Clothes, Geeks and Stereotypes

Clothes are brilliant. They can tell us what gigs you have been to, what event you are going to, what DIY job you are about to do. They even keep us warm.

My favourite piece of clothing is a dress.

With a dress there is no “ bum crack”, no “rolling tyres” showing and no “thunder thighs” for anyone to see. I feel confident, comfortable and relaxed in a dress. You are now more likely to see me in a dress than in jeans & t-shirt. In fact, I now don’t own any jeans. If you see me in jeans, they probably belong to my partner.

I have heard of people talking about the way they dress influences how willing people are to converse with them. It is as if people look at you and are fearful of talking to you because you dress “non geek”. They worry that .. well I am not telepathic so I can’t really tell you.

My naive self used to say *it was probably because they were shy or something else*. My logical mind said to me, what a person wears has no bearing on how interesting they are as a person. Because I do not look like a developer, does not mean I am not a developer. Right?

I recently went to a geek event where I wore a dress and on that particular day I didn’t meet any new people. I have now felt this effect and can say with a sad face, it happens. If you really think about it is not surprising, nor is it intentional.

Group A, Group B

As teenagers we all used to get categorized our peers based on what they wore and as adults we still do. That person there is a hipster because they are wearing a bobble hat and have a beard. This person is a goth because they are in all black and are wearing a coffin bag.

Regardless if we like it or not stereotypes exist for a reason and I am not one to argue with the human brain so instead I conclude:

We will stereotype people regardless if we want to or not.

The problem with stereotypes is for a stereotype to form, you have to generalise our behaviour. It is easy to be base the generalisation on physical objects or visuals such as our clothing.

Is that it?

Just because we stereotype does not mean we shouldn’t be open to the possibility they are also more than the stereotype we initially perceived that person to be.

I vote that we, as a community, need to acknowledge we stereotype and not let it stop us from conversing with people.

We all have probably been prejudice against someone before because we have assumed something based on the stereotype you have given them.

We need to look further than the stereotypes and generalisation we place upon each other. We need to remember regardless of how they dress, they are probably as scared of striking a conversation with you as you are of them. You never know who you will befriend by taking that leap of faith.

I am not blind, I realise that I too have a part to play. I should make myself more approachable, whether this will include dressing more *geek* is yet to be seen.

There are improvements on both sides of the fence.

After an amusing conversation with @mgdm on twitter, I have struck a deal to go to PHPNW14 suited and booted with top hat, and he will dress in a kilt.

Consider the possibility, the person in the dress is not the plus one but the geek.

3 thoughts on “Clothes, Geeks and Stereotypes

  1. I always dress up every time I go to a conference or geek event ;) There’s something about wearing a skirt and fixing your lipstick, seeing the look in the attendees eyes of “oh, fluff” … and then blowing their brains up with information.

    Stereotype busted – mission accomplished (that and I so agree, I look far better in a dress ;)

    1. I feel like I’m constantly busting that stereotype and I guess I am getting a bit tired of it.

      On the flip side, I have caught myself thinking a person dressed smartly in a jacket is not a programmer but a project manager or business owner or marketing person.

      I think we’re all guilty of it one way or another.

  2. Well written. I too have noticed these stereotypes depending on what I wear, not only on conferences, but of course everywhere in life.

    I wish it wasn’t so and would like to ask people to at least on PHP conferences and our community, accept the fact that it is stereotyping, set your thoughts aside and…

    Please assume that everyone on the conference, no matter how they might look like, is there for the content of the conference and a programmer just like you. It’s better to be corrected the other way around for everyone involved, and it’s more logical for the people that you would assume they are a programmer at a programmers convention.

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