Nautilus

Unconformity of dress, but not of ideas?

Frank Gannon writes in an Editorial in the current issue of EMBO Reports (8, 10, 885; 2007):

At a recent scientific meeting, a speaker at a small workshop session caused me to stare in surprise. I did so not because of anything he had said, but simply because he was dressed in an impeccable three-piece suit and tie. It later became clear that he was a medic who had rushed to the meeting from work to give his presentation on time. Nevertheless, with his sartorial elegance he was obviously ‘out of place’—all the other scientists attending the meeting were wearing a different ‘uniform’: a limited wardrobe in which jeans, colourful shirts and t-shirts were dominant, with the occasional jacket for those who were giving a talk. This casual style of clothes might suggest that scientists are ‘cooler’ and more relaxed than other professionals, but this seemingly carefree choice of clothes conforms to group pressure in just the same way as the obligatory suit and tie among medics or bankers—scientists are less free than their tie-free image suggests.

The Editorial goes on to discuss conformity in a more general sense, pointing out the irony of a group of individuals priding themselves on their free-spiritedness in terms of their dress code, but often spurning the diversity of ideas — possibly to the extent of missing opportunities to gain new knowledge.

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