What To Wear To Fight Ageism
We live in a society where it is commonplace to stereotype individuals based on their “perceived age.” Until ageism has been eradicated from our society, that can put you in an uncomfortable position – having to choose between dressing how you want, and dressing to personify the person you want others to see you as.
We are trained to make a split-second judgement about people we meet based solely on their outward appearance. Until we as a society eliminate this immediate stereotyping, it’s important to take it into consideration.
Making A Decision About What To Wear
Don’t base every decision about your appearance on the fact that you will be stereotyped by strangers who know nothing about you. On the flip side, if there is a goal you are trying to accomplish that will take less effort on your part if you dress a certain way, weigh the pros and cons.
For example, we are always told to dress our best for a job interview, but after we get the job we are quick to go into work wearing jeans and t-shirts. If “dressing the part” got you the job, then continuing to dress that way should hypothetically boost your journey up the career letter, and keep immediate stereotyping of you positive.
Also, if dressing up for an interview 20 years ago got you the job, don’t assume that your wisdom and experience alone will get you another offer. Research what outfits are doing well in interviews this year, and don’t shy away from wearing them to your meetings with prospective bosses. Understand that there is a give and take in these situations – sometimes you have to alter the way people immediately perceive you to get the outcome you want.
Don’t Lose Yourself
There’s also plenty of wiggle room. While “dressing the part” with your office outfit, throw on a funky statement tie or necklace. Wear bright socks, or bold eyeshadow. Don’t lose yourself. Just realize there is a give and take in our current society, where stereotypes based on perceived age haven’t slowed down in recent years, and are instead gaining speed.
What Age Should You Dress?
Don’t think of it as dressing a certain age. Instead, think of it as situational dressing-up. If, for example, every time you go to the grocery store an attendant asks if you need help to your car, and that makes you feel like you are being stereotyped because of your age, your can experiment with different outfits and see if the offers for help stop. Try sporting workout attire or carrying a backpack rather than a purse.
If the offers for assistance don’t stop, you can always ask why they think you need help, but aren’t asking the other shoppers around you. Taking inventory of answers in this situation, and others you are involved in, can help inform your situational dress-code.
In a perfect world everyone should be able to dress any way they choose. However, in the society we currently live in, where judgement is passed almost instantaneously when someone lays eyes on you, it’s important to acknowledge that some situations have a give and take.
Sometimes if there is something you want to get – in our situation that can mean less ageist stereotypes – we have to dress for the situation in order to get the outcome we want.