Tuesday, April 01, 2008

PLAN B (Blue Business Shirts)

I’ve chosen to live a life that allows me the luxury of (among other things) not owning a suit. Some might find this trivial, but on hot summer days when I see guys walking down the street all Jos-A-Banked (ties not even loosened), I just don’t understand why they’re not keeling over from heat prostration. I think I might actually have a heat allergy, the discomfort that I feel when the temperature goes over 80 is so severe, I need to don the softest, most threadbare garments I own. I simply cannot deal (I should probably get that checked out).

But even if I DID find myself in some alternate universe where I toiled at a job where I had to wear a suit, I would not fall into the sartorial trap that’s ensnared so many of the gray masses. I would never, ever wear one of those goddamn blue business shirts. Those things seem to be a badge of corporate pride along with Tag Heuer watches and slicked back hair. But to me, the blue business shirt is a badge of conformity that screams “I give up! My life is not my own!” as brightly as a white surrender flag (and those blue shirts with the white collars and cuffs... are the Devil incarnate).

What makes it even worse is when the blue business shirt dudes wear those things out socially. I don’t care if you’re going out for drinks after work, stop by the damn Gap and buy a T-shirt. (My friend John has been known to do this so not to appear corporate when going out straight from the office).

The chances that I’m going to get a job that requires attire other than my usual jeans and T-shirt are unlikely. It’s just that there are precious few situations in which I can picture myself schlepping to an office again every day. Which brings us to Plan B.

As in, the latest in a long line of TV commercials that try to flatter corporate types into thinking that they’re some daring rebels who live outside of the constraints of mainstream society due to some ever so slight variation from the norm either in what they do on the weekend or some slight tic in their day to day business doings.

A recent ad for Brother printers shows a group of businessmen (and the token powersuited woman) on an elevator, all in shades of gray (literally) with sour expressions on their pusses as the elevator drags them up to their hideous, hated corporate gigs. In the midst of the gray mass is one man in color (but not of color), clad not in a suit, but in a (you guessed it) blue button-down shirt, although sans necktie. He has a supercilious smirk on his face, as if his life is far and away better than the nine-to-five drudgery of his fellow elevator riders.

But when Johnny Blueshirt gets to his floor, we find that…Oh my God, he works in an office!!! But wait, it’s not just any office! This utopia is in COLOR and the dress code is business CASUAL, and when Johnny passes a co-worker, he flashes him a PEACE SIGN (I shit you not)!! Then, in the ultimate fuck-you to Plan A, Johnny walks over to the office’s Brother Printer, which apparently represents a bold alternate business lifestyle akin to tossing out the kitchen coffeemaker and installing a Jagermeister tap!

This is NOT Plan B. It’s at best Plan A2. Tie or no tie, Xerox or Brother, it’s still doing what you’re supposed to do, working a job where you have to be in an office every day from a to b, doing the bidding of your evil/benevolent (whatever) overlords, constantly fretting that downsizing or another office birthday party is looming.

I’m not trying to say that Plan A or even A2 is an inappropriate choice for everyone. Lots of people are genuinely fulfilled, enjoy their work, even (shudder) like wearing suits, and hooray for them. But it drives me batty when this lifestyle is portrayed by Madison Avenue (by necessity the most delusional of the corporate drones) as being in any way rebellious or daring. But all advertising is about either flattering or shaming its potential audience. You’re so beautiful! You’re so fat! Your baby is the most important person on the planet! Your car is a piece of shit!

Thing is, outside of spots for beer, fast food or video games, I doubt we’ll ever see advertising that truly celebrates the individual that fully rejects Plan A, not out of sloth or apathy or irresponsibility, but as a conscious, passionate choice that leads to a different, perhaps less lucrative, but in other ways more fulfilling life. If Brother had any balls, they’d run an ad depicting some tattooed, jeans-clad, hirsute social anarchist running off copies of his nutty political manifestos on a Brother copier while his gay lover printed out copies of his Photoshop collages of Jesus fellating Simon Cowell. Now THAT’S Plan B! But that ain’t gonna happen. Ever.

Which is fine… the lack of comprehension, indignation or outright rejection by the Blue Business Shirts is all simply… part of the Plan.

1 comment:

Bob Fingerman said...

I think we were separated at birth, Karl. I've ragged on those fucking blue business shirts many times. A white shirt looks nice; it's a classic. But those blue shirts carry the weight of douchebaggery. They're a conscious choice and they radiate jerkitude.

As for advertising, look at all the ads (both print and TV) for new technology. They all feature either (hip) office drones or happy soccer moms (to use a phrase I'm not wild about, either). Be they for printers or digital cameras, the product is never shown in the hands of anyone actually creative. I guess that's the point. "See this awesome color printer and 10-megapixel camera? You can use them to print pie charts and take pictures of your kids at Six Flags!" It's like, the more impressive the technology the more prosaic its practical real-life usage should be.

Fuck it all. Especially those blue shirts.