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celebs-wearing-pjs-in-public-attitude toward dressThe modern attitude toward dress is that it has little effect on the way people function. In fact, people are advised that the more comfortable they are, the more efficient and happy they will be. People generally respond to such advice by collectively retreating into a shabby array of blue jeans or shorts, T-shirts or sweatshirts, and sneakers. It really does not make any difference what you wear. It is all a matter of personal preference.

Such conclusions do not coincide with those who study attire. They have always affirmed that clothes are more than just covering. What one wears definitely has an effect on what one does or how one performs. Educators notice a change in performance when students wear uniforms. Soldiers fight better when they know how to maintain the sharpness of their dress uniforms. Businessmen get better results when in formal attire. Clothes express one’s personality and individuality; they communicate who the person is.

A recent study co-authored by Prof. Michael Kraus of the Yale School of Management provided a noteworthy proof of the effect of clothes in the business world. He found that wearing clothes of high social status greatly influenced job performance and communicated a note of dominance and mastery to those engaged in negotiations.

Prof. Kraus compared the results of two groups of men, one wearing business suits and dress shoes and another in sweatpants, T-shirts, and plastic sandals. Those in the two groups were told to negotiate the sale of a hypothetical factory and were given leeway to make concessions. The men in suits conceded an average of $860,000 off the list price of the factory as compared with concession of $2.81 million for those in the sweatpants. The researchers found that those better-dressed behaved with more control; they elicited more respect and exuded more confidence.

dress for successSimilar results were reported in a study last year in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. People in formal business attire proved more capable of high levels of abstract thinking. They tended to see the big picture more easily than casual dressers. This made them more successful in their business decisions since they did not get bogged down in useless detail.

The moral of the story is not that everyone should always wear formal business attire on all occasions. The real moral is that each type of clothing is suited for a purpose for which it is designed. Sweat-panted executives and suited runners are signs of a world gone awry. When people ignore purpose in clothes, it has consequences.

Everyone knows that clothes make a difference. The evidence is irrefutable. Yet so many bizarre fashions still dominate.

Part of the blame for this disregard of function in clothes can be laid on the fashion world. Designers make it a point to overturn every taboo and convention in their search for novelty, excitement, and frivolity. The fashion world creates great pressure on people to follow the fads or else be ostracized.

The result is fashions that contradict common sense. In what might be called the frenetic intemperance of wearing whatever fashion dictates, there is a callous disregard for function in clothes. It leads to a corresponding desire to destroy propriety and modesty. People become self-absorbed by their own comfort and unconcerned about how they might appear to others.

To cite yet one more example, there is a new high fashion trend now invading public spaces and social life. It is the wearing of pajamas as a form of social attire. Man-style bottom and top pajamas are finding their way into places outside the bedroom. Fashion houses are now selling out of designer pajamas made to replace evening gowns and cocktail dresses at formal social gatherings. Well-known celebrities have been appearing publicly in pajamas and even bedroom slippers to give yet more prestige to the trend.

pajamasThe problem is pajamas look like… well, pajamas. They project the untidy image of people who are ready for sleep or who have just awoken. Pajamas presuppose an intimacy with loved ones that cannot be shared by the general public. But the fashion world has decreed that pajamas are chic, and people must therefore obey.

Even the fashion designers have a hard time overcoming the bizarreness of sleepwear in the public square. They recommend that their striped pajamas be paired with other fashion accessories like dressy shoes, belts or blazers, perhaps to blunt the shocking impression of one being a prison escapee. Pajama pants on the street are marketed as “sleep pants,” so as to appear more like a distant and laid-back cousin of sweat pants. Designers admit that daytime pajamas represent a “rebellious spirit” that is not for the faint-hearted.

All this is part of a general disorder in fashion in which suits are belittled and pajamas exalted. A day will come when people will be freed from the chains of the fashionistas. When that return to order happens, people will dress once again with purpose, modesty and beauty. Until then, people will continue to appear in an embarrassing and bizarre array of clothes (or lack of clothes), awaiting the eureka moment when some innocent child will cry: The emperor is wearing the wrong clothes!

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9 replies to this post
  1. My Sunday morning fashion advice is for people to dress as if they’re going to a house of worship, not to the House of Pancakes. It’s not a matter of vanity or putting on the dog, but of reverence and respect.

