“What do I want to wear tomorrow”? That question is repeated in almost every home in America nightly after the dinner has been served, dishes washed, and the children are snug in the bed. After picking and prodding through the closet for several minutes the next words usually are, “I really don’t feel like wearing this or that,” but why? The basic requirement of clothing is to provide personal protection. Clothing protects one against rain, wind, sun and cold winters, so if you’re dressing for the elements, why does it matter? Does our outer appearance really reflect how we feel on the inside? The question that should be asked is, “What is my appearence telling others about who I am, and who I want to be”. Be careful, your appearence says far more than you think.
It’s been well-established—in the scientific literature and real life—that what we wear affects how others perceive us. Organizational clothing tells who you are and what you do. A police officer or government official’s uniform is an example of authority. These uniforms bring us a sense of safety and security. “To Protect and Serve”, is the oath these officials made on the day they accepted their positions. Do those authoritarians feel the same power and prestige when outside their uniforms? Numerous News clippings tell the story of “Off Duty” heroism by these “Flat foots” forting drug cartels, kidnappings, or robberies at the local conveince store. A Doctor doesn’t lose the knowledge gained while attending eight years of medical school once he has traded his white coat for Levi Strauss jeans and Alumni sweatshirt either. These professional’s are still answering their calling no matter what clothing they dawn.
We see that the lack of organizational clothing doesn’t affect how the individual professional responds within their craft, but how does it affect your perception of that person when outside of the “Normal” prescribed attire? Photographer and corporate lawyer Dave Kimelberg wanted to show how “the once-derided tattoo is quickly gaining popularity within corporate and professional America, a stronghold of conventionality.” A photo circulating the internet comes from the book “INKED Inc”, shows Dr. Dave, a medical doctor with private general medicine practice in New York City with full tattoo sleeves. Many of Dr. Dave’s tattoos have a medical theme. A caduceus, the symbol of medicine, sits on his right arm – although a woman replaces the traditional staff. The letters “MD” are tattoed on his back; while a skull with a red medical cross (the symbol of Dr. Dave’s motorcycle club of health professionals) decorates his left shoulder.
Would you be willing to accept valuable life saving assistance from Dr. Dave without the badge of his profession when he comes riding in on a loud obnoxious Harley Davidson depicting a scene from the hit T.V. series Sons of Anarchy? The book INKED Inc. challenges your preconceptions with a photographic look at the intersection of body art and professional culture. Inside are a series of studio photographs and profiles that juxtapose images of professional people in their normal work clothes with ones in which their extensive body art is on display. They include doctors (of both the medical and PhD variety), lawyers, the Ivy-educated and others you’d never expect to have extensive tattoos. INKED Inc. shows how tattoos have transcended boundaries and evolved into a personal statement found in all corners of society.
I’m not very different than Dr. Dave, or many other professionals in the world today. My professional uniform is the Navy working uniform. Blue digital print camouflage designed to take the arduous wear and tear of the life of a United States Sailor serving onboard a warship. My scars represent 12 years of faithful service, and 3 overseas deployments, in support on the “Global War on Terror”. My tattoo’s represent my profession of combat medicine, my enthusiasm of motorcycles, my love of Sailor Jerry Rum, and comrades lost long the way, but I am still a professional, and should be treated as such whether in my uniform or not.
Everyday, many professionals are judged based on their outward appearance. On the clock or off the clock, these servants of society have taken up professions in retail, hospitality, law enforcement, military, or even sanitation. They might appear disheveled at times, but they have earned the right to call themselves professionals, and be recognized as such by us, on or off duty. So tonight, while you’re in your closet trying to find that perfect outfit, to have the world perceive you a certain way, don’t, just do you. Trust, in your credentials as a professional and demand you are treated accordingly. If you make a conscious decision not to judge others by their appearance, you might be surprised at what karma has in store for those that judge you.