Thursday, August 17, 2006

What to Wear

One thing I think I've noticed as I traipse to and fro wearing my chef clothes (i.e., black-and-white-checked baggy pants and a white jacket with the bakery's logo and name, and my name, embroidered over the pocket on the left front side) is that men who are dressed in working class attire (e.g., construction workers and delivery guys) are much more likely to say hello then they used to be when I wore Office Clothes. Believe me when I tell you that I am not all that and a bag of chips, and also believe me when I tell you that the chef outfit does nothing for me (everything really is quite baggy), so it's not like I'm suddenly mondo attractive--plus, I pretty much always have some version of Bakery Hair.

Now, I tended, and tend, to greet a person pleasantly if I happen to catch his eye--nothing big or flirty, and I get seriously irritated if someone instructs me to smile, but a "howrya doon" or a nod? Hey, no problem. And I always said hello to workmen who came into my office or the general office space, maybe some polite chitchat. I came to realize that this isn't necessarily usual, though: I remember an electrician at the university with whom I used to chat told me that he'd be in someone's office to fix something, the person might even chat a bit, and then he'd run into the person a few minutes later and they'd just not even see him. He had bright red hair, so literally not seeing him seemed unlikely--it was more likely that professors and office people just ignored someone in maintenance-guy clothing, classified him, by his clothing, as someone they didn't know. I think what I'm experiencing is kind of the inverse of that, i.e., construction workers, letter carriers, and the like are more likely to say hello to someone who is dressed in working-person clothing. In any case, it's fascinating to me how people interact on the street, and this is just another nugget in that collection.

In other how-do-you-look news, apparently women are growing eyebrows. Of course, some of us never stopped growing them, and I couldn't tell you the last time I plucked my eyebrows. I don't think I ever plucked them with any regularity, even in high school (which is also the last time I shaved my legs). Twisty's influence notwithstanding, I often hesitate to make the full-on argument that many of the fashion instructions are merely the patriarchy's way of forcing women to spend inordinate amounts of time on their appearance--and if you're spending hours each day on your appearance (or risking the disapproval of the people around you), well, those are hours you don't spend on challenging the patriarchy. Quite the contrary: you're actually spending hours reinforcing the patriarchy. I also generally avoid making the argument that Germaine Greer made a zillion years ago, that hairlessness in women (except for the hair on their heads) makes them look pre-pubertal, and, therefore, Safe and less threatening. They're childlike--because body hair, pubic hair, and underarm hair are all signifiers of adulthood.

It's not that I don't believe those two things; I DO believe them. It's more that my audience rarely wants any part of either argument, and I end up hearing about how Makeup Is Fun (hey, I own, and, occasionally, use it, the same way I use other bits of costume) and shaving this or that body part doesn't take THAT much time, plus it's nice and smooth and they like it and so on. (Do not even get me started on the women who are willing to have their pubic hair ripped out by the roots. That is insane, and I want no part of it whatsoever.)

But the article about eyebrows, well, it makes my argument for me. First off, read the instructions for how you (if you're a woman) are supposed to "do" your eyebrows. Imagine how much time that takes, every fucking day. And, given who's going to be obeying these instructions, this is on top of all of the other daily grooming--hair, makeup, shaving, etc.--all of which, I'm guessing, could easily take an hour. (Of course, the men who date these women then get to make demeaning remarks about "how much time it takes her to get ready"--even as they'd spurn her if she, say, stopped shaving her legs and wearing makeup.) The other thing, though--all this attention to the EYEBROWS?? If that isn't an enforced distraction, I don't know what would qualify.


Anonymous Lisa Marie said...

This entry is very thought-provoking, EG. The "What to Wear" portion, in particular, I find very intriguing. I've always been a talker-to: grocery check-out folks (in line and behind the counter), folks maintaining public and private spaces. I'm having trouble just now putting into words the reactions I've received regarding this -- perceived flirtation and intrusion into a class to which I do not appear to belong are among two of those reactions.

Like I said, interesting observations. I'm going to have to chew on this one some more.

9:02 AM  
Blogger kStyle said...

Hey! Eyebrows are VERY important, moreso than the other body parts a woman is supposed to be concerned with. They have a crucial influence on facial expression--with how we express ourselves and connect to the world, in a way. I have, shall we say, naturally full eyebrows, and I've resisted the pencil-thin-plucking trends all these years, but I do keep them groomed to prevent the Dreaded Unibrow. I would rather spend time making my brows neat than my hair.

9:58 AM  
Blogger Emma Goldman said...

I was just astounded at the detail--the clear gloss, the shaping, and the fluffing and powdering and so on. Plucking? eh--I guess if you do it regularly enough you don't have to do much of it, and we all have our grooming rituals that others would probably find onerous, so I"m not necessarily opposed to grooming the eyebrow(s), per se.

5:00 PM  
Blogger landismom said...

That is really interesting, the part about the work uniform. I find that if I'm walking down the street wearing my work attire (business casual) and I catch the eye of a person in a work uniform that is distinctly blue collar and say hi to them, they are almost always taken aback. It's a pretty sad commentary on our society.

5:21 PM  
Blogger kStyle said...

Gloss might be a bit overboard. But for those of us overly endowed in the eyebrow department, plucking can become a necessary part of grooming. I'm not sexist about it; I've got my brother grooming his eyebrows, too. When it's left up to Nature, we end up looking like Cousin Itt.

Can't wait till I have to get my brother to start trimming his ear hair...Thankfully, the women in the family escape that.

10:03 PM  
Blogger Orange said...

That NYT article on the eyebrow trend was nuts. It's not that full, natural eyebrows are in—it's a style of fuller eyebrow that probably takes a crapload more work than just waxing to a narrower brow shape. Plus, I do believe I saw the word "feathering" in that article. Feathering!

1:38 PM  
Blogger Unsane said...

When I was doing work as a Census collector, and dressed in a yellow raincoat for the sake of possible rainfalls, I got a lot of greetings, for example, from the school street crossing man and the postman.

9:28 AM  

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