I work in a tiny startup, digital marketing agency in India. I've always lived a very simple life. My way of life style is still very much influenced by the way it was in my childhood.

The thing is, I don't wear t-shirts and jeans. At office and outside, I wear formals. At home, shirt and pajama.

Now it might seem that I can try a t-shirt, but for now, I just don't like wearing it. For me, it's just like a man who always wears t-shirt and jeans and suddenly one day starts wearing Indian traditional clothes OR a girl who don't use much makeup and suddenly starts using a lot of makeup to impress people even when it makes her look little weird as compared to her way of lifestyle.

Personally, I don't miss wearing a t-shirt. I've tried wearing a t-shirt a few times but I didn't like it much. I just don't need it for now. I'm happy with what I wear currently.

The startup is planning a video shoot (that will be published and shared online, on Instagram/Facebook for example), and I've been asked to wear a company branded t-shirt for it. I'm not at all ready to wear a t-shirt.

I fear everyone who knows me, and probably who doesn't, will laugh at me when I wear the t-shirt. I'm thin and don't look good in t-shirts. I'm not afraid of just being trolled, I can handle it. It's just a question of my self-respect. The video will be shared on Instagram, Facebook etc. and some friends are always ready to make memes of it. I don't want myself in it. It might seem just a day, but it's something that will affect me every day. To be honest, if it happened, I won't be able to remove this thing from my daily thoughts.

My boss and I are respectful to each other. Everyone is satisfied with my work. The video shoot isn't optional, I have to be there, and I've been told to wear the t-shirt. I will not wear it unless it's a necessity for my work and life.

I want to have a conversation with my boss about my feelings on this. I haven't told them anything yet, but I'm not sure yet exactly how to say the things mentioned above without being rude.

So, how do I explain this to them without hurting our feelings?

  • 2
    Is this a sort of uniform company T-shirt that everyone will be wearing for the video, or a specific shirt that you personally have been singled out to wear? May 28, 2019 at 16:11
  • Yes, it is a team t shirt, that is yet to be printed (tomorrow).
    – Vikas
    May 28, 2019 at 16:13
  • Please don’t write answers in comments. It bypasses our quality measures by not having voting (both up and down) available, as well as other problems detailed on meta. Comments are for clarifying and improving the question; please don’t use them for other purposes. If you have an answer in mind, please take a look at our citation expectations before posting.
    – Em C
    Jun 4, 2019 at 17:38
  • How long is the video? Are you going to be a focal point, talking? Or just sitting in the background and "working"? Jun 4, 2019 at 17:41
  • I'll be in focus for 2-3 seconds in a 1-2 minute video. 2-3 more shots but not in complete focus.
    – Vikas
    Jun 5, 2019 at 7:46

2 Answers 2


You don't. Its a uniform (even if temporary). You don't need to like it. It's something that you need to do as part of your job, whether or not you like it.

Sometimes self respect isn't about having your own way - it's about also looking around you and the people around you, and deciding which set of compromises work best.

I fear everyone who knows me, and probably who doesn't, will laugh at me when I wear the t-shirt. I'm thin and don't look good in t-shirts.

Self respect is also owning the situations you don't feel comfortable in. No one's going to laugh at you, and if they do, it's them being immature, not you.

Sometimes you just do it - I've been in the inverse situation, where I've been asked to dress more formally than I am comfortable with. Sometimes it's reasonable - I once had to wear a corporate uniform that looked like a low rent John Wick, othertimes not - when I was asked to wear long sleeves on a desktop support job (I attempted to negotiate, decided the job wasn't worth it and quit).

As a one off thing though, its a compromise worth thinking about.

By doing it you're in a stronger position to talk to your boss about not doing it in future - if you still feel that way. You've done it, it causes you a lot of discomfort, and it dosen't reflect you as part of the company. I mean, you can do that now - but that's likely to cause some friction unless you have a super cool boss.

  • The thing is t-shirt is too unfit to me, and if it were fitted according to my measurements, it won't be a t-shirt any more. I understand the examples you gave about you. Wearing long sleeves, more formally is a different thing when compared to my shape, situation and lifestyle. More formally means at some time you wore formals. I'm not arguing here, I just want to make you understand that it's really annoying. I don't see a big outcome of me wearing a t-shirt. Even if I quit from video, there won't be much gap.
    – Vikas
    May 29, 2019 at 15:13
  • But if I do it, it'll cause unnecessary trouble for me which I can't handle easily. The things you wrote about self respect are fine, but as I initially wrote in my question details, I'm improving and have improved a lot since my school days.
    – Vikas
    May 29, 2019 at 15:13
  • At last I don't want myself be a part of a video that I'll see every day/week and me feeling upset in it.
    – Vikas
    May 29, 2019 at 15:14
  • See image here: images-cdn.9gag.com/photo/aLQG6X6_700b.jpg The outcome would be just like the outcome of that text on his t-shirt. They guy doesn't look ugly to me here, but it's unfit generally.
    – Vikas
    May 29, 2019 at 15:18
  • 3
    Even though the answer is good in the context of SE.Workplace and the OP knows it. Maybe the expected answer is about what to say to the boss, instead to accept the situation.
    – Santiago
    May 29, 2019 at 21:46

I had an experience a couple decades ago that was pretty similar to this. My issue wasn't the t-shirt; I'm skinny, too, but I grew up wearing t-shirts, so I'm used to wearing them. But the jeans were my issue.

My approach was to just ask my boss,

How important is it that I wear jeans for this thing? I don't own any, and I'd rather not buy a pair just for this picture.

In my case, it turned out it wasn't that important - they just wanted a casual look, and were only familiar with dress pants and jeans, not realizing that there's a plethora of casual non-jean options. An Indian coworker happened to be by me at the time, looking to ask your question, and he then followed my lead, and asked,

How important is it that I wear a t-shirt for this thing? I've never worn a t-shirt, I don't have any. Do I need to buy one just for this?

His answer was a little less satisfactory. While he was allowed to not wear a t-shirt to the event... about a month later they gave free t-shirts to everyone with the company logo on them, and he was told he'd need to wear that free t-shirt for a later picture shoot we were doing, where we would all be wearing those free t-shirts.

I don't have any better advice, but I have seen a number of other people try various other ways to get out of wearing the requested casual clothing to various company picture shoots, and none of the other ways I've seen have had the complete lack of company social fallout that my approach had.

I'll specifically note that one guy just not showing up was counted as a no call no show. That didn't sound like something that was legit to me, but it was unclear if they would've really pushed it, since he didn't have any others in that two-week period.

Also, the coworkers I had who just chose to ignore the dress code were nettled about it for months. They collectively didn't dress significantly different than the composite of myself and the Indian I mentioned above, apart from wearing a cotton long sleeve shirt instead of a silk shirt, but it was clear management wasn't happy with them.

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