Sunday, April 11, 2010
Dressing Up And Doing The Town
I spent part of last night watching old baseball footage from the 1950's, the supposed Golden Era of baseball. That is was a "golden era" is a myth but then again history has been aptly defined as nothing more than one damn lie after another. I noted with amusement the fan attire of the time. But it is more than amusement. I think the way people dress says something about the way we perceive ourselves in other people's eyes and the kind of respect we demand from others. I remember watching the Montreal Canadiens in the 1960's. It seemed that every fan at the Forum was The Man in The Grey Flannel Suit. Men wore suits to sporting events. It was almost like going to church. This social stricture started to change sometime around 1969. Maybe it was the Vietnam War and the social upheaval it wrought at home. I am not smart enough to figure that out but I am not dumb enough not to realize that there was almost a revolution in the way people related to one another and the language they chose to express it through was clothing. The way we dress conveys a very important message: act the way I dress. If someone sees you dressed in a suit, they will instinctively treat you differently than if you were wearing flip flops and shorts. And the reverse is true. People will expect you to treat them differently if you are dressed well. Dress is a very accurate barometer of the type of civil discourse we expect of ourselves and others. I am no prude but I think the old way had something to say for itself. When I was a kid in the 60's it was almost unheard of to hear people cursing in public. Now coarse language is so commonplace that it is accepted. Check out this song by Marty Robbins and I think you will get the idea.
I think it all started in 1942. The army issued standard white sleeved t shirts to all recruits. They were used to wearing the sleeveless "wifebeaters" that their fathers wore under their shirts. Wearing such a shirt in public back then was quite declasse. Remember Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire. The name wifebeater did not come about by accident. After the war, these shirts became popular as a stand alone accessory thanks to James Dean, who did for the industry what Lauren Bacall did for women lighting up. And then it was all downhill from there. Call it what you will. Democracy. Egalitarianism. The end result has been a coarsening of our civil discourse. I know a strong case can be made that there have certainly been some notable and quite impressive exceptions to this trend:
But nevertheless, I say there is something to be said for getting "all dressed up and doing the town" the old fashioned way. So put on your best suit, shine your shoes, and go out and show your friends the respect they deserve and hopefully they will show you the same!