On Fridays I Wear Pigtails (a Poem About ‘Business Casual’ Fridays at Work)

Business Casual Pigtails By Poe Tatum Flickr

Business Casual Pigtails By Poe Tatum Flickr

Unsurprisingly, when I wrote this poem, it was a Friday, I was wearing pigtails, and I had just gotten home from work. Below the poem is a discussion of how it came about and about ‘casual Fridays’ and ‘business casual’ as concepts.  (Below the fold)

On Fridays I Wear Pigtails

On Fridays I wear pigtails
Jeans just don’t say “free” to me.
I thwack my braids across my head,
left, right, left, right,
And don’t care (much) that I’m waiting on grandchildren
and much too old for pigtails.

On Fridays I wear pigtails
And sometimes wear a hat. A cloche, a cap, or fedora.
Maybe a beret.
It’s not a red hat, with a purple dress…
but it could well be.
I am the me I want to be just as clearly.

On Fridays I wear pigtails
When clients come into my office,
Expecting lipstick and neatly trimmed curls,
and makeup creasing the folds of my face,
They are surprised at the pigtails and the big grin,
Blink a couple times, and get down to business.

On Fridays I wear pigtails,
And sometimes a hat with my “I’m the boss” clothes
(Did you know there are jeans that say “I’m the boss,” too?)
My staff likes the pigtails, and corporate just shrugs
“She keeps the numbers up,” they say
“And her turnover is low.”

On Fridays I wear pigtails.
And staff wears their Friday jeans
They wear their favorite joke tees
and multicolor scarves
Laughter makes the work lighter
so on Fridays I wear pigtails.

Maureen O’Danu (under Creative Commons license like the rest of the site. Please share with attribution).

On Business Casual and Authenticity at Work

I am no one’s idea of a ‘corporate’ personality. I am too outspoken and too entirely unable to ‘go along to get along’ for long to be. In addition, my taste in clothes runs toward the dramatic and fun. Since I’m unlikely to ever (again) work in the financial industry, and since I work in a field where creativity is (often) rewarded, this is okay.

I spent a lot of years apologizing for who I am, how I dress, the thought I put into understanding things and the lack of thought I put into blurting out what I had discovered. This poem is, for me, a bit of a manifesto of freedom to be me.
In addition, it talks about what ‘business casual’ means to us, how we who are expected to wear (often) uncomfortable formal clothes at work relish the idea to let down our hair (or in my case, braid it up) once a week and be more ‘ourselves’.

This leads to a deeper issue, the issue of feeling and being authentic in our work:

  • Do clothes make the woman (or the man)?
  • Do we work harder or less hard when we feel more comfortable in our clothes (and have studies been done or are we relying on anecdotal evidence)?
  • Do you feel ‘out of place’ and ‘in disguise’ at work, or comfortable and confident? Do your clothes have a role in that?
  • I talk about my hair in this poem, wearing it in a style traditionally reserved in the West for young girls. How important is hairstyle in the perception of your co-workers? Do you have some leeway, or is your workplace pretty rigid? What about other aspects of grooming? For men, facial hair. For women, shoes and scarves and makeup and other accessories.
  • With the exceptions of uniformed workers, most workers have some room to express themselves in their work wardrobe. How do you express yourself? Are your more or less in line with your co-workers, or do you strive to distinguish yourself from them?
  • Many of us are familiar with the character of the brilliant and unusual Abby Scuito (played by Pauley Perrette) of NCIS. She dresses and acts very unconventionally, but is clearly a well educated woman who has the admiration and respect of her boss. How realistic is this character in your experience?
  • What can you do to feel more authentic at work while preserving (or gaining!) the ability to be effective at what you do?
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About Maureen O'Danu

Maureen O'Danu is the webmistress of Am I the Only One Dancing? where there is a new discussion every day on any one of dozens of topics and ideas, as well as reviews, geekery, family, fun, and enough politics to season the pot.
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