Male sartorial splendor:a thing of the past?
Should men today dress up as a matter of respect for others, or only to feel good about themselves?
Other than attending weddings, funerals, places of worship, or going on job interviews, wearing a suit coat and tie for any other occasion doesn't seem necessary or even appropriate anymore.
Is that a good thing or not?
In the 1930s, 40s and 50s, wearing the minimum of a dress shirt, dress pants and tie was mandatory attire when heading to the office, doctor's appointments, most family functions -- even attending sporting events.
As fashion styles have changed over the years, more often than not, it seems that dressing "down" has long replaced dressing "up" in most circles.
Work places sometimes encourage it as a morale booster. As an employee perk, Fridays are usually the official office dress "down" day. Most often, men get to come in that day in jeans, and, most certainly, they ditch a tie.
Having grown up in the 60s, I'm a little perplexed about not needing to dress "up" anymore. In some ways, I kind of miss it.
From kindergarten through eighth-grade, I wore a white dress shirt and black dress pants every day to school. In high school I added a tie, and a black cardigan sweater with the crest of a dumb Viking ship sewn to it.
Like it or not, I didn't have a choice in the matter. My parents sent me to a private school which had a dress code.
The same dress code applied when my parents took my brother and I out for dinner and to church on Sundays. A sport jacket replaced the school cardigan. That was actually a good thing.
It wasn't until going to college in the 70s that I had the freedom to dress "down" or dress however I wanted, whenever I wanted. The fashion then included longer hair, longer sideburns, fu man chu mustaches, tie-dyed and flowered shirts with longer collars, bell bottom jeans, wide belts with huge buckles, puka shell necklaces, elephant hair bracelets, mood rings, wide leather watch bands, and yes -- even shoes with high platform heels.
It was an offshoot of the peace and love music and fashion trend of Woodstock, andthe Beatles' Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. It even found its way to sports heroes like "Broadway" Joe Namath and Walt "Clyde" Frazier of New York Jets and New York Knicks fame.
That freedom lasted until I finished school in the late 70s when reality set in. It was time to start a career and find a real job. Dressing to "impress" seemed to be the new catch phrase -- at least on job interviews and first dates.
Throughout the 1980s and most of the 90s, I worked as a journalist and community relations specialist. Out of respect, having a professional appearance and dressing appropriately was important, whether interacting with news sources, families or the general public.
That nearly always meant returning to wearing the minimum of a dress shirt and tie.
In America, who we are, and what, when, where, why, and how we choose to dress like we do, is part of the freedom we enjoy as individuals in an open society.
At the same time, fashion choices are trendy. Most trends change over time, one person at a time, through successful marketing and advertising.
Ultimately, every person has the ability to buck trends. Doing so requires being comfortable in your own skin, and having the willingness to change without concern for how you'll be accepted.
As the late great Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde famously said, "If I am occasionally a little over-dressed, I make up for it by being always immensely over-educated."
The author lives in Brookville and is employed by Early Learning Resource Center at NW Institute of Research in Erie. He can be reached at email@example.com