“My response to @danbenjamin Quit! episode 22” or “Moneyballing your workplace”

dress for the job you want...if you're terrible

Billy, this is Chad Bradford. He’s a relief pitcher. He is one of the most undervalued players in baseball. His defect is that he throws funny. Nobody in the big leagues cares about him because he looks funny. This guy could be not just the best pitcher in our bullpen, but one of the most effective relief pitchers in all of baseball. This guy should cost $3 million a year. We can get him for $237,000.

-Peter Brand (From Moneyball)

If you tuned into Dan Benjamin’s podcast “Quit!” last week, you would have heard Dan’s rant into something that I feel extremely passionate about: attire in the workplace.  Those who have worked with me know that I have an extremely liberal attitude towards wardrobe in the workplace because, lets be honest – it’s work.  On the other hand, Dan has a Mad Men-esque view of what a workplace should be: a nice custom suit, stiff collar shirt and the right time piece that says “hey champ, you’ve made it”.

As a current subscriber to GQ Magazine (if Conde Nast could get their shit together and change my address to the correct one, instead of Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York…long story), I appreciate the aesthetics of a well dressed gentlemen wearing 2 pay-cheques worth of clothes.  I really can.  But at the same time, you also have to recognize that it’s pretty delusional to expect your employees to dress like that on a day to day basis.  With all due respect, I think this attitude has something to do with some sort of neglected childhood experience because you’re pretty much playing dress-up with your employees and that is WEIRD.

I’ll keep it 100 – it’s hard for me to find regular clothes that fit right.  My long torso mixed with my belly generally means that I need strangely short pants and unusually long shirts (and the neck size, my god the neck size!).  Factor in the dry cleaning, steaming or ironing et cetera, this is a full time job on top of my fucking full time job.  Double factor in the fact that I’m sitting in a room staring at a screen in a room full of other people staring at their screen, I’ve really given up on this whole “dressing the part” game.  That is why I literally wear 1 of 2 shirts (blue oxford shirt + blue gingham shirt) and 1 of 4 coloured chinos every fucking day.  Keep in mind, I also usually only wear a black t-shirt and a pair of selvedge jeans every day outside of work.  Long story short – I don’t really buy a lot of clothes.  I usually spend my money on things like bike parts, bike parts and the occasional bike.  And I feel like I should be able to buy what I want with my hard earned money instead of a Junya Wantanabe dress shirt that costs more than a Colnago Master with Campagnolo Shamal wheels.

Dan had one interesting point, which was that the way that we dress is an act of rebellion against our folks, and by wearing more laid back clothing, we’re saying “Hey! we’re not wearing stuffy suits like our parents”!  But what I think we’re really rebelling against is the bullshit politics that used to dominate the workplaces of our parents era.  More specifically, we’re rebelling against the politics of aesthetics and design.  One of my favourite facts that I learned in high school was that an architect purposely designed bridges that were too low for buses or trucks to clear, meaning that they effectively kept poor people (predominately minorities) from going to certain areas.  What this taught me is that physical, inanimate objects have the ability to transpose the thoughts and biases of the designer through an infinite amount of ways.  Power exists everywhere and you don’t have to see it to be affected by it.  Altering someone’s way of dressing frames their behaviour and their mind (see school uniforms, prison jumpsuits, etc.) and conforms them.  Many companies want that – remove individuality and the thought is that you have a more productive widget at work.  However, is that really the company that you want to build?  Is that really the best way to go about extracting the maximum value of your employee?

Now, lets look at what the worse case scenario of this dystopian fashion office could be from a Moneyball point of view.  You’re judging someone on how they dress, so that means fat people (aka me) have a disadvantage from someone that can buy off the rack swag and look good.  BOOM, a segment of the effectively employable population gone.  Next, you have people that can’t afford to look good getting cut out of your employee pool.  Then you have the people that are busy learning their craft/bettering themselves instead of thinking about how they can match their Cole Haan Lunarlon wingtips with their Dior Homme dress pants for their next interview.  Now, that’s reduced your pool of potential employees by a noticeable amount.  What’s worse is that now your adverse selection has filtered your employable pool to the people that spend their time dressing the part and not working to become better at what they do, or as I like to call it, “kids playing dress up”.

Is it worth it to spend time and money to look your best?  Absolutely.  Should you focus on that aspect when judging a potential employee?  Absolutely not.  Dan said that Mark Zuckerberg (…of Facebook.  THE Facebook) set back the world by 20 years when he started his trend of wearing a sloppy hoodie and flip flops at work.  I think Mark Zuckerberg 14 billion reasons not to give a fuck.

*This entire article is predicated on the fact that people are dressed like normal, functioning individuals.  This article doesn’t apply to say, someone that wears short shorts to work with a t-shirt of a unicorn high-fiving former Attorney General Janet Reno, despite how awesome that shirt would be.

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