Last week I went to a marketing & innovation conference that I've been attending for the past few years. One of the major events at this conference is the annual gala dinner. The dress code for this event specified 'suits for men' and 'frocks for women'.
In the lead up to the conference, a group email was sent from a colleague of mine, stating that he felt all the men from our team should wear a bow tie to the gala dinner. He claimed it would help us 'look stylish'.
I've never been a fan of the bow tie - I have worn it twice (at school formals) and on both occasions I felt uncomfortable. I enjoy wearing a suit on special occasions, and a standard tie has always done the job. With this in mind, I ignored his suggestion and wore my best suit, which adequately fit the dress code.
Along with my personal disapproval of bow ties, I equally don't like being told how I should dress by someone else. I had to wear a school uniform for 13 years of my life - that was enough for me. I think we should all have the choice to express ourselves freely, and no adult should feel like they have to wear a particular item of clothing in order to fit in.
Anyway, enough about that.
As all of the conference attendants congregated in the foyer for pre-drinks and canapés, I walked up to join a group of my colleagues in conversation. Every single male from my group was wearing a bow tie - except me of course, and I was completely unphased by this.
The guy who sent the email looked over at me and walked across to where I was standing. The conversation went as follows:
"Why aren't you wearing a bow tie Jared?"
I looked him straight in the eye and answered
"Sorry but I'm just not the bow tie kind of guy"
He shook his head in disbelief and replied
"But it's just for one night, it looks really cool"
I smiled and said
"I'm glad you're enjoying wearing yours, but it's just not my style - let's enjoy the night"
The disappointment on his face was impossible to hide. Everybody else had 'joined the club', except me and for some reason this seemed to really bother him.
I couldn't help but chuckle.
I've been thinking about this interaction for the last couple of days. Ever since my teenage years, I've always been a non conformist - not because I want to be a rebel, but rather because I know who I am and refuse to be someone I'm not.
Can the masses really be right about everything?
If I were to reflect on some of the fads that have come and gone over the years, I'd cringe thinking about many of the bandwagons people have jumped on for the simple reason that everyone else was on board.
I find it incredibly sad when I witness people who follow others just so they can feel as though they are part of something.
Our individual traits are the things that make us interesting as human beings. Quirks, different styles and tastes give us all a unique flavour.
There is something very comforting about knowing who you are and being comfortable in your own skin. Unfortunately we don't' get to see this from many people - especially the youth.
Sometimes I wonder if the strict conformists of the world haven't quite worked out who they really are, or if they are simply too scared to reveal their true selves to others.
One of my biggest qualms with society is that we don't embrace diversity enough. Way too many of us display uneasiness when someone stands out from the crowd.
So if you are reading this and are one of those people who follow the sheep out of fear, I urge you to have the courage to break free from the pack and embrace who you really are.
If you have children, celebrate their unique traits and help give them the confidence and courage to stay true to themselves. I firmly believe that the kids who give in to peer pressure often struggle to break free from it as adults later in life.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said:
"To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment."
Oh how right he was.
You don't have to wear the same clothes, listen to the same music or drive the same cars as everyone else. If you truly like those things then that's great, but if you are not the bow tie kind of guy, or the stiletto kind of girl don't be shy to acknowledge it.