At a previous job, I interviewed a host of candidates for an entry-level position within my department. One résumé seemed particularly intriguing because of the candidate’s tightly edited and well-written style. Her intelligence and ambition practically lept off the page. After conducting the interview, I met with my colleague to discuss how it went. “She seemed smart enough, but her makeup was awful,” I said. My colleague nodded in agreement. The poor girl was wearing a garish shade of metallic green eye-shadow to a job interview at a financial services company, a sector known for its ultra conservative dress code. Her makeup practically screamed don’t take me seriously, I don’t belong in this job.
It’s impossible to truly “not judge a book by its cover.” People use clothing, makeup, and hair to guide your judgments about them. It gives us a preview of their story, how they feel about themselves, their financial situation. But it doesn’t give us the full story and sometimes, it gives us a completely inaccurate picture of who that person really is.
My dress at work conveyed hard-charging professional with no qualms about long hours away from my daughter – sharply tailored suits with punchy silk blouses, four-inch heels so that I was always eye-level with my male colleagues, and diamond stud earrings that quietly whispered success. It wasn’t all a charade; I truly enjoyed my work and the opportunity to be around smart, ambitious adults all day. But had I really revealed who I was and what I wanted, I would be wearing jeans and a sweater, sticky from her little hands.
If I had looked at the person behind the makeup, maybe I would have noticed a bright and hard-working woman eager for an opportunity; conversely, I would have noticed myself withering under the demands of full-time work and full-time motherhood.
Clothes have a powerful way of defining who we are, both to ourselves and to others. Jesus’ loincloth and crown of thorns said he was a pathetic criminal with delusions of grandeur while Pilate’s finery said he was man worthy of power and influence. Some saw past the ornamentation, into the hearts of a King and a coward.