In case you haven’t heard about this one: Hampton University drew major attention to a change in its dress code for undergraduate and graduate MBA students. In a nutshell, it has banned the ‘casual’ look when it comes to hairstyles and clothing, and instituted a ‘dress code’, demanding students to look professional and business-like when they come to class. Of course, the purveyors of the ‘gangsta casual’ style (long dreds, unchecked cornrows, tattoos, gold teeth, etc.) are crying ‘FOUL’. “After all,” the critics rant, rave, and rationalize, “Hampton is a BLACK institution; why can’t I dress any way I want?
It’s about the GREEN, Baby!
Recently, the agency that happens to employ yours truly revised its dress code. It did away with ‘casual Fridays’ (something many corporations have been doing quietly since 2000). In short, the rule change intoned: “If you can’t hack it, get your jacket!” In a tight economy, one learns what is important for economic survival.
If it means shucking the jeans and wearing ‘business lean’, then SO BE IT!
It’s all about the GREEN, Baby!
THE ‘ACTING WHITE’ MYTH:
I’m not advocating money worship, but merely exercising common sense. You have a choice, brothers; be proud and unemployed, or working and contributing. It’s your call with the ball.
Let me be among the first to applaud the Hampton efforts in attempting to teach something which other MBA candidates at other institutions are instinctively aware: “If one wants to be RECRUITED, one had better be PROPERLY SUITED!”
Let me add another statement to the fire as spoken by Tony Brown: “The ONLY color of freedom is GREEN!” Again, I am not ‘advocating’ the worship of money. I am on the record for the following: IF one is going to make their mark in the business world, they need to learn the rules.
One of them is proper dress.
Now, I’ve met my share of young people who ‘claim’ that they want to open their own business ‘someday.’ T-O-D-A-Y is the day for preparation. One may ‘hope’ to open their own company in the future, but they won’t reach that dream when they DO NOT know when to sag, and when not to…Amen?
Pin down one of our loudmouthed youth of today, pry his Ipod from his hands and ears, and ask him to produce a report card. After the fussing, cussing, and fuming (by them), take a GOOD look at his grades. Next, get past the excuses and ask them what they want to do with their lives.
The conversation will be one way from that point on--as many of our young have not been asked that question by teachers, professors...or even their own parents!
The youth of today STILL need for the card-carrying members of the 'old' school to tell them where they are doing right, and when they are going wrong. It is the responsibility of those of us who are older to rise to that challenge and pass on our wisdom both inside, and outside of our households.
Sometimes, the need may arise in the unlikeliest of places.
The ‘critics’ (many of whom are under-40 by the way) of the Hampton policy revision seem to be more concerned about the ‘acting white’ myth, rather than economic reality. The one thing I have learned from living is the following about the ‘acting white accusers’:
#1. What was the last grade THEY completed in school?
#2. Are they paying their OWN bills, or are they relying on someone else’s generosity (like government aid, their parents, or their ‘roommate’)?
#3. Are they actively working on being successful, or do they like being a statistic?
You will lose many of those who dare to challenge you after the first question.
Brothers, let’s be for real. If the difference between you getting a job and keeping a job rests with what you wear to the office, look AROUND at what everyone else is wearing, and dress ACCORDINGLY. You can shout, whine, spit and rap to me all day long about how ‘unfair’ it is for an employer to ‘demand’ that potential and present employees dress for success. However, remember that old school piece of wisdom:
“He (or she) who has the gold, makes the rules!”
THE HURT OF PROUD HARDHEADS:
Brothers, dress for success during working hours, and you will be a Black Man Working. Dress less than your best, and you will be young, gifted, Black…and BROKE!
*A man can not provide a family IF he is broke.
*A man can not help his community IF he is broke.
*A man can not build a successful legacy IF he is broke.
I continue to run into young brothers displaying their ‘prideful hardheadedness’; dressing anyway they want, failing to prepare themselves to launch a successful job/career hunt, and getting ‘mad’ when other young brothers who are doing it the RIGHT way are passing them in the breakdown lane like sports cars during rush hour.
Nevertheless, this is exactly what happens when the inmates attempt to seize control of the jail--and dictate their own terms of prison reform. Volume does not equal success; it just means that the excuses for one's shortcomings can be masked with higher decibels.
Brothers, let me give you a tip…you are not a ‘sell out’ if you shuck the ‘BrokeBlack’ mindset, put on some decent clothes, and undertake a marketing campaign in order to find a job--or a BETTER job. There is NO JOY in being DELIBERATELY unemployed and/or having your WOMAN ‘take care of you’ while you ‘excel’ at video games, hip hop poetry, and your CD/MP3 collection.
There IS a work for a young brother who won’t work: It is spelled P-U-N-K!
In fact, let me fill you in on a positive trait of the brotherhood--and employers. They ‘both’ like to help those who have the courage to ask, seek AND follow through!
True story. An older brother on my job is a sharp dresser. I asked him for some tips on how I could ‘spice up’ my functional wardrobe. The older brother told me where he did some of his clothes shopping. Needless to say, I was blessed at what they had in my price and size range. It also made a difference when I ‘borrowed’ his look and reaped some compliments from my coworkers and superiors. Of course, I thanked my ‘style mentor’ appropriately.
AN OBSERVATION--AND A CHALLENGE:
If you read the Bible, you have heard about the ‘church dress code’. Folk wore their best to physically represent their love of Christ, and their dedication to each other in the local congregation. Time was--before the infestation of the Rap and Hip Hop genres in some of our churches, our people were proud to wear their ‘Sunday Best’. And, for those who like to get ‘cute’ about Jesus, just remember that he was a ‘clean brother’ when He was teaching in the Temple, and a ‘functional brother’ when he was on the job in the carpenter’s shop.
My two cents: Hampton University’s faculty and leadership have broken the back of the rebellion. At last word, students were getting with the program. However, here is my challenge for some of the more ‘entrepreneurial’ brothers in the MBA program. Open a business where your classmates can ‘get’ those conservative clothing items at discount prices…or even for FREE. Sounds crazy, right? Well, in some U. S. cities, there are ‘second hand’ clothing stores where women who are going for ‘professional’ jobs are provided with business suits, dresses, and accessories for free, or reduced cost. The primary thrust of the stores, if one wants to carry themselves as a professional, one CAN get help in building a better wardrobe. It would be nice to see that same philosophy extended to the college campus. Remember, it was the campus that spawned Fed Ex…and the creator of that company got a ‘C’ on his paper when he presented the business model--in an MBA program.
MIKE RAMEY is the author of THE MANHOOD LINE. A syndicated, monthly
column written for men from a biblical, business, and common sense perspective.
It appears on fine websites around the world. Emails, Bmails and Pmails are welcomed
to the following address: email@example.com. Ten years (1996 to 2006) of bringing the issues, the heat, and the solutions to the brotherhood around the world!
©2006 Mike Ramey/Barnstorm Communications International.
Used by permission, BlackandChristian.com, 2006.