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I often read or hear younger Goths talking about how they will have to (or recently had to) stop dressing Goth in order to be successful in the workplace. While that may be the case in some jobs (or some smaller towns), don’t assume it’s a hopeless cause until you know for sure.
Goths Can Excel in ANY Career
You don’t necessarily have to totally stop dressing Goth to get or keep a job. With the rise in popularity of tattoos, body piercings and other forms of self-expression, employers are becoming a bit more tolerant. These days you can usually get away with at least some unique flair in your look… maybe not tattoos and piercings, but there are so many other ways to express yourself!
I work in a very corporate environment in a very conservative town, yet despite it being fairly common knowledge that I am Goth, I am highly valued in my workplace and have been extremely successful in my career. This is because I’ve played my cards right: I’ve worked very hard, been patient, and used discretion in what I wear and when I wear it. Over the years, I’ve seen many other Goths I know excel in awesome careers without totally sacrificing their personal style. I’ve even seen them achieve management roles, become doctors and lawyers, and even teachers!
The first thing to keep in mind is that most dress codes still allow for at least a bit of self-expression. Even a strict suit dress code will likely allow for dark colors, satin or velvet trim, one piece of quirky jewelry and a bit of liquid eyeliner on the top lid. You just have to learn to be Goth to different degrees in different environments. I often go all-out on the weekends (especially for clubs) but my look is subtle for work. For interviews, of course you have to be even more careful… Sometimes you have to go for impressing people first, and then show them that Goths are just as good than any other employee (or better; but that’s another post altogether).
Once you have secured the job you have to ease into it gradually, so you don’t shock your boss and co-workers by pushing it too far too soon. Whenever I was starting a new job, I always called it “Going incognito so I could infiltrate and cause positive change from within.” Get the job, give them time to see what an exceptional worker you are, then try wearing a velvet choker one day. If that goes over well, try really dark nail polish one day, and so on! Try wearing your Dr. Martens to work on Casual Friday (if your office has one) and if no one says anything negative, work up to your New Rocks. If you ever have to go to a work-related social event on the weekend, try pushing it just a little more and see how people react.
Taking it slow eliminates the option for people to apply negative stereotypes to you based solely on your appearance. No one can say, “That girl is probably irresponsible and immature because she can’t conform” once they already know that you are responsible and mature!
Dress it Up
Another approach that I’ve alluded to before on this blog is to dress it up a bit. Going to a little extra effort to dress just one notch “nicer” than everyone else not only raises people’s estimation of you, it also automatically gives you a unique look. Don’t overdo it, or some will feel that you are putting them to shame. But if you wear a blazer from time to time, wear your hair in classy styles, and generally add just a touch of glamor to your look you will feel like you are still an individual despite the dress code restrictions. And you can get away with a bit more “dark” if it’s an elegant kind of dark. A lovely side-effect is that people around you will start to associate Goth with classiness rather than rebellion. Yay for that!
Also remember that when you do have to make some compromises, it’s an opportunity for you to challenge your creativity and try new things. You just might discover some new looks that you really love, and wouldn’t have tried if you weren’t exploring new options. You get to have more variety in your wardrobe, and you will enjoy your weekend look even more because you’ll appreciate those days when you can fully be yourself.
Be Professional and Beyond Reproach
Once you’ve proven yourself the star employee in your workplace, you might be surprised what you can get away with if you ease into it gradually. However, we all get a little too comfortable sometimes and it is possible to push the boundaries too far. If your boss ever indicates to you that something you tried at the office wasn’t appropriate, PLEASE do not argue! Politely apologize and explain that you didn’t mean to offend anyone or break the rules, but that you just didn’t realize it would be frowned upon. And then don’t do it again. You can always save that skull necklace for the weekend!
One of my readers, Bane of “GIY: Goth it Yourself”, recently commented, “I love it when the most professional person in the room is Goth.” So true! There is no better way to break down negative stereotypes in the workplace than by being the person with the best judgement and the best work ethic.
Below is a retrospective of some of my favorite work looks from this blog so far: