The question posed here is a deceptively simple one: Does appearance matter?
I contend that it does. How you choose to present yourself makes an enormous impact on how the world chooses to respond to you. How you dress, how you speak, if you’re clean and well-groomed, if your clothes are in good repair and well-fitting, all of these things are factors in how the world perceives you and, thereby, what it’s willing to grant you in terms of its rewards. Is it a complete picture of your deepest, truest self? No! But I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about making a surface judgment, based on surface elements. As long as you’re aware that it’s a surface judgment, and that there is something to discover beyond the surface, I fail to see the injustice. We have an outside surface that we present to everyone we meet. We have to start somewhere and, lacking telepathy, this is our best option.
There are those who say that to judge another solely by their appearance is a closed-minded bigotry. I would agree with that statement, and would venture to say that this is not what I am proposing to do. I am proposing that it’s not entirely outside the realm of reason to think that a person’s external state may offer some insight into his internal one.
An example was proffered that in a certain professional setting a kind of uniformity of dress was required to maintain employment. There was a great deal of unhappiness engendered by this mandate, owing to a feeling of being dictated to on a matter that is considered very personal. It was stated that I could not have gotten to know a person simply by looking at their uniform. I acknowledge this is truth. In a professional setting, however, you are representing something bigger than yourself, and it is accepted and, indeed, expected that your personality would be somewhat subjugated to that larger entity. In this case, it is not the goal to get to know a person deeply and meaningfully. It can often be a pleasant side-effect from working closely with a person for a long period of time, but it isn’t the primary goal, nor would it be appropriate for it to be such.
This is my point: Your appearance is a reflection of who are. Not a 3-D sculpture in full color, by any means, but a reflection, nonetheless. If it wasn’t, the professional wouldn’t be distressed in any way at the thought of maintaining an externally imposed dress standard. But instead, it feels like a violation, because it removes that surface indication of individual personality.