Emergency service providers are proud bunch and they like to show their colors. It shows you’re proud of where you come from and let’s other people know little bit about who you are. Still, there are a couple of rules that you want to keep in mind about how you represent yourself, your agency, and your profession in what you wear to a conference.
Conferences can be a great time to blow off some steam and reinvigorate your love for the job, but keep in mind that every conference is still a professional gathering. Being professional doesn’t have to mean all buttoned up and uptight, but it does mean not wanting to be associated with clowns pretending to be emergency responders. “Find ’em hot, leave ’em wet”? I get it. Because were firefighters. And because of sex. Yes, I laughed the first time I saw that in 1987. But even then I thought, “Would the person who wears that also complain about how people don’t respect and honor the fine work of the fire service? Are they worried that not enough people think that firefighters are loud, drunken horn-dogs and this is their way of trying to ‘change all that’?”
If you want people to know that you are a proud member of “Jalopnik Hook -n- Hose Company #27” that’s cool, but when you wear some moronic joke shirt in public, I hate to tell you but everyone already gets the joke. You’re the joke.
Think “Am I REALLY promoting the brotherhood of the fire service and showing off my commitment to it in the best way by wearing a T-shirt that has the word “Brotherhood” across the back from shoulder to shoulder, probably with a skeleton underneath rushing out you wielding two flaming axes.” Look, I’m not against wearing a T-shirt with a wild design if it has some real personal meaning for you, but I hope that my commitment to the brotherhood of my profession is shown through my actions, not some words silkscreened onto cotton.
(Please note that my own shift logo features a skeleton holding an axe so I mean this as no insult to anyone in the skeleton community.)
Personally, I usually wear a polo shirt or a button-down shirt, sometimes with an embroidered logo of an agency that I’ve taught for, or am affiliated with. It can be a great conversation starter when speaking with other conference attendees. Part of the point of going to conferences is meeting and learning from new people and yes, “flying your colors” can be a good excuse for someone to introduce themselves to you, or for you to say hi to them.”Hey, I know that class, organization, and/or institution of learning! Do you know so-and-so? I remember when he and I made fun of some dope in a ‘Co-Ed Naked EMS’ t-shirt at a conference years ago. Fun times.”
Since I’ve already gone on longer than I intended just about shirts I will wrap this up with a quick note on pants. Yes. Definitely wear some.*
Also, comfortable shoes. Never underestimate the importance of really comfortable shoes.
(*Except at Fire Conferences. There you can wear a kilt. But only at Fire Conferences, or if you are Kelly Grayson.)