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The Depths of Being Shallow

By Tiffany Kosolcharoen
COLUMNIST

Kindergarten lied.

“We are all the same, inside and out,” said Mrs. Taylor, my kindergarten teacher, to an eclectic sea of kids wearing inside-out t-shirts and mismatched socks.

Ask a five-year-old to define “fashion” and he or she will just look at you, confused. At that age, we were too preoccupied with getting a turn on the swing set at recess to pass judgment on others.

stereotype - n. A conventional, formulaic, and oversimplified conception, opinion, or image.

-- Webster’s Dictionary

But in fact, school taught us how to stereotype. Black is worn by burglars, suits by professionals, and red by heroic firemen. And even though we are here because of our deeds and our institute strives to be as much of a meritocracy as possible, it is time to recognize the importance of the superficial world of fashion. Fashion helps you fake it ‘til you make it.

Harvard grads are going to end up being our managers even if we took the harder classes. The reason? They look more suave. Their pressed shirts and tied-back hair make them stand a little taller. They ooze confidence. That is how they win.

When you walk through the Infinite, you can determine who is from MIT and who isn’t. Shamefully, the well-dressed “visitors” such as Boston University, Harvard, and Wellesley students often stand out for looking better!

After a full day of interviews, a job recruiter might sense something fishy when he leaves the MIT Career Services Center. He’ll turn into the main corridors and see an entirely different class of person than the ones who sat down to talk. He sees zombies, walking weary-eyed to and from class in crumpled t-shirts from freshman Orientation two years ago. Then, he understands. Those interviewees looked choked up in our ties during the interview because they were uncomfortable in that costume. It was a false face.

This is not the case for all students. MIT is divided. As a student deciding between engineering and business, I hear engineering students degrade Course XV (Management) students all the time: Course XV is the easy way out! If you can’t do your major, you can always do business! Sloan is a different school than MIT!

Why? I think it’s jealousy. The engineers are envious that the Sloanies tend to make more. The Sloan School of Business has gained worldwide prestige in part because of its image. Sloan’s marketing has its merits: money for new buildings, UROP funding, and free food everywhere. Scientists and engineers, take note.

At work, a genius programmer can stay up all night coding, but may never be up for promotion. The white undershirt, smelly breath, and exhausted eyes displayed to coworkers undermine those achievements. This person failed in marketing himself or herself.

Start changing your wardrobe. Now. All it takes is adding one new collared shirt or blouse (not necessarily expensive) to the closet every now and then, and by the end of four years, you’ll be smart and look smart.

Practice makes perfect. If we can convert the five spare minutes we spend surfing the Internet before class into a more productive time, you can do something extra like coordinate your outfit or gel your hair. Like well-dressed professors, we, too, can command respect if we look nicer.

It is up to you to decide how others perceive you. Superiors aside, maybe you’ll cross paths with your classmates again. Don’t burn your bridges early by being remembered as the gross, smelly kid from recitation.

Look sharp, kid.