!

And finally, something we can both agree on, but also something of a circular argument. If you emphasise to your kids the need to be strong, assertive and dominant, as Brother Hyles commands, then they will practice that dominance and assertion on others – they will become, in effect, bullies. Instil them with confidence and empathy, and they become productive members of society. No bullies and no fighting equals no scented tissues. Job done.

Ironically, by using the threat of eternal torment to scare the congregation into conforming to your world view, I’m afraid that makes you the bully.

“Sod being gender-normative… winter is coming!” – Experiences with ‘Mantyhose’

A few months ago, I wrote a short post about reactions to what’s known as “Mantyhose” – I know there are afficionados out there that don’t like the term, but it does help avoid confusion when you happen to be writing about them in particular. Here in the UK we’re in the middle of autumn, and while it’s been relatively mild the past couple of weeks, temperatures in my neck of the woods have recently dropped to just below freezing.

I work in an office and I’m sitting down for the best part of my 8-hour shift, so I like to go for a walk at lunchtime to stretch the legs and get some fresh air. While my upper-body is protected from the elements by my shirt and winter coat, my trousers offer only a thinnish layer of cotton and polyester with which to cover my legs. When it’s both cold and windy, my legs feel like two blocks of ice. Being quite open-minded, I bought a couple of pairs of Mantyhose in anticipation. I don’t care what you think or what you say – if you haven’t tried it, you don’t know what you’re missing.

a04a1280_largeThe two pairs I bought were both made by Polish hosiery experts Adrian – I bought the footed “City” and the footless “Hunter” varieties. You’re not likely to find them on the high street, but you can get them on eBay for around £6 with free postage.

hunterBoth are incredibly comfortable under trousers. When sat in the office, they add a moderate amount of compression (you hardly notice they’re there) which helps reduce any restlessness or fatigue. Outside, in temperatures colder than my fridge, they prove their worth compared to walking with increasingly-numbing legs. The “City” pair are less bulky, but they do occasionally feel as if my shoes are too big; you need socks with the footless “Hunter” pair, which may be preferable if you’ve got new shoes rubbing your feet, but they are made of significantly thicker material. The only major difference between these varieties and women’s equivalents, as far as I can tell, is the overall sizing and the addition of a “male comfort panel” which adds extra room at the front for that place where some men keep their brains.

aec2a1c0870e27cee14e953ea11dc034Would I ever wear them visibly, for example, under a pair of shorts like the model pictured on the left? Possibly. Definitely not with the striped shorts, that’s for certain. It’s not widely-known that men’s varieties exist so, on one hand, I’d like to educate, but on the other, I’d continue to be mindful of time-manner-place:

At an Eddie Izzard gig – definitely. I likely won’t be the only one.

Visiting a National Trust property with my family – very probably.

In a busy town centre – depends on whether the local football team is at home.

In the vicinity of my local pub – definitely not. I think that would be borderline suicidal.

Mantyhose: A brief aside…

Whilst researching material for my previous post, I often found that one avenue of research forked into two more, and so and so forth. The further down I went, the more the topic expanded into one of individual liberties and style.

MantyHose-StraightFromTheA-17Two articles (here and here) I found regarding the rising “mantyhose” (tights/pantyhose designed for men) trend came from the website of the Daily Mail, a British tabloid newspaper with a rather conservative editorial style. I’ve skimmed through a few editions of the paper when visiting my parents and, if you ignored the sports pages and some of the more magazine-y bits in the middle, you’d think that the world as we know it was going to end tomorrow. In a nut-shell: tradition, stability and security = good; progress, change and modernisation = bad. I was curious as to how their readers would react to such a thing.

There were a minority of comments that were supportive, but most of those came from people who are already devotees of the mantyhose trend. Some found the whole thing ridiculous, some found it a joke but, most interestingly, some took it to the next level and declared that metro-sexuality in general was a sign that men have been progressively emasculated by liberals.

aec2a1c0870e27cee14e953ea11dc034Before I carry on with the greater topic, I would like to explain where I stand on that last point as it kind of introduces a recurring theme that will run throughout. Given that conservatively-minded people generally regard bravery, confidence and security as virtuous, it is quite ironic that wearing mantyhose would be considered unmanly and weak when it actually takes a considerable amount of bravery, self-confidence and security to actually wear them in public. Show me a man wearing mantyhose, and I will show you a man with few, if any, insecurities.

It’s not emasculation… it’s emancipation!

Daring to Be Different

What other words enter your head when I mention the words “different” or “alternative”? How would you feel if somebody used the words “different” or “alternative” to describe you? Would you see it as a condemnation, implying you are somewhere you don’t belong, or would you see it as a compliment, implying you are creative or individual? In the past twelve months, I’ve steadily progressed from the former to the latter.

Twelve months ago, I was a lot more reserved than I am today. I was quite defensive when in the company of others, and kept parts of me hidden that I didn’t want anybody to know. I even invented things just to fit in – truth be told: I really don’t care about football. I was just so worked up about creating the right impression, believing that the real me was just a flawed and socially-unacceptable mass. There was actually nothing wrong with me, just part-and-parcel of being an introvert, and the more I came to accept my introversion, the less I had to pretend and the less it bothered me. The tiny handful of strong relationships I have are of exponentially more value than all the casual acquaintances.

Can you spot the person who's into Extreme Black Metal. Bet you can't!
Can you spot the person who’s into Extreme Black Metal. Bet you can’t!

When I’m at work, I kind-of just blend in. The company dress code means I don’t look noticeably different to anyone else, I get on with my work just like everyone else, and at lunchtime, I do what introverts usually do and grab some all-important me-time away from my desk. I am my true self the whole time I’m in the office, but the avenues for self-expression are rather limited – I am on company time, after all. Outside of work, when I’m no longer bound by company policy, the true self becomes noticeably visible; in other words: I look different. Ever seen a man wandering around the Midlands wearing a kilt? If you have, it was probably me. I could NEVER have done that twelve months ago.

The "Utility Kilt". Smart-Casual with a Celtic twist.
The “Utility Kilt”. Smart-Casual with a Celtic twist

Being among a tiny minority of kilt-wearers in the Midlands (I don’t assume I’m the only one) has taught me one thing: nobody really minds “different”. The people who know me best already accept me for who I am, and they’re the only people who matter. Pretty-much everybody else is too busy concentrating on their own little agenda so, if I’m not breaking any laws or causing any harm, nobody’s really minds. A few may giggle or make silly remarks, but that’s either jealousy or ignorance at work. I found expressing this more visibly-adventurous side of me got easier the more I kept at it – my self-consciousness continually decreased over time, and I became more comfortable in my surroundings.

If you’ve had any similar experiences, or if you feel you are struggling to be the real you, feel free to leave a comment below.