Tuck your shirt in!

One of the many perennial questions that teachers have to field from pupils (and in some cases parents) is regarding school uniform. On non-uniform days I have had to ask pupils to remove their baseball caps when in lessons. "Why sir? It'll not stop me learning." This extends to normal days when uniform is expected. The problem with ties at half-mast is thankfully a distant memory as pupils are often given a clip-on tie to ensure some level of sartorial satisfaction from all members of the school community. But still I am asked the question regarding how wearing uniform makes people learn better.

This got me thinking. I've worked in several industries. Here are their dress codes:

Factory - Anything could be worn. Most people wore jeans and shirts. This was before the days of hi-viz jackets and ear protectors for all. I wore what I thought would offer some form of protection. Common sense prevailed.

Department store - Suit and tie. A professional exterior had to be presented. We had a sort of dress-code (advised on what colour to wear) but there was no corporate image.

Own business (General Store with Post Office). Smart was all that the post office stipulated. I spent the first 3 years wearing jeans, shorts, tee-shirts or, on cold days, long sleeve shirts. In the last 5 years I decided to buy into the corporate image of the Post Office so I purchased a shirt and tie with the Post Office logo attached. At this time my business was starting to attract some business customers so I reflected the client-base that I was hoping to serve.

Civil Service - As this wasn't public-facing anything decent was allowed. Again I preferred a shirt and tie with trousers as I felt I was in an environment that required that level of clothing. Not everyone felt the same though. Interestingly I saw a few promotions. Those interested in promotion tended to look more business-like. Those promoted were always seen as dressing appropriate for their level of seniority.

IKEA - We all had to wear the IKEA corporate clothing even though we weren't customer-facing. You could have tattoos, piercings, any colour hair but you had to wear the IKEA brand.

Teaching - Professional. I wore, until this year, a business suit. I started every lesson wearing my jacket and only took it off on the rare occasions that it was too warm to keep it on. I had no problem doing this and felt very comfortable reminding pupils of the expected dress-code for them. Could you imagine asking a pupil to wear a blazer around school when you didn't wear one yourself? I assume that I had now become a product of my own childhood and that the standards set by my school ensured that I was able to adhere to the standards that organisations set.

However, it makes me wonder if there has been a decline in the standards and professionalism of those people who society look to when considering what decency is. I'm fairly certain that I could be a good teacher in any form of attire so why do I choose to stick to the tried-and-tested dress code when wearing something less formal wouldn't impact on the pupils' results?

I feel that modern society has become less formal. We've all experienced the "Can I call you (first name)?" telephone conversation, where barriers that should exist are instantly broken down. This over-familiar attitude is, I imagine, attached to the psychology of sales whereby the salesperson aims to be seen as a friend. Who would want to tell a friend to go away and stop calling them? It's not about saying "Yes" but it is about not saying "No". The problem with these industries reducing their own standards is that it makes the other professions seem really stuffy and out-dated. I expect to be called Mr. Parkinson. It's not for some authoritarian reason; it's just right and proper. I'd expect to call people older than me by their Mr. or Mrs. name until they tell me otherwise.

Where in society have standards declined?

Do our banks offer banking? Or are they sales centres for financial products?
Do our teachers insist on standards that enhance learning? Or that demonstrate conformity?
Do our politicians show how to live a good life? Or do they aim to get confirmation that they are good people through re-election?
Do we expect more from our suppliers (Supermarkets, Broadband ISP, Call Centre staff) whilst receiving less? Or do we expect less and receive even less?

Do all industries need to be more formal? I am a very formal person. I text and tweet in proper English with, on the whole, correct grammar. If I do make a mistake it is through ignorance, not through laziness. Perhaps I am in a minority with regards to standards and professionalism. I don't want to be called "mate" by a Policeman. I want to be reminded that we live in a civilized world where people will demonstrate basic self-control through the use of correct addressing of others. It feels that life would be run at a better pace if people answered "I'm very well thanks" when asked "How are you?" instead of the one second saving reply "I'm Good."

May I thank you for reading this post. I await your reply.