More of the race to the bottom in America. This time regarding: "Dressing for Downtown"
Before I write this story, I have to offer a disclaimer: Some who read post this may be quick to label me as writing from a self righteous, conservative, or "elitist" position. Such statements would be rather prejudiced because I am none of the above.. Instead, I hope that many will be open enough to receive and consider the thoughts articulated here and accept them as the "constructive criticism" they are meant to be.. Often by rejecting information that could possibly improve something in our lives, such as our health or well being, we remain stagnant or chose to sit on our laurels. Many of us these days seem to have an allergy to information that challenges the status quo, which just may be a better alternative IF given the chance. The following story is solely a product of personal expereience and is not intended to belittle anyone who simply cannot afford any other alternative.
Now the story....
Once upon a time, a venture downtown in any typical American city or town, large or small, had most folks dressing tastefully and with quality. Whether you were shopping, working, out for a night of dinner and the theater, or simply taking care of some personal business, these activities were considered important enough to look one's best and this was reflected in one's choice of outerwear..
As I look at old post cards or photos of downtown scenes where people can be seen taking part in all of the above, I notice how people in the photos were dressed: in the tasteful attire of the everyday folks. Personally I do not interpret their "dressing-up", as many seem to do today, as being about superficial vanity. Rather, I see it as making an effort to exude some basic self- respect and dignity--and, as an opportunity to engage in and honor important or special experiences. One might note that indigenous peoples of the world throughout history, those once thought to be "savage" by Western cultures, often dress most artfully on a daily basis, and do so especially when the occasion warrants it.
Downtowns that feature historic places and buildings and iconic attractions seemed to be peopled with those who dressed in such a way that even paid compliment or respect to the historical or important significances of a downtown. Whether intentional or not, it was what it was. While there are still many who make the effort to "dress up" when going downtown-such as professionals who work downtown on a daily basis or those going out for a special night on the town, I witness a disturbing trend that sees many many more doing the complete opposite.
Let's go to Downtown Cleveland....
Let's examine a typical local Cleveland scene. Often mistakenly described by apologists who may have never been exposed to any other example as "casual" or "trendy", the outfits paraded around downtown these days are really nothing more than the product of downright laziness, sloppiness, and a lack of effort. Heck, even the poor bums I noticed in those old photos and post cards exude more respectful dress than what can be witnessed in most people in downtown Cleveland today! The scene can only be described as sad, sick, pathetic, and even boring, especially on Saturday when you see all the Wal-Mart...or, excuse me.. Casino goers. The project that was supposed to add so much to our fair city and downtown area!
Some of the attire I have seen would not even be suitable for working under a car or doing sweaty dirty yardwork! Here is the sample scene: Men, typically between the ages of 18 to 35 (but not limited to that age group) wearing the typical "AMERICAN UNIFORM" of dirty tennis shoes, ripped blue jeans and a tucked in tee shirt. This serves to accent their often large pot bellies and is topped off with a baseball cap to round out this most cheerful attire. Not pretty..
Other guys wear pants that are falling off- exposing their rear ends as though all of us asked to see their underwear and more... The pants are so baggy that those who wear them cannot walk properly; instead they waddle and resemble clowns in a circus or perhaps a youngster who has made poo-poo in his pants.
On the other hand we see women in generally the same age range, wearing slippers and sweat pants, or even pajamas in broad daylight. Indeed, they are scenes that more resemble attire for a tractor pull, camping trip, yard work, etc. It is a phenomenon that may be more pervasive in some regions than others, but it can certainly be seen all over Cleveland and all across the United States, I would imagine.
What the hell happened to dress standards?
Having said this-and as I am not here to just pick on our locals in America, I must pose the following questions: Where is the dress standard anymore? Is there a standard? What in the hell happened to standards at all? Have people become so used to operating so far UNDER an average tasteful dress standard, or with NONE at all, that they they actually have become conditioned to believe that making an effort to look nice is elite, superficial, or snobby? Or worse, what if they consider what they are doing to be a decent, if not their best effort? If so, how sad that we have sunk this low to interpret what is and has been an average standard--or everyday thing--to be high society!
Come on guys, you are going out on a pre-planned date downtown for dinner in a rather nice setting with your partner and the best you can do is wear dirty jeans and a tee shirt-or those baggy crap catchers? I would simply not allow this to cross the threshold of a nice restaurant--and it is too bad for those proprieters who have permitted it--that they have allowed crap to set the example for fear of losing business.
