Episode 2 – Culture Shock, Culture Chic

The very first job I held was at Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia and no, I did not work with the wonderful animals.  I did deal with dead ones however, mainly of the beef variety. I was a kitchen hand in the numerous food establishments scattered around the zoo. Dead animals, beef, hamburgers, geddit? Expectedly, I had very little say on what I could wear to work. We wore an all black ensemble as our uniform and this trend carried on to my 2 next jobs; I was a fry cook and supervisor at Nando’s Australia and a team member and store manager at Sanity Music. It wasn’t until I left the service industry where I go to stretch my fashion legs, if you will, getting to wear jeans, sneakers, and whatever kids were wearing those days.

again, not my workmates. sad face.

When I came back to the Philippines, I got a job as a language instructor teaching english to foreigners living in our country and most of our clients were Japanese or Arab businessmen. The company I worked for was of course, very adamant about having a corporate front so I had to wear a dress shirt, formal slack and shoes, and even a tie at times. Very stuffy especially for the climate here.

After 8 years of enduring that (my wardrobe had decidedly changed due to this, by the way), I switched to a new job and company – the San Francisco start-up, now based in Manila that’s mentioned in the blog title above (I knew you weren’t paying attention). Now, I was expecting a very casual, laid back, you-do-you attitude towards work attire here but I was still a bit surprised at what I saw.

Shorts, sandals, and t-shirts are the norm at my new job, with one guy insisting on wearing a tank top every single day (he’s been dubbed “sando-boy” since). On separate occasions, some guys decided to wear slightly formal clothes (think short sleeved, button-up shirts) and everyone reacted to this act of rebellion with quips like, “Hey, how’s the mayoral election campaign going?

Now, I know you’re thinking, “Eh? There are a few companies in Manila who have very casual dress codes – they’re called BPOs!” True. There are some BPO companies who are pretty lax in this regard but what I feel sets a start-up apart from said businesses is that the bosses at start-ups probably dress more casually than their employees.  One of our mentors told us, “You can wear whatever you want as long as you get past the building security.

To be honest, I’m a little disappointed that given this level of freedom, the fashion sense at work isn’t more diverse and adventurous. Where are the goths? The punks? The greasers? The preppy kids?

Ah shit, wrong century again…


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