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Writing Challenge Day 24: All Dressed-Up and Nowhere to Go.

My jeans still fit. In any other year this would be less of an accomplishment, but I’ll take it, even with sub-optimal result.

My significant others have also been geeks or at least geek-leaning, and after nearly a hundred heavily engineer-populated corporate holiday parties, I’ve had a chance to notice how many technologists enjoy an opportunity for a wardrobe flex. Sharp jackets and slacks, red sequins and lipstick, actual watches and accessory bling that patiently waits far back in the recesses of our lights-out clothescenters.

“Hey, you look great!” may be the #1 party greeting for good reason. It’s fun to remember our coworkers have clothes game we don’t see at work. More so, it’s wonderful to see them sparkle in the light of honest complements. We’re not simply reacting to that one outfit or hair with fancy product. We’re acknowledging all the choices, thought, and preparation that went into their suited and booted reveals in the hotel lobby. Everyone seems to beam. It’s also extra special for party guests working in technology.

Many of us are careful with favorite geeky/ironic/snarky/conference/certification t-shirts and polos, especially those in daily rotation. Working from home has only increased wear and tear. It has also cut off longstanding avenues for cotton replenishment, creating a bit of t-shirt range anxiety. More habit than uniform, tech t-shirts aren’t sloppy affectation. Rather, they’re identity—protocol, vendor, and humor gang signs we flash to let others know we’re serious about the occupations integrated into to our cores. Some of the world’s most incredible moments of administration have been performed by gurus wearing faded, “free” gear.  So, when we have a chance to turn up, sharp and snappy, it’s as much about having somewhere special to go as anything else.

This year has been a lesson in how social we are. Even for introverts—extraverted or otherwise—being together is a chance to demonstrate our eagerness by how we prepare. And don’t get me started on geek Halloween and fancy-dress parties. The public simply has no idea of the near-cosplay quality costumes this community creates. The very act of getting dressed up in and of itself brings feelings of acceptance and anticipation.

I’ve thought a lot in the last few weeks about missed Thanksgivings, New Year’s Eve stop-bys, and road trips to parents. My jeans confirm I might still put together something within spitting distance of current fashion, or at least as close to it as I do. I’m so ready to get all dressed up and go somewhere other than taking Christmas card pictures in front of the tree. I’d go anywhere really.

But there’s one place to go unchanged this year. The technology community was dressed and ready for the challenges of 2020. Admins, developers, managers, and execs weren’t left waiting to go—they jumped at every opportunity to tackle technology projects unthinkable a few months ago. It was a raucous event, leaving holes in the walls, stained carpets, and many hoarse, exhausted, and hungover. Maybe not the invite we wanted, but it was a get-together we’ll never forget. Preferably though, let’s skip the existential threat next time.

Just like a rare moment together with everyone smiling in suits and frocks, this year was a chance for engineers to receive honest, spontaneous complement. Only instead of “Hey, you look great!” while wearing a piece of beloved Cisco Live! gear, I hope they heard, “Hey, you did great!” I hope they had the chance to see real smiles and emojis from the people so grateful for their help. Mostly, I hope they were also able to enjoy the bust of confidence and pride that goes with it. Yes, even in spite of an IT tendency to only endure the spotlight for so long because, no capes.

Tomorrow, I’m breaking out my Christmas party jacket and tie for a fancy family dinner with just the four of us. We might even find the china that’s been somewhere or another in the house for years, and my grandmother’s great-grandmother’s piecemeal silver set still full of stories and love. When we toast, I’ll be thinking about the things I’m truly grateful for, especially the aspects of my life that this year reminded me I was taking for granted. And in my inside voice, I’ll make one special toast of gratefulness for all of you who were dressed up, with so many places to go save the world.

Level 13

I completely agree with your sentiments here. Being a part of IT and watching and experiencing the great accomplishments of IT pros this year has been amazing. Kudos to all of you!

I am of two thoughts on "dressing up". There's the dressing up that involves wearing nicer clothes - a dress or nice blouse with nice pants/jeans (hey, I am from Texas). Then, there's the dressing up for me that involves fixing my hair.... this seems like such a small thing, but I don't ordinarily do anything other than wash and brush it. So, when I take the time to straighten it or curl it or otherwise do something out-of-the-ordinary-for-me with it...that counts for me as dressing up. I had several occasions this year where I did both, even though I went nowhere. I am currently dressed up (clothes-wise) today for an annual family Christmas eve party - virtual this year - that will be happening later. Still not wearing shoes, though.