Jeans and Tees can be nice too!...
Hey, don't get me wrong, I love a great summer tee shirt as much as anyone. I love a quality one, one that will last, not the $1.99 undershirts they pass off as dress tees! And, I even love a nice pair of comfortable jeans. Such clothing can indeed look nice if it is taken care of and of quality. However, this is not the case with what I witness people wearing downtown inwhat looks to be like clothing unfit for even the homeless! It leaves me to wonder if some believe that tee shirts, jeans, and tennis shoes are the "one suit fits all" solution to pesky wardrobe problems- a "no-brainer" choice suitable for all people and all occasions.
Discover what you had been missing!....
Many do not know what they are missing to invest, little by little, in a quality wardrobe to discover the joy and fun in artful, clean, and just tasteful dressing, or how easy it can be. They seem to be conditioned to believe common myths like "It costs too much" or "It is too much time or effort" In terms of cost, if we look to days gone by, people generally had less clothing, but it was better quality and what they had they took care of. IN contrast to today where we have a glut of cheaply made clothing that is ready for the donation box in a few months, leaving us the task to go out and spend more money on more throw aways. Add up the costs over time and this is not so economical afterall--NOR is it good for the environment to keep extracting resources to make more short life clothing.
Their are also health benefits of this investment and effort. I used to be going down the path of all I am criticizing in this article. Then it dawned on me one day how NO ONE seems to be making an effort to clean up a little anymore. I discovered the joy and feeling of wearing clothing that is well fitted and made of material that feels great on the skin. My moods changed, I simply felt better physically. I even felt more confident in my work and more respected by customers. So in summary, you could say that a more quality wardrobe has economic, social and environmental benefits!
I hope for change.....
When I am downtown Cleveland, the status in dress in so many individuals seems to be getting worse. Same old same old as I described at the top-outnumbering those who actually make an effort anymore-some seven to three! The filthy tennis shoes thing really has me shaking my head in disappointment. I have to wonder if the shoe shine guy makes money anymore. I often think about how--if more people learned about re-discovering the benefits of artful dressing--especially when going downtown--how it would result in creating a more positive energy, a friendlier and healthier populace of which Cleveland can be proud! It would be interesting to expereiemtnt in this idea alone.
Downtown has plenty of independent clothing stores from which to chose to make the discovery. For me, it is not "dressing-up". I become annoyed when I hear people say to me with surprise... "Oh, you're all dressed up today" I tell them that I am NOT dressed up....its just how I dress...and its actually very average. The ordinary has now become the extraordinary so it seems to so many. And so I hope that through the efforts of people like Mike Lang and Cynthia Lundeen, two local champions of artful dress, more and more people can discover the fun, joy, and happiness which can be found in the art of dressing for downtown once again!
I would now like to share sentiments on this topic from a guest who has also noticed the downtrodden state of the way so many of us are dressing these days......
We've all heard the expression: "All dressed up and nowhere to go." but do we really need a special occasion or destination to feel motivated to look our best? Many people have jobs that require them to dress up and look nice and most likely they are in the habit of maintaining a look that is "pulled together"- nice haircut, decent shoes, flattering, well-cared for clothing. But what about the rest of us? Can and has "casual, anything goes" dressing gone to far?
A look into an old t.v. show or photograph from the 1950's would reveal a populace that looked quite dapper and chic on a regular basis, whether doing the weekly grocery shopping, running errands, walking the dog, even gardening or putting out the trash. Does how we dress affect how we feel and how we behave individually and collectively as a society? I think we have all experienced the difference in feeling of being caught off guard at one's worst when people stop by the house unannounced vs. the feeling you get when you've just left the barber shop or hair and nail salon or are wearing your new or best dress or suit.
When we spend our daily lives feeling that there is no good reason to dress up, what does that say about how we feel about ourselves and our lives? It's not that outward appearance is everything, but it certainly is something. When we show respect for ourselves, we also show respect for others and our community, as if saying: "This is my life. My life is an event worth dressing up for. You are my neighbor, or my husband, my wife or my child and I respect you and want you to see me in my light, the same way I enjoy seeing you.."
Stay tuned for information on more you can learn about dressing for downtown right here in this post!