Who Killed Color…

22 Feb

…I have a very good guess! As I alluded to the last time, I recently made a move back to Ghana after a very long while.  And for the very first time I have been introduced to ‘Corporate Ghana’. Its quite inevitable but with any move comes an amount of change; good or bad…there is always the management of expectations and either sucking up to your new ‘normal’ or throwing in the towel and heading for the hills! I’m not the one to quit and admit defeat, however when my style is under siege, I’m just not a happy camper!  Now with all the change going on around me: the power outages, the heat, the traffic – one would think a girl would have had her fair share of frustrations, and I definitely have! However, the most frustrating of all is the so-called “Corporate” look everyone is trying to assimilate. Only in these parts does ‘Corporate’ exclude color! Yeah maybe in the 1960s the corporate woman in the West was seen as one block of drab monotone hue but not anymore!!!!!

The modern corporate woman understands color: how to make it work for her, just the right amount not to be too overbearing and feels confident in it. Stuffy black and browns are substituted with cobalt and reds! The options on the color wheel are endless; however we limit ourselves to only three colors – black, brown and grey – the basics. My curiosity got the better of me and so I just had to ask the million dollar question: why? Trust me, the reasoning was even more perplexing and definitely deserved my eye roll and snort! Here goes, “Color makes you look less serious!” On which planet???? Obviously here on Earth, the corporate woman in stuffy all black is more serious than the one in a cobalt colored jacket matched with black and white checked pants, regardless of personality or work ethic! Sheesh, than unfortunately the woman department stores in the West are definitely propagating a message lacking seriousness to the career women out there!!! Beware…a mustard shirt tells your insecurities as a business executive and oh goodness forbid an orange shirt – you might as well be doing the Azonto on the board room table with your colleagues looking on in disgust!!!!!

In all seriousness (I am clad in black and grey today to reflect how serious I am); it’s a maturity level that is lacking in the workplace today. A fashion maturity. For a people whose natural disposition is color – our fabrics, our traditions, our lifestyle scream color, it is difficult to understand our obsession with the drab, mundane basic colors. I have always sworn that we are the pioneers of color blocking – its shows in our fabrics, however in our work places the only color blocking you will see is brown on black action (which I definitely frown upon). Somewhere down the line, I would bet a million dollars that in our need to assimilate what the West did, we cultivated a tolerance for drab… but come on even the west has parted ways with drab and now color is where it is at!

I am passionate about this topic because I believe in expressing oneself in all aspect of life; this bred creativity and adds to the wholeness of an individual. What we wear, our style projects confidence which in the long run translates into what we do and are able to accomplish. I am not saying those who do gravitate to more mundane basic colors are lacking in anyway – if that is your style and you wear it well…then power to you. My discomfort comes when fashion creativity is stifled by an out-dated mentality. Gone are the school days when our immature ways where curbed by rules and uniforms. However as a working professional, working executive I really want to believe we have the sense to know what not to wear to a professional setting and what does not jive with our styles for that matter.

Corporate Ghana needs to be open minded and leave at least our sense of dressing and style to us the professional because really if at this age and level we have not deciphered what is appropriate for work and what is not, then quite frankly we need not answer to the classification of ‘professional’. And that right there is the gospel according to AJ!!!!

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7 Responses to “Who Killed Color…”

  1. Afua March 12, 2013 at 8:17 pm #

    Nana, I understand your frustration on this topic but I am not sure if the “West” is totally open to colors in the “board room” or corporate setting either. Having worked in some prominent financial firms (and quite frankly that all I know so that is what I can attest to, so it may not be the case in other industries) they don’t seem to openly embrace color either. There is always a comment here or there on how bright you look…(and I am making the effort to dim my yellow shirt with a grey cardigan here). The staples colors are still black and grey and only now are we SLOWLY embracing a colored corporate place. When prepping for interviews, college counselors can’t stress black, white and grey enough, so I am not too sure if you should be that frustrated with the Ghanaian corporate place. To your point I would think the Ghanaians should embrace color for a host of reasons: tropical weather, natural disposition to color etc and make it work for them in the corporate realm. And for the west (at least here in NY) we are still warming up to the idea and I stand to be corrected if this isn’t the case.

    • ajabeasi March 13, 2013 at 10:06 am #

      Thank you Afua for reading, I am always excited to get feedback, comments…anything at all makes my day! Your point well taken however I guess this is very relative and based on ones experience. I have also worked in New York on Wall Street and they were never very stringent on colors, yet again color was not that prominent in those times. My problem with the system here is that you can be appropriately dressed, very professional with color however they are so stuck in their ways they refuse to look outside the box. There is no wiggle room I think. Wearing darks colors all day, all week, all year I personally think is not good for ones productivity (that’s my theory lol). I think you are confident, when you dress confident and feel free to express yourself. Sometimes it really feels like I’m back in boarding school again, where everyone looks the same and the rules are so stringent! As a professional I don’t think this is very healthy but I guess that my stand on the issue. Thank you again for your comment and please stay tuned for other fun topics. You can also check out my new blog http://www.memoirsofaclosetfreak.com
      Stay fashionable my dear! Toodles!

