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Dressing like a retard isn't impressing anyone… There was a post at 2 Blowhards contrasting the formality of dress for pre-Baby Boom generations and today.  Because I hate the modern fashion of men dressing like they are eleven years old, I wanted to make a few comments on behalf of people putting a tiny bit more effort into their appearances.

 

If you need to dress like a young boy well into your 30s and 40s because you are psychologically crippled or otherwise unable to shrug off adolescent immaturity, that's fine, but at least have the decency to acknowledge this as a weakness of character.

 

There are really two components to the problem of male apparel (we are almost exclusively talking about men; women of better than working class are not this degenerate), one is the relaxation of standards for professionalism in business and the other is the utter squalor of indiscipline and childishness among people who today assume the privileges of adults.

 

The disappearance of professionalism is reflected by the boy-men who staff and, increasingly, run modern American businesses.  These people hate formality and do everything they can to undermine it, so the adoption of business casual throughout society is actually the least of their malign effects.  When you hear of corporate officers like Steve Ballmer carrying on like a genetically devolved madman before his own employees, or Steve Jobs preening like a narcissistic sociopath at a corporate cult gathering, or Larry Ellison buying yet another grotesquely expensive toy, you are seeing the modern boy-man of the corporate world in action.  He leads by example, and the example is one of endless self-indulgence, petulance, and ego (what egos they have).  Lacking restraint, and observing in formal dress nothing but restraints, he does away with the old white collar dress code of coat and tie.  In its place is the new look:  business casual, the world of beige slacks and ill-fitting shirts, a look that says, "I'm saving a lot of effort by wearing these clothes."

 

Swell

 

The corporate boy-man is expert at making ambiguous and vague what was once clear and purposeful.  Although he still demands absolute obedience to management (and is constantly discovering new humiliations for his employees to endure as part of this), he also encourages the erosion of boundaries and customs that normally define the social hierarchy.  Putting everyone into status-less "business casual" attire is an important step in this, as are "everyone in a cube" office layouts and those departmental socials at which you are supposed to fraternize as much as political correctness allows with everyone above, alongside, and below you as if you are all step-brothers.  Friendly is the new professional, but the friendliness is so shallow and debased by the demands of submissiveness that it just makes one feel more inhuman than ever.

 

Not surprisingly, behind the fake corporate friendliness lurks a callous indifference.  It is a culture built on lack of respect, hence the childish costumes it prefers.  Of course, it will be confidently announced by idiots that respecting someone for how they dress is superficial and anyway frequently wrong.  (As illustrated in the Whit Stillman movie Metropolitan, customs are most often assaulted by the immature and the unimaginative.)  We are supposed to look past the unkempt outward form and peer into the souls of our peers.  At any rate this gets the vector of respectfulness backwards -- it is a show of respect for others to make your appearance fine.

 

(The claim that one cannot be comfortable while dressed to a higher standard than jeans and a polo shirt is sometimes used to defend the horribly banal business casual look, by people whose two cheap suits were tailored to their expanding bodies many waist sizes ago.  Since half of even the most formal type of business apparel is simply pants and a shirt, they must be complaining about either the jacket or the tie.  It's hard to believe the jacket is the problem, and the feeling of a collar around one's neck is no more restrictive or uncomfortable than a belt around one's waist -- like most things done for decorum it is quickly gotten used to even by children.)

 

Whereas the new business casual costume works to eliminate concepts of professionalism and mutual respect, the other component to this sartorial problem affects private character.  Outside the business arena standards of attire have plummeted to what must be, barring some universal adoption of nightshirts and thonged underwear in all settings, the nadir of human apparel since the loin cloth.

 

One cannot fail to notice that here too the slovenliness of his dress is the least of the contemporary male's behavioral issues.  His appreciation of female sexuality seldom rises above sniggering at women's fake tits, his tastes in art and entertainment have not changed appreciably since he was a teenager (and they were bad then), and his consumption habits have turned him into a reverse portrait of Dorian Gray -- somewhere there is a painting of him getting slimmer and more elegant.

 

But his dress is the outward sign that you notice whether you know everything or nothing about him; it is, again, an indication of his concern over what anyone thinks about him.  Why would anyone care what others think?  For an American, this is tantamount to servility, allowing others to control or define how he sees himself.  So, like a rebellious child, he is determined not to care, and to cling to an inflated self-esteem as if this alone will soon vault him into the leadership caste where his judgements on cartoons and toys will define society.

 

His mode of dress exaggerates rather than plays down his gross appetites.  Unlike the twentysomething male models who pose in the short pants and t-shirts that are his favorite garb, he does not look very nice in them due to his rolls of fat and soda-and-junk-food stature.  His sagging buttocks, pale-white calves, and distressingly protuberant breasts are put to least advantage.  But so what -- he is comfortable, comfort at the expense of decorum being the definition of a slob.  As Jerry remarks in an episode of Seinfeld:

 

You know the message you're sending out to the world with these sweat pants? You're telling the world: "I give up. I can't compete in normal society. I'm miserable, so I might as well be comfortable."

 

I can't help but look down on people who find a suit -- even a nice pair of slacks -- uncomfortably restraining.  They remind me of people who say that classical music puts them to sleep; it requires too much brain activity I guess.  Why not just put a diaper lining in the sweat pants and complete the picture of an adult infant incapable of surviving the mildest demands the world has set for him.

 

Ironically, people who dismiss clothes as a superficial indication of the person are the first to boast that their unconventional (or, more likely, sadly conventional) attire is a hint to their creative genius -- usually they cloak this boast by saying something like, "the smartest people I know wear…" as if anyone would give a damn.  These people cannot face what they really are. Monday, October 9, 2006 - 2:11 PM  

 

Postscript:  Some people have observed that the general problem of immature dress afflicts women as well as men.  I think it is true that women do not dress as impressively as they did 50 or 70 years ago, and there is a growing percentage of women (most with daddy issues) who get into tattoos, piercings, and skank couture.  The lower class are of course hopeless.  A worse problem for the distaff sex is that of aging into their 30s, 40s, and 50s desperately deploying cosmetics, surgery, dyes, and injections to acquire a mummified youth look, part Michael Jackson, part Bride of Frankenstein.  The worst form of this is the punky hairstyle so many of them go for well into menopause.

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