Wednesday, June 08, 2005


The casual generation: it's time for a change!

Confession time: I wasn't always the most obedient or cheerful son. I caused my parents more grief than I ought to have done. One situation that often provoked me to disobedience was getting "dressed up" for some special occasion. I'd gotten used to my standard uniform--jeans, T-shirts, etc.--and I just didn't care to wear anything else. This was back in the late sixties and early seventies, so history makes it clear I was not alone in my rebellion against old traditions.

Well, here we are in the early twenty-first century, and I must say that my generation's small rebellion has been a tremendous success. People hardly dress up for anything any more. I've even seen people wear blue jeans or shorts to weddings and funerals! Today's philosophy seems to be "All casual, all the time!"

As I've matured, I've come to differ somewhat with this once-revolutionary orthodoxy. No, I haven't gone back to Ward Cleaver--necktie for dinner at home and all that--but for me blue jeans are just for "dirty" outdoor activities such as hiking in the park or working in the yard. The rest of the time--work, church, shopping, relaxing around the house--I'm in a business casual mode. I've come to like this style for two main reasons: (1) I feel that it's more respectful to those around me and (2) it's still comfortable. For truly special occasions, of course, I'll dress up more.

So, I've not exactly gone back to the ways of my grandparents, but I must admit that I'm getting rather nostalgic for them. Judging by old photographs, movies, and the like, I've been thinking that the old "dress for the occasion" style had a lot going for it. For one thing, it helped to enhance the occasion, to make it more special. For another, dressing for the occasion was a way of demonstrating respect for the others who were present.

Today, we just throw on pretty much the same type of clothes every day for most every occasion. Frankly, that's boring, and it can show less respect for others than we ought. Doesn't it say something when we look the same when we entertain company as we do when we mow the lawn? I'm sure that we intend no disrespect by doing so. Nowadays, being casual is one way of being yourself: a common way of showing people that you're comfortable around them. Although it would be improper for me to judge anyone's motives but my own, I would like to pose a question: given that it sends a good message to tell your family/friends/etc. that you're comfortable around them, wouldn't it send a better message if you go to the trouble to look extra-nice when you host them or visit with them?

Please don't get me wrong. I'm the last person on earth who'd like to go back to stiff collars and corsets (except for the most special of occasions, perhaps :-) ). I value my comfort as much as anyone, and would hate to see the pendulum swing so far back in the direction of formality that I can't be comfortable. Instead, I think it would be beneficial if we could strive for a balance between comfort and style. Reserve the really casual garments for truly casual situations, wear "in-between" clothing for most day-to-day stuff, and have some more formal garments on hand for special occasions. Gentlemen might consider wearing khakis, dress slacks, and collared shirts, and ladies might consider wearing nice shirts/sweaters or casual skirts/dresses more frequently. (I in no way advocate that ladies wear only skirts--there are situations when nice pants can be more modest than a skirt or dress--but it would be nice to see more ladies wear nice slacks instead of blue jeans or sweats.) I think there's all sorts of ways we could upgrade our appearance without going back to the bad old days of uncomfortable clothing.

OK, that's enough pontificating for now, but I just had to get this off my chest. Frankly, I've grown weary of seeing jeans, T-shirts, sweatshirts, and sweat pants on both men and women almost all of the time. Please excuse the pun, but it's time for a change!

Not-too-formally yours,
The (In)scrutable One

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