There were several occasions this year that I had the opportunity to do both kinds of dressing up, and I am grateful to those opportunities for the little confidence boosts that went with them. I was inspired by the first bouts of confidence from dressing up for recording of videos this year, that I started fairly regularly doing it even though no one would see me. So, I wear a dress every now and then or a really nice blouse with nice jeans or leggings just for myself. They give me that little feeling of being "put together" even when things are not.

I encourage you to do the same occasionally, if for no other reason than to surprise yourself or those you live with. 😊

Level 11

Before Covid hit we started a large WorkDay rollout that has already been in the works for over a year. There was no way we were going to put that project on hold with all the planning and money we already spent. This was the largest project in my organizations history and we did it during a pandemic. I know at least for me and my manager most days were spent in a Solarwinds t-shirt. I went into the office once since March and with not many people there I did so in my Solarwinds Geek t-shirt. 

Level 11

While I thoroughly enjoyed @patrick.hubbard's essay, my experience has been a bit different. Since I left UUNET in 2004, I haven't worn many casual shirts. Workwear has generally been button-down dress shirts and khakis or dress slacks, sometimes with jacket, tie, or both. As a result, I have UUNET polos that are still in great shape, and T-shirts that have never been worn. In fact, Between wearing button-down shirts and slacks during the week, and on Shabbat, Sunday is usually the only day I have to wear something more fun. I tend to wear chamois on colder days, or these guys on warmer ones, especially in-season.

Jersey Pix - 1 of 3.jpegJersey Pix - 2 of 3.jpegJersey Pix - 3 of 3.jpeg

It's really only been during WFH time under the coronavirus that I've allowed myself to use some of my t-shirts, including the ones I've received from the Thwack Store.

Level 18

This makes me think about whether our clothing choices are other-centric, or self-centric.

Other-centric dress means we want to make a statement of some kind, to alert those around us to something - something we are, or want to be, or are experiencing, or intend to experience. This is everything from uniforms to party clothes to the tribe-identifying t-shirts @patrick.hubbard mentions in the lead article today.

But self-directed dress seems to me to be a far more powerful focus, especially in these times. This is articles of clothing or modes of dress that we use to remind ourselves of something.

The every day example is when we wear protective gear not to show others that we're part of "the crew", but because the slightly impeded motion and muffled sense provides a constant reminder of where we are, and what we need to be careful of.

Or, at certain times of the year or our life, when we wear white not to project an image of purity, but to remind ourselves of the immutable, unalterable purity within us.

It's true that these days our options for where we can go are limited, and it might seem therefore to reduce the reason to get "dressed up". But I am suggesting getting dressed up anyway, not for where you go, but for where it might take you.


Nice write up @patrick.hubbard 

Level 14

@patrick.hubbard well done.. 

one of my Covid driven moments was we had a really hard time with some users understanding some of our requirements for remote access (even with pictures) in our next TEAMS meeting I wore my most favorite SolarWinds T-SHIRT


My team loved it.


BE well

BE safe


Thank you. good write up.   One thing I have worked on is my sense of fashion.  I leverage my tech skills to find the right places for me to shop online when my now everyday formerly weekend attire wears out.   I have refined my searches, and defined my style.  yes yes even the T-shirt and Jeans should be carefully chosen.  remember it's not the way you feel but the way you look.   HA. (Said in my desk Billy Crystal voice)

Level 11

@jeremymayfield, I think your final HA says it all! 

@tphelps01 I was trying to be funny, things always sound better in my head....  This is probably why i should stick to talking to myself vs. others 🤣



About the Author
I'm the Head Geek and technical marketing director at SolarWinds, (which basically means I'm an mature geek in the services of the product team). When I say geek I mean Geek, with extreme prejudice. I started writing assembly on my Apple II, got a BITNET email account in 1984, ran a BBS @ 300 baud, survived X.25, abused Token Ring, got some JavaScript award love in '96, and my hack flight notification service still backs Along the way in various jobs I’ve been a developer, SE, PM, PMM, and now principal evangelist. (Let us all join hands around the server.) Over 10 years at SolarWinds I’ve hatched our online live demo systems, managed the SolarWinds Certified Professional program, launched the Head Geek program, helmed SolarWinds Lab and THWACKcamp, and these days I’m focused on the hairball that is Hybrid IT, Cloud, DevOps and helping IT admins learn new skills not just to manage increasing complexity, but accelerate their careers. I’m always looking for new and more fiendish ways to use our products- just like our customers. And when I have a few spare minutes I fly a little when the weather is good.