Breaking the Dress Code

I’ve never understood dress codes. My first job out of college required I wear dress pants, a long sleeve shirt and tie to work each day. At a company training seminar I asked for clarification concerning the dress code and was told it was for my own good. If I dressed up I’d magically treat customers better and "feel" better about myself.

What a total crock! I was just out of college so the brain washing effects hadn’t fully worn off but I knew it was corporate speak back then just as I do today. I believe that I’m more likely to treat coworkers, managers, and customers better if I’m wearing comfortable clothing. That doesn’t mean I should come into work sporting a tank and Speedo. But I should have some level of control over what I wear.

I think my sentiments on this topic stem from an experience I had at the Mission Training Center in Provo when I was 19-years old. I’d been called to serve a mission in Germany and was sent to the MTC for two months to learn some German and hopefully pickup enough church doctrine that I wouldn’t go off to foreign soil and teach false doctrine.

At the MTC one must follow a very strict schedule and dress code. The dress code was quite simple: a dark suit, white shirt and tie must be worn at all times. The only exceptions were during exercise, showering and sleeping. I hadn’t been at the MTC for more than a couple of weeks when I started to feel like clone. I was losing my identity and my personality. I was tired of feeling like a Book of Mormon carrying robot. I had to do something.

That something included stretching the rules a bit. I decided to wear a dark red paisley bow tie to class one morning. As I stood in the breakfast line a number of missionaries in my group thought the bow tie was cool but warned me they weren’t allowed. I didn’t think much of it as I finished my breakfast and ran off to class.


In class, we sang, and prayed and sang some more before the German language teacher looked at me and suddenly stopped lecturing. He grabbed two chairs, walked to the door and said, "Elder Nordquist, please follow me".

I walked out of class and sat across from my teacher. He didn’t say anything. He just sat there and stared at me and then my tie. I didn’t know what to say. Finally he asked if I understood why he called me out of class. I told him it probably had something to do with my new tie. More silence. Although we’d gotten along well up to this point it was clear he was disgusted with me. I’d let him down by wearing a devilish bow tie.

I tried to explain that the bow tie has long been considered a formal accessory to a man’s attire. But he was having none of it and shot back that I was intentionally breaking MTC rules. I couldn’t believe how angry he was. At one point I thought he would reach over and yank the bow tie off my neck. Or strangle me. One of the two.

He sent me back to my dorm room for the day. To make matters worse a fellow missionary who was assigned as my companion was also called out to the hall to explain why he’d allowed me to wear the bow tie to breakfast. I guess he was expected to physically stop me from wearing it if that’s what it came to. So the both of us were sent back to our dorm to "think about our actions".

On the way back to our dorm I stopped by the mailroom to pickup a package from my parents. Back at the dorm I opened the box to find a huge bag of Cap’N Crunch Berries cereal. So for the next six hours we munched on handfuls of my favorite cereal.

And since it was my own bag I could pick out a handful of berries without offending my sisters. But my bow tie wearing days at the MTC had come to an abrupt halt.

But I still think, at least for one day, I was the most stylish looking missionary at the MTC.

3 thoughts on “Breaking the Dress Code

  1. Didn’t you recently spark an outrage with your refusal to wear a white shirt to church? I know the day is coming when you show up to church in shorts, sandals, sunglasses, and a bag of Doritos. 😉


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