Last year we discussed my take on looking and dressing the part.  Whether you are taking the field or approaching the bench, if you wear the right uniform and act like you belong, no one will challenge your right to be there.  (If you want to read it again, here’s a link to that post from August, 2010.)

With all of the attention being given these past two months to the Dodger Stadium tragedy involving the attacked fan, this same subject came back to the forefront of my mind and is inescapable… because the impact of wearing the right uniform is just as prominent as when you wear the wrong uniform.

As soon as I heard that an arrest had been made in the Dodger Stadium beating case and that the arrested individual claimed to have an alibi, my initial thought was that the accused would claim that he was the victim, a victim of profiling.  That he would argue that he was targeted as a suspect because of the way he looked.  And it got me to thinking:  So few people seem to comprehend that there is a great chance that society will treat you in a certain way because of the way that you look.  We are a shallow society in that way, but can you really blame us?

So here is the thing.  The accused in the beating case may very well have been targeted as a potential suspect because of the way he looked.  The face and neck tattoos, the saggy pants, the close-cropped hair, the general appearance of being a member of a group that is commonly known as being of the criminal element.  I will just come out and say it.  The suspect being sought in the beating was described as having a certain “thuggish” appearance and the gentleman arrested fit that bill.  So to him and anyone else who has been targeted or treated negatively because of the way they looked, I say this:  “You get what you deserve.  And because of that, don’t come crying to me complaining about it.”  Does it sound harsh?  Maybe it is; but I am ok with myself for feeling that way. 

I am a huge fan of music and, especially, live music.  There was a time when I would go to maybe 40 or 50 concerts in a year, one a week or every other week; primarily rock and roll, alternative, and punk.  Yes punk, the kind of music made famous for the Mohawk rooster haircuts, the multiple piercings, the ripped jeans and wallet chains, the ripped stockings, eyeliner, guy-liner, and all manner of hair colors and make-up.  In my travels I saw it all.  And I absolutely understood it.  Punk rock was borne out of a faction of society that wanted to distance itself from conformity and the status quo and express itself as non-conformist, the general “F-U” to a society that told it how to act and how to look.  Awesome, terrific, couldn’t agree more… but don’t bring it into my office; don’t serve me dinner; don’t take my money at the bank; don’t sell me insurance.

What, you don’t like that?  You want me to accept you for who you are, as someone who wants to express yourself in a certain way, the exercise of your freedom of speech or freedom of assembly?  You want me to acknowledge your right to get tattoos all over your body, pierce your lips/nostrils/ears/eyebrows/tongues/cheeks, associate yourself with gang-bangers?  Fine, I acknowledge that you have that right… but I don’t have to like it and I don’t have to be made to feel guilty when I judge you because of it.

But the flip side is, you don’t get to feel slighted or offended or righteously indignant when I or anyone else in society judges the contents of your book by the cover you slap on it.  You want people to treat you with respect and dignity and reverence, I am sorry to say, it won’t happen if you insist on making your “statements” to the world through your appearance.  You want to take a stand, make a statement about what you believe in, I guarantee you will be taken more seriously with a clean shaven face and necktie.  The rip jeans and unkempt look only makes you look sloppy.  And the tattoos up and down your arms and on your neck and face will only detract your audience from what the point you are trying to make. 

As kids we don’t take these things into consideration.  It’s cool to wear baggy clothes with our underwear hanging out, color our hair pink or blue, and get the tramp stamp or teardrop tattoos.  The sins of youth absolutely do have an impact on our later years.  Think that college admissions committees are not looking at your facebook page, checking out the pictures of you and your Hollywood rave attire?  It was so funny and subversive getting that tattoo on your ankle, but when you walk into the boardroom, aren’t you worried that you won’t be able to wear a skirt for fear that someone will see the spider and snake combination when you cross your legs?

Friday night I was at one of those rock concerts and the attire was entertainingly conforming amongst a crowd that tries so hard to be non-conformist.  Black jeans and black shirts with black eyeliner, the jet-black hair in spikes or a Mohawk or overlong bangs.  At a rock concert, that’s cool, that’s fine, live it up.  But when you walk into a job interview, don’t be surprised when you don’t get that job.  And don’t be shocked when the police come calling because your appearance is similar to the appearance of a suspect in a beating.  You want people to treat you with respect and dignity?  We are a superficial society.

This isn’t a call for change or a suggestion that you cannot be who you want to be.  Have at it-but don’t complain when people treat you differently.  Some of us don’t have the time to look beneath the tattoos and pink hair…  And police are more likely to focus on you as a suspect in criminal activity than the guy wearing the three-piece suit, even if you are innocent and he is guilty as sin.

Have a standout week.


twitter: @robcohen13