Friday, January 19, 2018

Around the Bend: Ex-hippie wanna-be grapples with question of professional, on-the-job clothing


Thursday, March 4, 2010
by DOROTHY COX

Yet I have mixed feelings about dress codes even now, having tried to be a hippie as a youngster and having hated the fact that my mother starched my work shirts until one came back stiff as a board with a big hole in the back, rotten from all the starch. So you see my dilemma. (Courtesy: DOROTHY COX)
Yet I have mixed feelings about dress codes even now, having tried to be a hippie as a youngster and having hated the fact that my mother starched my work shirts until one came back stiff as a board with a big hole in the back, rotten from all the starch. So you see my dilemma. (Courtesy: DOROTHY COX)

We talked to two truckers last month and heard of a third who said they’ve enjoyed quite a few benefits from dressing a cut above the rank-and-file of truckers out there.

The three, one male owner-operator and a husband-and-wife team who drive Custom Critical for FedEx, have found that button-down shirts, sport jackets and ties for the two guys and a button-down shirt, blazer and nice slacks for the woman, are eliciting good responses ranging from phone calls from people at the top of carrier management to thank-you’s from clients to more loads for the owner-operator, Henry Albert.

Yet I have mixed feelings about dress codes even now, having tried to be a hippie as a youngster and having hated the fact that my mother starched my work shirts until one came back stiff as a board with a big hole in the back, rotten from all the starch. So you see my dilemma.

And I feel a little guilty for bringing it up, now. You see, I got my car stuck in some ice yesterday (now last month as you’re reading this) and had to wait outside about 20 minutes or more for a ride in 25-degree weather so today I’m wearing long johns under casual slacks and a sweat shirt over a long-sleeved T-shirt.

I know, what a wimp. Boo hoo, right?

I know you normally endure far more hardships than that daily on your job, but you don’t like being judged for being a trucker so don’t judge me for not being one.

To continue, that’s not what I normally wear to work but I’m not meeting anyone, truckers or otherwise, today, face to face — only talking to them on the phone.

You don’t always see your carrier’s customers or people you haul loads for, either. But you do see people all the time when you stop for fuel, food, to shower and so on. And you may see people when you load and unload.

And I get the thinking that truckers are representing their carriers and the clients their companies do business with.

I know a lot of you are going to e-mail me or call and say it’s nobody’s #@%^* business what you look like as long as you get the load there safely and on time. OK, point taken.

But I also get Mr. Albert’s point when he says “if it walks like a duck and acts like a duck and quacks like a duck it’s probably a duck” and that therefore, “If you want to get paid and treated like a professional you have to look, sound and in some cases, smell like a professional.”

Albert says when he added a tie to the Dickies uniform he already had been wearing people started crossing the yard to talk to him when they saw him unloading a flatbed dressed like that.

That would lead to conversations and then more loads from people’s word-of-mouth recommendations, which he said “substantially” increased his income the first year he started wearing a tie and has continued ever since. I have to admit I don’t know what he meant by substantial; he wouldn’t say.

Let me share what one business says about its casual dress code guidelines: “Clothing that works well for the beach, yard work, exercise sessions and sports contests may not be appropriate for a professional, casual appearance at work.”

Further, work clothing should be “pressed and never wrinkled” and “torn, dirty or frayed clothing is unacceptable.”

I guess my questions are these: One, is a sloppily dressed person just as professional as the next guy (or gal) who does the same job but who is more professionally dressed? I would say yes, but you may disagree. Two, does the image you present to people you encounter while performing your duties as a truck driver matter to you and others? Again I would say yes and again, you may differ.

And three, do professionally dressed (and acting) people get more respect? They do in my opinion.

What do you think?

Dorothy Cox may be reached for comment at dlcox@thetrucker.com.

 

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