Of course what’s on the inside is what matters for our sense of character, but also? – what’s on the outside counts and we should all dress for the occasion. People make assumptions about how we present ourselves – the way we speak, the way we walk, sit, drive, sneeze and treat waiters. Most of these things shouldn’t matter (except treating waiters well definitely matters) but it’s unavoidable. So sometimes some effort is needed to put your best foot forward. Making such an effort shows respect for others and respect for ourselves. So on the clothing front, in a post-panedemic world, aren’t we all realizing we feel just a bit better putting some effort in to put our best feet forward?
Seriously – what ever happened to class? Hey, I’m all about comfort in clothing. But must we be a “basketball shorts and leggings and t-shirt society” ubiquitously and constantly? C’mon, America! Being the land of jeans and t-shirts can be very sexy and need not be merely the land of Under Armour schlumpy everything. Let’s bump it up a bit, can we? I’m not saying we need to spend, not by a long haul. But being a slight bit more discerning and dressing up to show self-respect and occasionally so simply recognized that today is a different/special/celebratory day from others…that’s the lesson I’m trying to impart on my kiddos.
Growing up, my mom drilled into my head three categories of clothing:
Play clothes were drab and holey. I wasn’t a “hole in the knees” kinda kid.
Church clothes? Forget about it. Too tight, too stiff and with polyester socks that were scratchy and made my feet sweat. (Gimme a sensible white cotton tube sock any and every day.)
School clothes were the best – no holes in the knees or uncomfortable polyester blends. In first grade, every single Friday I wanted to wear my “shiny shirt” and cowboy boots. I loved my shiny shirt – a blue and brown plaid with sparkly gold thread and the right polyester blend to make it slick like silk. I felt so badass in that cowboy shiny shirt. And the boots? Fugghedaboutit. I had new cowboy boots each year from kindergarten to third grade. Always aiming for a little bit of color design trim and a little heel to make me feel just a titch above all the rest. I felt awesome walking my suburban route to school and hearing the heels pounding the sidewalks.
Given the choice, I’d have dressed for the occasion (every occasion) in my shiny shirt and cowboy boots every single day.
But then – they wouldn’t have felt special.
And dressing for the occasion to make things feel special makes life, well…special.
I’ve dropped my mom’s notions of “play” clothes. Let’s just have all of life be play, can we? School and play clothes are one in the same. Let’s not over-think or be too precious. (Admittedly, I try to draw the line at sweatpants. Have some dignity, kids! But they have no dignity. They’re happy to get their STEM on while dressed like Rocky.)
The “nice” clothes are the challenge. They never want to dress beyond t-shirts and sweatshirts. But I insist: holidays and special events are to be treated as something special, something fancy. We need to mark the occasion with a little extra effort. Holidays are not just another day, nor are special events. Effort is important – it adds to mystique, memories, appreciation and “specialness”.
To dress for the occasion with a teensy amount of effort is part of the ritual and it helps us distinguish hum-drum every day from special occasions.
While I think American society has dropped a lot of unnecessary formality, we’ve also relaxed into far too much informality.
While I definitely teach my kids NOT to worry about superficialities, how people dress and that what’s important is on the inside, there’s also a lot to be said for putting pride in your outward appearance and making an effort.
Pulling outward appearance together at the appropriate time shows self-respect and reverence for the occasion. (Not to mention displaying that you do, indeed, care about how you look.)
And just like the principle that others can’t love you until you love yourself, the principle goes for self-respect and dignity. Present yourself as someone who takes themselves seriously, recognizes an occasion and brings their best self, people will treat you with more dignity and respect.
So yes, kids, go back up and try again. Take off the stained shirt and no, you won’t be wearing basketball shorts or sweats to Thanksgiving dinner. Today you dress for the occasion.
Someone worked way too damn hard on their stuffing for you to show up looking like you don’t give two shits.
To indulge my curmudgeonly “nobody got no class…”