How do sociopaths dress? Inappropriately?
That’s the implicit argument in a pseudonymous article by M.E. Thomas published in Psychology Today, “Confessions of a Sociopath,” adapted from her book by the same name.
To be sure, Thomas also implicitly argues that sociopaths make the best attorneys – – – and law professors – – – but dressing the part is not as easy as it might seem. Thomas writes that when she at a law firm, supervised by a senior associated named “Jane,” Thomas exploited Jane’s insecurities. Appropriating the usual “dress for success” model, Jane is described as putting “much effort into dressing appropriately,” although M.E. Thomas also describes Jane’s “pale skin mottled with age, poor diet, and middling hygiene” as “evidence of a lifetime spent outside the social elite.”
Thomas contrasts herself: “I wore flip-flops and T-shirts at every semi-reasonable opportunity.”
Readers are to believe, it seems, that Thomas’s failure to dress for success is yet another manifestation of her manipulative and sociopathic personality.
Yet we should be wary of generalizing personality defects or even traits from preferences in attire. Employers have long penalized workers, especially women, for their failures to “dress professionally” and have ascribed pathologies to employees’ failure to conform. Flip-flops, even at a “semi-reasonable opportunity,” may not mean anything at all.