At a recent Christmas drinks hosted by a Melbourne management consultant I found myself in conversation with a human resources consultant. (Never let it be said I lack the Christmas spirit.) I set forth my views on the ancient profession of HR and, as it was clear he was unfamiliar with my extensive writings on the subject, did so at some length and force of conviction.
Once we exhausted the topic I turned my attention to a matter which had been nagging at me throughout our conversation: his earring. Stud earrings, I believe they’re called.
The HR consultant was dressed conservatively if not tastefully: a beige suit, a nondescript tie that could only have been a birthday present and extremely shiny shoes (he later explained that his father has been in the military). He sported a shaved head, which made the elaborate stone-encrusted earring all the more prominent. It looked like somebody had stapled a women’s wedding ring from Goldmark to his earlobe.
Let me state plainly that I am not a fan of men’s earrings. To the extent that they have their place I would prefer it to be anywhere I’m not.
I am particularly bemused on weekends, as I endure the throngs of the Southland shopping centre, to see the most unprepossessing men in their recreational track suits and middle-aged girths wearing earrings. Presumably they’re making a statement of some kind. If only they realised that their trackie dacks alone speak sufficient volumes.
So, in the spirit of candour we had established, I asked the HR consultant why he wore an earring. He explained that he had always wanted to wear one, and when he turned 40 a year or so ago he decided to don the ear furniture.
Unlike the weekend warriors, he wears it all the time – that is, even when he’s working, meeting with clients and pitching for business.
“What do you think?” he asked, leading with his chin, or more to the point, his ear.
“May I speak frankly?”
He was a good sport and encouraged me to speak freely, whereupon I replied:
“Well, as you ask, I think it looks preposterous. I see before me a respectable middle-aged man, a professional consultant to industry, conservatively attired, including your brilliant shoes – and then, incongruously, there’s that bloody earring.
“It’s the first thing I noticed about you, and I dare say it’s the first thing most people notice when they meet you for the first time and, unfairly or not, people are going to make assumptions about you – and I can tell you they’re not going to be complimentary. (Don’t be alarmed by the bare-knuckled transcript, it was a forthright discussion, but all in good humour.) My advice to you: get rid of the bloody thing!”
“And what assumptions would they be?”
“That you’re frivolous, insecure, misguided … and that would be the positive spin!” (This may be a good time for you, gentle reader, to make a mental note not to invite me to your next Christmas party.) “If I was a prospective client and you walked into my office, I have to say to you that I wouldn’t be able to look past those earrings and I would have very serious doubts about hiring you.”
The host of the party was listening in and he looked at his friend and smiled. “See, I told you,” he said. A group of six or seven had gathered to listen in to our discussion so I called a snap poll: earring or no earring? Mine was a stunningly unanimous victory. (My advice to Tony Abbott next year: don’t even think of wearing an earring.)
Christmas cheer and gentle banter aside: I don’t like men’s earrings (I don’t think much of them for women, for that matter) and I especially don’t like them in a professional setting. (I’m prepared to look the other way in cases of creative types and the like, but even so ...)
For plain-vanilla would-be mavericks who think they’re making a bold statement when they don their earrings when out shopping or attending a friend’s barbecue, I would say to them in a spirit of amity that there is none so conformist as the non-conformist. (Now that I mention it, I believe I passed on this wisdom to the HR consultant.)
As for my friend the HR consultant, I offer this advice: get rid of the earring, apply some Selleys to your distressed earlobe and if you must make a statement, wear zany suspenders or polka dot socks.
But please, no bow tie. I’d much rather you stick to the earring.