Pink Shirt

September 23, 2008

Yesterday I decided to wear to work a pink shirt. Yes, you read that correctly, a pink shirt. For those of you not aware, I recently started a new job as a defense contractor working at the Pentagon. There are not a lot of pink shirts at the Pentagon. In fact, I feel confident in stating that of the 50,000 employees present at any one time at the Pentagon I was the only male wearing a pink shirt. (There may have been someone wearing one in one of those secret rooms you see in movies, but I wasn’t authorized to go in and check.) The shirt wasn’t one of the ‘in-your-face hot pink’ numbers that some people wear. This was a much more subdued pink with white running through it to further dilute the potential embarrassment the wearer may experience.

I found that wearing a pink shirt actually changes your perspective on a lot of things. For one, you start noticing other things around you that are pink. (My ID badge, the color of the bricks on the sidewalk, the highlighter our secretary uses, etc.) This doesn’t seem to happen when you’re wearing a more commonly accepted color, such as white or blue. You don’t start saying to yourself, “wow, my shirt matches the sky!” (Or clouds, depending on which of the two previously mentioned colors you are wearing) I also found that you tend to stand up a bit straighter and walk a bit taller. This is not derived from any sense of superiority for having been brave enough to defy conventional fashion sense but that you simply feel that you need to project a stronger sense of masculinity in order to compensate for the femininity that others may believe you are now exuding. Of course, the notion that pink is a feminine color is an inherently flawed idea as my wife so keenly pointed out when she stated that pink is in many ways a more masculine color than blue. According to my wife, since pink is simply a shade of red, which is an intense, passionate and manly color, and blue is more subdued and calming, pink can actually be construed as the more masculine of the two. Try telling that to the Marine Colonel who looked like he wanted to deepen the shade of pink I was wearing by stabbing me with his K-bar and letting the blood flow freely all over my freshly laundered shirt.

Wearing a pink shirt is also a great way to determine who amongst your co-workers is secure in their masculinity. For some reason, people see their own fears and anxieties reflected in a pink shirt. I think it’s because they start to question whether or not they too would be able to stand wearing such an outfit. Those who have no trouble with their own masculinity tend not to say anything, but those who silently question themselves give voice to their fears by making off-handed comments. At my office, only one person said something, and it was exactly the person I expected would. Interesting… On the other hand, women love a guy wearing pink. My wife could probably sue me for infidelity the number of times I got checked out on the Metro ride home! So, note to single guys who hang out bars patronized by young professionals: If you want to stand out from the crowd and exponentially increase your chances of getting laid (by a woman, I can’t comment how well a pink shirt would work on attracting men) then wear a pink shirt.

Another thing you notice when wearing a pink shirt is just how little fashion diversity there actually is amongst the Pentagon work force. Almost every single person is wearing something along the lines of a white or blue shirt. (not counting the people in uniform; those guys all look the same!) There may be some attempts to branch out into clothes that are more expressive than others, but those rare few can only be considered variations on a theme, such as a subtle pin stripe or herringbone pattern. Every now and then you may actually see someone wearing a light yellow or green shirt, but these are few and far between. Part of me wonders if the lack of diversity amongst peoples’ wardrobes is symptomatic of a possible lack of diversity in thinking, which helps explain the ‘group think’ phenomenon that has been known to occur amongst the defense industry. In the end, if you’re not wearing blue or white, you are going to stand out, which is not necessarily something that you want to do at a place like the Pentagon.

Does this mean that I won’t wear the pink shirt ever again? Absolutely not. And not because I like standing out or being different or warding off the angry looks of Marine Colonels, but because my wife thinks I look really damn good!


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