How My Appearance Affects My Daily Commute

Like it or not, every day we are judged by how we look, how we dress, how we carry ourselves.

I’m a Millennial living and working in New York for just over a year.  I make the commute from Long Island to Manhattan every day and a large portion of my time and paycheck is spent on public transportation.  One of the observations I’ve made on my commute is how much better I’m treated when my appearance is “better”.

The dress code in my office is very casual, a very “jeans-friendly” place. On occasion, though, I put a little more effort into my appearance.  I’ll throw on a dress or a nice blouse and maybe take an extra few minutes on my makeup. All of the sudden public transportation is no longer burdensome. I am offered a seat on crowded trains, doors magically open for me, and I receive smiles from strangers (which is greatly appreciated from this southern girl).  For those of you who have not lived or worked in New York City, finding a seat on the subway during rush hour is difficult and when you are lucky enough to find one, you don’t just give it up to anyone. The way I am treated on the days I put a little more care into my appearance is vastly contrasted to the way I’m treated when I am running out the door and running on no sleep.

I know it seems naïve to think that all humans will be treated equally regardless of appearance. I am a black woman in America. Sadly, I know that is not the case. I also know that there are plenty of people out there who would gladly give up a seat to a girl who looked like she had “just rolled out of bed” as they would to one who looked like a model. I’ve been lucky enough to witness this on several occasions.

There’s been a lot of research on the subject of appearance, and its impact on how you are treated in the workplace, and in our society in general.  An article in Psychology Today shares several studies on the power of appearance.  The conclusions included the following comments:

Whether we like it or not, and whether it’s less a case of cause and effect than correlation, in Western culture, which is highly influenced by media and advertising, research shows that “beauty” matters. it pervades society and how we choose our leaders, our loved ones, and our friends, bosses and co-workers. On the other hand, making judgments and decisions about people in terms of relationships, hiring, promotion, and compensation solely based upon physical attractiveness — or even being influenced by it — is clearly discriminatory and ultimately harmful. The question remains: Do we need to do something about it?

It is uncomfortable and disturbing to think about how many decisions are made based on appearance.  Have you been treated differently because of your appearance, or witnessed co-workers or friends being treated differently because of their appearance?  Have you encountered appearance-related discrimination?

Share your thoughts with us.


Jumpflysoar44 is a contributor to the blog.

2 Replies to “How My Appearance Affects My Daily Commute”

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