I am interviewing for jobs and Libby is just bursting out all over. First, she's incredibly, madly proud of me, but mostly, she wants to make sure that I am sartorially prepared for the interviews. I am not. And today's task, class, is to find out whether I, myself, me, personally care. Or is my urge to make a mission this afternoon of finding a pair of well-fitting, quality black slacks being driven by Libby?
Libby was the Personnel Director of a business school and as such, she was the arbiter of all things with an employment orientation. She sent out the young men and women from the hills and mining towns outside of Pittsburgh to their destiny as comptometer operators or shorthand secretaries. She kept spare gloves and hats in her office, because--one couldn't go on a job interview without gloves and hat and too often, the young men and women from the hills, etc. didn't know that.
Libby was a bug about "grooming." Her ultimate accolade for a person was "She's well-groomed." What did that actually mean? Your clothes fit, they were clean, and your slip wasn't showing. Your hair was combed, including the back which even if you didn't see, other people did. You were dressed in some semblance of moderate style. (When I was in college, I learned that if I wanted new clothes, all I had to do was go visit Libby in her office wearing an outfit that was too small, faded, or out of season. She would hustle me off to Horne's with her charge card.)
Where did this come from? She was one of seven children who were born and raised on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Five girls, two boys. The girls in particular (except, maybe, for one) hated that fact. They had grand illusions, or perhaps a knowledge that they were meant for Better Things, and part of that meant, I think, Dressing The Part.
Inherent in that is the sure understanding that there is a semiotic quality to one's dress. Libby didn't know about semiotics, but she did know that impressions count. Thus, when one goes for a job interview, one dresses appropriately.
Last night, I saw a bit of a program in which a young man was applying for a sales job. He was covered with tattoos and had metal stuck in various parts of his face, including a bolt on each side of his forehead. The employer told him he really wanted to work something out, but he had a hard time with the bolts. "Would the young man be willing to remove them for the job?" No, the young man would not. The bolts were a dealbreaker. I'm all for self-expression, but really....
Update: I bought the slacks, and the fact that they were a size smaller than normal turned out to be the highpoint, for me, of my interviews.