This well-known piece of advice just isn't feasible when you work in hospitality...or is it?
Funnily enough, there is something rather demeaning in being directed to fill ramekins with ketchup by a 20-year-old on a power trip. And yet, here I am, squirting the crimson elixir of lower-class life into glass jars, while my eyes glaze over. I'm mentally piecing together an article I'm going to write about millennials and the gritty realism of their American Dream - fitting, really. I'm 25-years-old and, as of this week, I'm ashamed to say that my primary source of revenue will come from working in a pub. I utter this with seething, wretched revolt. Much the same way Rex Harrison recoils in horror upon hearing Audrey Hepburn's Eliza Dolittle bray, "Gaaaaarrrrnnn!" in the 1964 production of My Fair Lady, I look upon my pub job as a 'squashed cabbage leaf', and myself, therefore, as an 'incarnate insult' to my private education. Dramatic? Me?
To put matters into context, two weeks ago I resigned from my job as restaurant manager of a cool street-food jaunt in order to pursue my (pipe?)dream of becoming a Fashion & Culture Journalist and/or Freelance Brand Consultant. I got my first client as a consultant and secured a couple of internships which are upcoming and ongoing, and my management job became simply too demanding to continue all three -So I opted for a zero-responsibility money-maker to tide me over until I became a famous journalist... Doubtless, this was some kind of leap of faith - whimsical and drastic - much like my unplanned and badly-funded move to London a little over 2 years ago. Per contra, that was one of the greatest decisions I've ever made and so I'm hoping, after another uphill struggle against famine, naivety, misery and self-doubt, I will come out of the career-change tunnel feeling the same way. Jubilant, confident, learned, and most importantly, well-dressed. All fashionistas have to start somewhere, right?
Needless to say, I tend to learn the hard way. A free spirit to the core, my youth has been a continual protest against following conventional norms such as learning to swim, learning to drive, voting, choosing a stable job...I eventually joined the swimming team, learned to drive, and yesterday I voted Labour (much to the chagrin of my tory parents) so I'm holding on sanguinely to the belief that the latter social norm will be the next to come true. Problem is, when you have refused a stable job for this long, 8 years of working in restaurants - no matter how stylish your wardrobe - doesn't look so good on the old CV. Therefore, the attainment of this pub job, though out of desperate necessity (London rent), has been completely my own choice - sorry, downfall.
But on with the article! (The remainder of which is about style - not self pity).
Does dressing for the job you want really work?
Throughout my 8 year experience in the restaurant industry, I have meticulously followed this rule - yet, all I have to show for it is a vintage Armani blouse stained with curry sauce, a pair of beautifully tailored camel kick flares which were vandalised with neon pink chalk paint as I wrote daily specials on some A-board or another, and 4 pairs of Vans classics - filthy, misshapen and trampled by the feet of a thousand bacchanal revellers. Albeit, networking has been done, some relevant contacts have been made (off the back of good outfits) - but the job at the glossy magazine is still very much a fragment of one's imagination.
You see, fashion is limited in hospitality, and sartorial sacrifices must be (frugally) made. I believe I may be solely responsible for 50% of the profits of the ASOS Daytripper Flatform - a £20 white plimsol that I regularly buy in bulk. They tend to last around one month - by then, a bin full of red wine bottles will have burst all over the floor, the white plimsols at the crux of the bloody disaster. Footwear is, first and foremost, the hardest choice to make in this industry of hell. You're on your feet for a minimum of 6 hours, at best - that rules out heels, and it would be ludicrous to spend any more than £20 on a shoe that will be splattered with some kind of colourful puree within a matter of hours - therefore, good quality, supportive footwear is not an option. The blistered, bunioned feet of a waitress are cursed with a life sans-Louboutins - even when she is gifted the flying-pig freedom of a Saturday night off, the concept of a high heel is often too painful a thought for her hooves to handle. As for beauty, I eventually made the decision to discontinue my bi-monthly gel manicures. If the shellac wasn't soaked off by chemicals, then it'd be chipped off while flattening dusty cardboard boxes. And while we're talking matters of les mains, rings and jewellery become futile - they either need to be removed forty times a day during hand washing procedures, or they'll slip off while you're preoccupied with an armful of dirty plates, lost forever to the darkness of the bar floor, alongside oxidised 20p coins and empty cocaine packets...
And what of the main event? The outfits! At one stage, I wore only leather trousers to work, so that I could easily wipe them clean after every shift - then summer came, and an experience reminiscent of Ross from Friends' occurred. You know the one I mean. These days, I'm frequently opting for 'sports-luxe', which in reality is a result of being too exhausted to put together any outfit other than a pair of adidas leggings and trainers - working in my favour, however, is the current state of fashion, which is very much centred around vintage sportswear. A pair of expensive gold hoops are always a good option, and I've found they look tres European when paired with a neat low ponytail or bun - the unsuspecting fool can't tell the difference between hygiene requirements and haute couture! I always try to incorporate one really funky piece into my outfit - I don't feel myself otherwise. Doing so, I've noticed that I do attract a certain type of person. For example, I once made a contact with someone at Missoma London when she complimented my orange flares and told me I looked like Sade... And yes, there is always going to be the niggling suspicion that everyone thinks you a bit of a bimbo. You can't get a 'real' job, and yet you're dressed in vintage Kenzo to work a 6-10pm shift at a job that requires you to remove empty pint glasses from varnished pine tables. But the reality is, the law of attraction works - dressing well does wonders.
So I ask again, can dressing for the job you want really work? ManRepeller do a quarterly outfit column called Office Apropos - but can that ever be translated into Restaurant Apropos? The answer is yes, it would seem, so long as you're willing to stand out amongst your Primark-clad colleagues, and sacrifice your work wardrobe to the pit of hellfire and unmovable stains that is the restaurant industry. Dress like you mean business, always. Even if it is just a way of saying, for now, "Fuck you pub job. I'm better than this."