jangojips has been posting up a storm of quality lately (seriously, set your Tumblrs to “follow”), and this one stirred up a little debate.
You can get away with a lot when it comes to wearing clothing out in the field, but I think that I have to side with Colleen on this. When I was a field tech, I tended to focus on the “cheap” strategy of dressing. I figured that my clothes would be unusable as anything other than field clothes after a project, so why bother spending money on them? Better, I reasoned, to stock up on more from the local used clothing store when they were destroyed.
Then, I ended up working on an Army installation for a couple of months. On that crew were people who had formerly served in the forces. They turned me on to the joys of functional clothing. Fieldwork was a lot more enjoyable (say… even doable) when I wore pants that would quickly dry after walking through a wetland and had pockets that could hold a field notebook.
So functional is the ultimate key to field clothes, but functional can take many forms. Everybody on the crew has their own field uniform and they’re all more or less functional. I’ve found they can be loosely divided into three groups: adventurer, farmer/construction, and second-hand college student. All three have a range of looking nice to looking beat up, but generally those that fall within the last group look a little rougher.
For someone on the field crew, appearance doesn’t matter as much as if you were in a meeting with a client. The demands of the job see to that. You’ll be sweaty, muddy, stink, and probably have a poison ivy rash someplace. Everyone understands this and any dress/cleanliness standards are much relaxed. There still are standards that will hopefully never be totally abandoned, but some things are given a bye.
People react well to others who present themselves well. If you watch the crew, if you really pay attention, you’ll see that this is true within the crew itself.
My favorite thing about doing CRM field archaeology is that, essentially, appearances don’t matter. There are rules, of course. We have to wear appropriate clothing for our work, and we have to follow guidelines and codes about what is adequate and what is not. What I mean when I say appearances…
Oh, but clothing does matter. As archaeologists and experts in the field of material culture, we should be aware of the co-constructed nature of clothing and self-expression. More so, as a site photographer and supervisor I much prefer people to appear at least mildly capable of grooming themselves in the photographs that we take to present our work professionally. I think you’ll find as you get more experience that it actually is not that hard to appear in pretty good repair, even wearing a pair of pants that have been sewn together more times than you can count. Of course, I always admired one of the girls I worked with that could keep her manicure nice even while working harder than everyone. That’s skill.