Today at our hospital's ACLS training for incoming interns, the Harvard boys were clustering together a little more than we should have been. (Knowing myself and the others, the clustering was more social anxiety than it was snobbery, but of course that's a fine line.) More remarkably, of seven Harvard Medical chaps who were there, all seven were in some variation of khakis and a button-down, no tie. I think five had blue shirts on, and two had white shirts. (Or was it four and three?) One of our group of Harvard boys was dressed slightly more casually yesterday, but he fell into line today.
No one else among the incoming interns from other schools was dressed exactly this way. Most were a bit more casual. It was a training, and therefore there was no clear dress code. A few were as formal as we were but in different ways: with different kinds of colors, fabrics, and so on.
I didn't dress this way before. I lived in San Francisco and wore jeans to work; when I bleached my hair my workplace credibility as a community organizer went up, not down. My lab boss in Bethesda wore all black clothes (except she wore bright yellow clogs) because she didn't want to be bothered with the problems of matching colors; no dress code there either.
Harvard changed me. Harvard somehow made me think that I should dress this way. And I think we tuned ourselves to each other: we looked more alike the second day of training than we did the first. But clearly, long before this training, without anyone explaining it or demanding it of us, we all became the guys who wear the khakis and the open-collar blue shirts.
"It's what I'd wear if I was coming over here to meet with my research advisor," said A, one of my co-terns. I said, "Of course; me too." On some level, we both felt--well, what else would you wear? In fact, I had semi-consciously run through the differential on both mornings before the training days, looking in my drawers and my closet. I thought about a dark plain polo shirt but it seemed some combination of too casual and too golf-y. Jeans were out of the question. Definitely not a t-shirt. Not even an untucked short-sleeved button-down. I don't own any brightly-colored button-down shirts; if I did I wouldn't have chosen them. Yet other men there made all of these fashion choices, and others like them.
When I told her about all this, Ms. Hemodynamics said, "Well, sure. That's part of why they were recruiting you guys."
"But I find this distressing," I said. "That somehow the institution has taken my aesthetics and eccentricities and ironed them out of me."
She understood this; but she thought my clothes were still the right choice. And of course, my program had been recruiting her too.