Watching The Wheels

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Why is Dressing Down the New Dressing Up? by Steve Amoia and Andrew T. Durham

Even as something as monumental as the twilight of the American way of life stares us all in the face, some time should be spent on the arguably trivial point of the way we dress ourselves. It has been said "The clothing makes the man". Well, that may be. But today the man makes the clothing...or males, anyway. More, they design it. The point is that, coupled with the complete lack of common courtesy, common decency and common sense in this waning culture, the "insult to injury" shows itself in what we can now call our National Dishevelment.

Not too long ago the unshaven look became the norm. Now, multiple face piercings are a plus in some industries (albeit not in the industries involving electrical work). The simple civility of showing respect to others by respecting your appearance - which has been replaced by so-called "fashion" - has been lost. Apparently the need has arisen for our populace to express themselves by how closely they can mimic the homeless.

Have you ever see those old newsreels of American baseball games? All of the spectators were dressed to the nines. Compare that to what we see today. People don't respect themselves in the same way. It is as if they go to great strides to dress down, sloppily, or to follow the latest fashion trends by someone in Milan or Paris. Who then changes their minds next year to tell us what is now in fashion. As Forrest Gump might have said, "Shallow is as shallow does." But designers cater to an appetite to conform. Even in the most self-absorbed place on earth: North America. If a famous fashion designer said, "Men should wear Fedoras, and women should wear white gloves," guess what we would see on the streets on America? Rugged individualism, aka "The Marlboro Man," has yielded to robotic conformity based upon the judgment of strangers.

Adults Who Dress Like Children

For example, adult men wearing baseball caps backwards and indoors, failure to comb their hair properly, and wearing dress shirts outside of their trousers. Adult women showing inappropriate bare skin, undergarments, tattoos in an office setting or in public. And we will politely dance around those with enormous (as the British would say) "sit-upons" crammed into tight jeans. In the United States, there is a general lack of respect and civility for other people. We convey that by how we dress. Sadly, the standard has declined in massive proportions. "There is no more civility in this society." Coach Joe Paterno on "The Charlie Rose Show." That is so true in so many ways. And never.....EVER...complement someone on how they look. The severe irony of this is that they will say "What do you mean by that?". Which means two things: a) they know they look ridiculous and b) you're headed for a harassment suit, pick the category.

Why Has Prison Culture Gone Mainstream?

Andrew was walking down the street recently, and a police officer was talking to a rookie, explaining the real reason why young men wear their pants halfway down. Such a display is a prison code, which means a willingness to engage in a certain activity. Andrew - unable to let this go - stopped and said how pleased he was that someone knew the real reason for that behavior. But why was the behavior adopted and subsequently accepted in the first place? The same with torn jeans, dirty sweat pants (and don't get us started on the backward baseball cap) that used to be associated with personal shame and lack of communal respect are now common fare in public. Is Sunday "best" even a viable option any further? No, because anything related to Sunday has been rendered filth by the ACLU. And, as we all know, they run Newspeak.

Tattoos in Suburbia

It seems that if you don't have a tattoo, or "body art,"' it is the exception. Suburban women, with kids in tow, have a new acceptable fashion statement: The "tramp stamp." Or images sketched on their bare shoulders. What message does that send to their children? Add low rise jeans that leave nothing to the imagination, along with blouses that are not tucked in. Perhaps in strict Islamic societies, women cover themselves because they understand that certain things are not for the whole world to see. But in North America, what used to be acceptable at the beach is now seen routinely in offices or the local shopping malls. What was de rigueur in red light districts is now as common as a barber shop on Main Street.

Flip Flops at the White House

In 2005, a group of college students from Northwestern University's womens championship lacrosse team went to the White House. In a photograph that was widely circulated, many were wearing flip flops. Parents spend thousands of dollars on college tuition so that their children can attend a "good school," but is it too much trouble to teach them to show the President of the United States a modicum of respect? Were it 10 years earlier, it was apparent that clothing was optional in the Oval Office, however.

In a recent photo by the Politico, Congressional staffers were seen changing their flip flops before entering the Longworth House Office Building. "Robert Primus has a pet peeve he is reminded of between May and September. 'I actually have a problem with how most offices dress or how they allow their offices to dress,' said Primus, chief of staff for Rep. Michael E. Capuano (D-Mass.). 'I don't care if it's summertime or not. I always say that staff should not look like tourists' he added."

The Workplace

Work is not a playground or an extension of our homes. Despite those who receive constant calls for personal matters, or who bring their private lives into full public view. It is curious to watch shows such as "Mad Men" to see what was an acceptable dress code back in the 1960s compared to now. If you walk into a McDonald's, you will see the staff dressed very neatly and with ties in many cases. It sends the message that they have self-respect, along with a high regard for their customers. Despite earning minimum wage, they display a much higher standard than we see in "Casual Corporate America." Because wouldn't we expect jeans, tee shirts, and flip flops at the most famous fast food restaurant in the world? They don't have to sell us anything except the food, but they go the extra mile. But, alas, this is not consistent in all McDonald's. Nor is the quality of the food. What you're selling should be reflected by the people selling it, should it not?

Is it too much to ask outside of McDonald's? Is that too much to ask in an era of political correctness and the suffocation of values for the simple tapestry of appearing with genuine character to our fellows to have at least some meaning?

"The difference between style and fashion is quality." - Giorgio Armani

"I dress for the image. Not for myself, not for the public, not for fashion, not for men." - Marlene Dietrich

"Got to be good looking ‘cause he's so hard to see.." - Lennon/McCartney

"I see that the fashion wears out more apparel than the man." - William Shakespeare

"A fashion is nothing but an induced epidemic." - George Bernard Shaw

But let us close (clothes?) this erudite commentary with the eternal Dante:

"When I had journeyed half of our life's way, I found myself within a shadowed forest, for I had lost the path that does not stray. Ah, it is hard to speak of what it was, that savage forest dense and difficult, which even in recall renews my fear: so bitter - death is hardly more severe! But to retell the good discovered there, I'll also tell of other things I saw." - Dante's Inferno, Canto I.

Dante had no idea. He didn't have to walk behind some people. And McDonald's was but a dream.

Steve Amoiai's website is; Andrew T. Durham's is

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