      • Afua March 13, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

        “I have also worked in New York on Wall Street and they were never very stringent on colors, yet again color was not that prominent in those times.” Ditto! You are so right; there are no explicit bans on colors in the workplace but there seem to be this “Silent Rule” that everyone (and I use this term lightly) seem to adhere to. I must also add that like you, people want to be able to express themselves in whatever setting they find themselves, so that landscape is gradually changing…yay!
        You brought up a point I think is very noteworthy “they are so stuck in their ways they refuse to look outside the box. There is no wiggle room I think.”…as the Akata will say, WORD! And this goes beyond fashion in the workplace, it applies to all we do and I think it’s a very good point to bring up. In their defense, I am tempted to think the reason is to establish a broad/basic pattern as we strengthen our fundamentals and build our modern corporate workplace and then in some years to come there will be more wiggle room. Nonetheless, I am positive many women have you to thank for starting the conversation as I know many who gripe about this issue.
        Thanks AJ and I will check out your new blog!

      • ajabeasi March 14, 2013 at 2:49 pm #

        Afua you are spot on!!!!! Fashion really is only a tip of the iceberg when it comes to out dated ways of thinking. And I definitely agree with your reasoning, however sometimes the time lapse seems endless. We find something that worked in 1960 and guess what, we are still using it in recent times and when we run into troubles we seem not to understand! And rightly stated it is a common trend not only in our workplace but across the board. Thank you again for your contribution. You rock!!!!

  2. aesinam March 21, 2013 at 8:11 am #

    I agree with both of you. On the one hand colour is more accepted today in the western corporate than it was a few years ago but on the other people still give you the side eye when you go bright (even with the colour “acceptance”, I feel it is only muted primary colours that are more ok in the eyes of executives so to say). I love colour and would give up any job if I was ever asked not to wear bright, and I mean BRIGHT!, colours (thankfully I’ve been admired for my love of colour so that has not happened yet).

    When I lived in Sweden, where most people choose extremely drab and boring colours (as if the weather ain’t depressing enough smh!) I always got compliments in class and at work for the clothes I wore. When the colourblocking trend started, I got a lot of people saying I was already an expert blocker lol. Anyway as far as western corporate world embracing colour, it has not yet happened in Europe where most corporate attire sold in shops still come in black, grey and browns with the occasional navy blue thrown in to “add” a pop of “colour”. In career counselling in school you are still asked to dress that way for your interview to, I’m sorry to say, project a more “serious” attitude. When you wear colour people assume you are in a creative field, maybe an artist, actor, musician or a ditzy flower power advocate. It’s therefore not so surprising that Ghana is following this trend. Most Ghanaians have more contact with Europeans than North Americans in the corporate world (majority of the foreign owned companies and investments in Gh are European).
    I was very disappointed when I moved back to Ghana last year and saw this trend (only on Fridays do people go all out and show their African identity, love of colour), I didn’t, however let this phase me as I continue to wear exactly what I want to wear (only demure outfit I have for work is a black and grey Dorothy Perkins dress Lol). At my workplace, which is more relaxed as regards to colour, I must admit, I have only gotten compliments. And even where we’ve had meetings with other corporations where wearing bright colours was frowned upon, I have gotten compliments and envious remarks. I don’t blame the employees though. It is quite difficult expressing your identity when there are strict dress codes and there is actually someone in charge of enforcing same. Going your own way might very well get you fired.

    My fondest wish is for this trend to change and this can only happen from top management.

    • ajabeasi March 21, 2013 at 2:48 pm #

      Aesinam, reading your comment, you sound just like me! I love color and I live for color blocking, and so I am sure you can sympathize with me. I actually find it very comforting that there are other women out there going through what I am going through. I guess I am really struggling to understand why color should matter in a workplace especially if you are professional dressed!!!! As long as my body parts are not hanging out inappropriately, it should not be a problem. And to classify one color as serious and another one not is plenty ridiculous for me. But I have come to realize something (per my experience), it is always women who come up with and /or enforce these ridiculous dress codes! And that kinda explains a lot in my book. The men seem happy with whatever but the women always have some kind of problem….sigh! Anyway, thank you so much Aesinam for including your voice! Maybe…just maybe one day we will see a better world with more color!!!! lol You are very much appreciated. Keep looking fabulous… in your colors! Toodles! And thanks for the subscription, do check out my other blog http://www.memoirsofaclosetfreak.com for more fashion episodes. Tell a friend! Heck…tell three!

    • Afua March 21, 2013 at 3:01 pm #

      “a ditzy flower power advocate”…LOLL that cracked me up. Well said Aesinam. I admire you both for being yourselves and “blazing the trail” if you will, for bringing color to the workplace. I am sure with time we (East, West, North etc.) will recognize that “being serious” doesn’t necessarily mean being “smart, effective, efficient, etc.” and dressing appropriately with color doesn’t make you “a ditzy flower power advocate” either. Like you both said this is all relative and dependent on industry, extent of workplace tolerance etc. but I commend you both for advocating being yourselves and staying true to who you are. It takes a lot of “cojones” to pull it off! Rock on!

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