Just now, while soaking up the sun & looking for novelty on a full two-hour walkabout through UTC (San Diego's main financial district & one of its main shopping & residential districts), I tasted one of those most savory shocked by commonplace perspectivist moments upon observing: We all dress the same! How bizarre! How inefficient!
At that very moment of insight, I was wearing yellow shorts, a long blue cotton shirt, tennis shoes...the folks nearest me were wearing semi-power suits (with and without skirts)...and the guys across the street were in hardhats & thick leather accoutrements. But you surely see my point. The same. So little information.
Were the suits stockbrokers? Financial analysts? Management consultants? Was one of them a lawyer? A client? (Maybe a guy who owns a plastics company, or a classical music composer, or an Internet entrepreneur.) I could rule out only the smallest sliver of possibilities: dentists, cops, circus performers, trial judges -- if they were working today.
I forgot to tell you that UTC is also a big medical district -- and maybe that's what pushed me to notice the shocking uniformity of most other 'uniforms'.
You know what would be great? 'Uniforms' indicating preferred social roles! "Today, I feel like helping people out as a confident local; I'm wearing the red shirt!" "I'm kind of a jerk on Wednesdays; better wear black." "Ever since I got with this consultative sales program, new customers have really respected my purple lace."
"Jim, it looks like we're gonna need you after all on that yellow team for a couple months. Can you try this on for size?"
I do see some real correlation between how individual professionals dress for work & personality...but there's not nearly as much as I would predict from an armchair on Mars. Why?
Why is modern common attire so shockingly uninformative?
Because that's just your narrow view! You're ignoring the huge linguistic variety outside your little sanitized worlds blah blah blah PBS blah NPR...
Okay, well, fine, you're right that almost every American is 'mainstream' in this way today -- but there's no real reason to expect otherwise. People aren't built to perceive & signal any more valuable information through clothing choices.
Because people would misuse any finer distinctions, in that the communication would be unreliable. (Just like how all those fake dentists & clowns mislead us? Heh.)
Single simple hierarchies are most natural to our minds, so there will always be a generic upper middle class uniform & most everything logically follows from that. Every additional nuance -- every parallel ordering along more axes -- costs us somehow.
There's no bottom-up way to build a common lexicon. (But, I've heard that hip-hop/gang style elements convey specific meanings.) (But, even using the Internet, I can't figure out what a '13' tattoo means despite its long-ago Offspring hit reference!)
Adults tend to avoid stereotype-type information through dress (beyond degrees of 'respectable' (but why this single universal exception?)), so that we can relate most uniquely as individuals.
Adults like to conceal stereotype-type information through dress (beyond degrees of 'respectable'), so that we can be (or pretend to be) anything to anyone if it looks profitable.
Because govt regulation is causing this. Maybe it's all ripple effects from "Shoes & Shirts Required" at the post office.
There are two kinds of people in the world: People who trumpet their own personalities within various job roles, and those who carefully selectively reveal. One side dominates. (If so, why? Why aren't we at a more balanced equilibrium?)
I find it somewhat unsettling that it's so easy for me (as an econ-savvy anarcho-libertarian et cetera) to 'expect' our zillions of individual free choices to produce more valuable diversity than I see in the actual world. If people don't even truly choose enough to use clothing to meaningfully present themselves, then how has the auto insurance market gotten so impressively efficient?? There are some unresolved tensions in my worldmodel. Relatedly, here's an interesting thread on the ways in which the world's big trading companies produce (or fail to) the conditions of the EMH (efficient market hypothesis).