2012-03-28 / Opinions & Letters

Midwest Memo

Outward appearances
by Alan Shultz

The invitation to the luncheon arrived weeks prior. It was a fancy card with hard to read script. I penciled the date in on my calendar and purposely hide the invitation somewhere in my desk. From the fancy script, and the Ritz Carlton venue, I knew most of my office mates were not invited. So I discussed the matter with no one. And I didn’t give the luncheon another thought after I hit the send button with my “I’ll attend” RSVP.

On the morning of the luncheon, I purposely chose to not wear a tie. Lately I’ve put on some unwanted weight and the collars to my dress shirts feel uncomfortably tight when buttoned. That strangled feeling makes for a long day and I told myself with conviction that there would be other guys attending not wearing ties.

On the way out of the house that morning I did grab my very best gray/black sports coat. I like the way this coat looks and feels and so I figured it would get me past the doorman, past the maitre d and to my assigned seat.

Allowing plenty of time, I walked to the luncheon that afternoon. It was a bright, sunny day. It was so bright that the light revealed I had mistakenly chosen navy blue pants and that the black sports coat chosen to dress me up would have to be left at the coat check.

In the muted light of the elevator headed to the restaurant level, I studied my shoes as we made the ascent. My shoes suddenly looked like they could use a shine. And walking past all the mirrors in the hall I wondered to myself when my last haircut was. By the time I got past the big water fountain in the grand foyer and to the restaurant entry I felt like bolting for the exit.

I didn’t bolt. I went inside. There I quickly confirmed that I would indeed be the only fellow in attendance not wearing suit and tie.

Appearances matter.

Young people should not be lied to by adults and told that appearances don’t matter.

The shooting death of Trayvon Martin last month in Sanford, Fla., is a tragedy that has sent seismic shock waves across our nation. Martin was the unarmed 17-year-old African-American shot by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman. I’ll wait for the facts to be determined, but my gut tells me neighborhood watch folks shouldn’t be out on the streets with guns - let alone actually pursuing people. Out of this story, the pursuit and the gun make the least sense.

That said...what on earth is going on with the adults responding to this tragedy by donning hoodies and wearing them to church and in protest marches. Martin was wearing a hoodie - a sweatshirt with attached hood when he was shot.

Appearances matter. It is obscene and out right dangerous for adults to tell children and young adults that appearances don’t matter. Tattoos and body pierces and sunglasses and choice of clothing - they all play a part in how individuals are viewed and perceived. Facial hair and cleanliness and immodest clothing - each one factors into the impression one makes on others. Is this fair? Maybe not. But is it fact? Absolutely yes.

Call me old fashioned. I don’t like baseball caps worn inside. I’m offended by tshirts with profanity. I make certain assumptions or presumptions about folks by how they present themselves. When I showed up at the Ritz- Carlton without suit and tie, trust me - the higher-ups in my company made a mental note on that gaff.

Appearances matter.

Are hoodies bad? Should they get you in trouble? Of course not. But to lie to young people and say that attire does not affect perception, that’s like heaping deceit and denial onto a tragedy that’s bad enough on its own.

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