i still wear black…but why do you?


My post on Monday received quite a bit of readership and many interesting comments.

Most understood the light-hearted nature of the post as a means of looking at the quirks of architects and having a chuckle over things that we find in common. It was a somewhat self-deprecating snapshot of the outward appearance of architects – who are so concerned with the outward appearance of their work, more than themselves.


During this past week, my friend Chris started a conversation about this online where a few others including another friend Evan jumped in to add to the mix. The topic was not about a color, but whether the choice of an architect’s garb was symptomatic to the perception of architects in the public. It seems we all believe (or know) our image could do with some improvement. What is really important to distinguish is the difference between the architects in the big media and the rest of us. If people believe that a career group that they see on TV (or media) is the way everyone else is in that career group, then they’ll just have to go on believing the world is flat and the sun goes around it. I can’t try to police that (pun intended).

However, should we be concerned with our image? Does it portray something negative?

We don’t need a shift in our wardrobe or any part of our appearance. That’s your choice. If you have long or short hair, wear pants or skirts, black or beige, cotton or polyester, or even if you have a sleeve of tattoos up your arm – I don’t care. People will see us for who we are and it starts with attitude. Sure many if not most will quietly judge the book by its cover. Hopefully when you shake their hand, smile and start talking – talking about architecture, all of that will change. But what happens before we get a chance to shape one’s perception?

So Chris, you’ve left me with more questions than answers – the place I love to be.

Do we wear black as a costume?
Are we intentionally being weird – whatever that means?
Does our very nature and personality harm us from getting business?
Should we change?
How do we get clients to put away prejudices and stereotypes about architects that have developed over the years?
Do the architects in the media have a narcissistic imbalance?  Do I?
Are we more interested in ourselves than our clients, or the environment? (read this post)

I can’t speak for anyone but me.

A long time ago I told myself to stop trying to control the things that are out of my control. I can control me and I can control my attitude.

I don’t do work for everyone and I don’t accept every project. Not everyone wants to hire me and not everyone is a good fit. Those that chose to hire me hopefully are convinced they made a good choice. I’m certainly glad they did.

Several years ago my family’s life went on a journey – ultimately a good one. Throughout that process, my family relationships got closer and more meaningful. An outcome of that is I decided to be myself again. I was going to be me and approach things the way I believed was best, not the way I thought others would want. I put “myself” back on and it fit so much nicer that what I had been wearing.

Yes, I wear black. Why do you?


i still wear black…but why do you?

9 thoughts on “i still wear black…but why do you?

  1. Rob Humason says:

    I like where this ended up. It has made me think a little. I admit that as I get older, I worry significantly less about my image, but not because I don’t care, but for two reasons: 1) I think I have settled on a “style” that suits me; and 2) I am more comfortable with who I am and less concerned with convincing others of my role in life based on my style of clothing.

    1. It’s good to be comfortable with oneself. I think the real issue behind this isn’t our own personal style or preferences, but how do we use that (or not) as architects. Is our “look” part of a persona that is affecting our perception among the general population. That is a big question.

  2. Once I realized that clothing was a tool I could make good choices.
    1) I work with/for women much of the time. I have no need to outshine them. My job is to help.
    2) When I go on job sites -which is multiple times, every job – I need to be able to walk through, above, below the work safely, and talk comfortably with the guys.
    3) Once in a while I need to wear the power suit, so that people know I do know how to behave in that world. What constitutes a ‘power suit’ has changed considerably during my career!
    4) Looking neat, healthy, and attractive is always an asset. I like clothes that don’t have to be fussed with, and I look and feel better in blue.

    Although this economy is challenging, I work with people who never thought they would hire an ‘;architect’. The image is daunting. I, on the other hand, am useful.

  3. You’re very practical Jane. However, it seems my friend Chris sees our “image”, including our visual appearance as being a difficulty where he lives and works. I’m curious to see if others find that the stereotypical appearance of an architect (i.e. black clothing) is a hindrance.

  4. Gene says:

    A butt glazed joint done with black silicone looks narrower than one with clear silicone.
    As we men (I know better than make this comment about women) age we tend to get shorter (gravity) and wider (metabolism and self control) so black; at least in my mind may help counteract that a little. The fault in this logic is that I am much wider than the typical glazed joint.
    Or the real reason could be that I like simple design, black and white is pretty simple. The docs have a lock on white, and I am happy with black.

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