  2. This reminds me of the old book “Dress for Success”. There really are two issues involved, how we present ourselves, and how we feel. Comfort is a real issue with me. I am not supposed to wear wool, although I have a wool hate. I have found that I can dress well as long as my shirts and pants are 100% cotton. I don’t need jeans and a tee-shirt for this, but I do have to look at labels when I shop.

    A bola tie loosened up with an open top button gives the impression of dressing up. I can still wear a sport coat. As good as real ties look, I can’t wear anything with a closed neck.

    I remember my home town with students coming home from the local Catholic elementary parochial school. In Christian school, as one mother of seven told me, “uniforms teach them respect”. I am all for a dress code, as long as I don’t have to wear a tie with a closed collar.

    Dress these days really has gone crazy, but I’ve found a way to be both comfortable and presentable. It’s doable, with some thought.

  3. I was visiting a special pier on Saint Simons Island. It is designed for visitors and local amusement. It was Easter Sunday, after church. I got an ugly eyeful of tattoos, exposed bosoms, fat men, fat women, fat children and the logical accompaniment of filthy language and coarse social interactions. I drove home. Everywhere you go looks like where you just left, and everyone you see looks like everyone you’ve seen. It’s more than depressing. I felt hopeless, offended and lost in a sea of vulgarians.

  4. Personally, I think more attention could be paid to the “rebellious spirit” mentioned in the closing paragraph. People buy into (no pun intended, but I’ll take it) the whole casual thing as a means of expressing their own (illusory) power, as a way to show they refuse to be restrained by anything but their own desires (anyone else remember Hugh Hefner and the ‘Playboy’ mentality?). By demonstrating disdain for traditional social norms of clothing, they feel empowered; every commoner can partake in the immunity of the ‘eccentric’ CEO/emperor/etc. who nobody dares criticize; each of us becomes an ’emperor’ in our own mind, just as naked (or poorly-dressed) as the original, only even more pathetic since we don’t have any any similar title or power.

  5. How true. I just wrote something about this the other day. I actually saw a grown man (probably in his 50s) wearing pajama bottoms in public. Usually it’s just the HS/college girls wearing them.

  6. Sorry all pretentions; we’re still reaping the whirlwind from demon seed sown in the sixties. There is no longer concrete right and wrong in matters of life and death; you really think that orderly attire is possibly going to return? My feelings about wearing a tie centered upon the idea that I had earned the right to do so by virtue of education and achievement. As in so many other matters, society has abdicated dress standards to the least qualified; the youth. And the youth, now and always, have peeked around the corner to see what the popular kids were wearing and imitated them. Back when, creatures called “adults” would step in and restore order. Now, a fraction of the grown-ups (I am not convinced that we’re producing adults anymore) will imitate the yoots in a vain attempt to reverse age and otherwise be with it, whatever it may be called, and the others mind their own business to avoid the lash of the PC police. And surprise! Large numbers of the young are unemployable and don’t understand why. Perhaps the standards still exist; they’ve merely been driven underground.

  7. I’ve noticed that the tie has been done-away-with, even among the highest leaders (e.g. Obama and Putin). I admit, of course, the tie is not a sacred symbol or anything and has evolved over time with “fashion,” but certainly men look sloppier or “more relaxed” without it.

  8. No question I have seen the degeneration of clothing requirements over the years. It seemed to have started in the mid 1990s with “dressed down Friday.” So business casual on Friday only became dressed down day every day, which meant that Fridays were now especially dressed down, dressed down to urban street wear. It didn’t take long from there to where urban street wear day was every day. Now almost none observe any dressed code.

  9. What’s wrong with a T shirt? With Sneakers? They cover your body don’t they? As long as they are clean and presentable what is the problem?

    Let’s get straight to it: Those are the cloths worn by ‘the lessers’. You see perfectly clean and functional clothing and regard it as shabby and degenerate. Obviously, because those clothes are worn by people you view as shabby and degenerate.

    The entire basis of dress code is founded on subconscious snobbery.

    The reason young people, like myself, are rejecting dress standards isn’t because we want to ape cool people. It’s because we are better educated then any generation before us, and we innately recognize the pettiness and elitism that a dress code implies.

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