I remembered watching Anchorman and realizing that Ron Burgundy was not only a sexy beast, but a maverick and trailblazer beyond all measure. He masterminded a polished, poised persona and he didn’t need to bother with such silliness as “wearing pants” to pull it off. He was a true hero of the 1970s and his heroic nature lives on today, in the chaos that is 2020.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, yet vanity is now in the eye of the webcam. And in 2020, that eye generally encompasses a view of the face and torso. We only have to look pulled together from the chest-up. Plaid pajama pants? Sure! Reindeer Christmas leggings? Of course! Just underpants? Why not?!
The economic and fashion impact of this shift in vanity can be found everywhere.
- No more suiting up: Both Brooks Brothers and the parent company of Men’s Wearhouse and JoS A. Bank filed for bankruptcy in 2020.
- Cosmetics lessons: How to alter your makeup to be virtual-meeting glam!
- All about athleisure: Increased sales and a desire for versatile clothing to both work-from-home and workout-in-home.
- Why change clothes at all? Pajama sales increased 143%.
- Ponytails or top knots? Tutorials for the best WFH hairstyles.
- Dry cleaners are bored: One in six dry cleaners in the U.S. have closed or gone bankrupt.
- Lights, camera, filters: Mastering the best lighting and lights for video conferencing.
- Commanding a virtual room: Lessons on owning your charisma on video.
- Literally, fewer pants: Sales of pants decreased 13% from March to April.
But what does this all mean? In a world of cupcakes are we only concerned with the frosting? Well, I’m a cupcake girl. Straight up cake. Ok, and a little frosting. I care deeply about the content, substance and impact of what I offer. And I also want to look decent doing it. Does that make me vain? Once a man in my life told me he thought I was “just vain enough” and I took that as high praise. I shall always be cupcake before frosting. But I do need some frosting.
There’s definitely a judgment factor in play. If you want to look good for a WFH day, are others judging you? If you see a coworker or client on a call that looks dressed-up and or done-up, how do you react? Jealous? Complimentary? Like a cynical monster, assuming that the person has too much free time? Like they must really like to look at themselves? Our instinctual, comparative reactions to others’ appearances, even in video conferencing, can impact how we relate to others. Next time you jump on a call, take a moment to check your reactions and the judgments that follow. There’s no right or wrong here; it’s a mindful moment to understand our own biases as it relates to vanity.
It’s also about effort. What level of appearance effort do each of us need to exude to feel like we are our best selves? Are we capable of this level of effort every day? Likely not. Do we desire this level of effort every day? Likely not. Are we still working hard and getting things done? Absolutely.
Most importantly, it’s about acceptance. This year is a unique recipe of poo for all of us. Each of us are facing multiple challenges; some we might share with others, some we choose to conceal. We don’t always know what it takes to be physically and mentally able to be prepared for, let alone get through a workday. Let’s advocate to always give each other the benefit of the doubt.
Cheer on the cupcake, don’t focus on the frosting.
Stay classy, HR.
Megan Leasher is an award-winning industrial and organizational psychologist who balances her nerdiness with wit, charm, and creative swear words. She is passionate about connecting challenge and compassion, insights and intuition, and faith and fearlessness into the design of talent-based solutions for individuals and organizations.
Currently, Megan serves as the Chief Solutions Strategist for Talent Plus, a global HR-solutions firm whose mission is to leverage science to help people and organizations discover and develop talent, creating a world where people do what they are good at and enjoy. She also serves as an executive coach, avid public speaker, and has held leadership roles in both corporate healthcare and Fortune 250 retail.
Megan lives in northern Kentucky, where she loves coffee, Converse Chuck Taylors, and being a bourbon snob.