February 10, 2016
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American society has made great strides since the 20th century. Science has advanced; civil rights have expanded; art has become more daring. But there is one area where we have declined instead of progressed. We seem to have forgotten how to dress ourselves.
If you look around in a restaurant, school, or store, you’re likely to see a sea of t-shirts, sweatpants, and even pajamas. People used to dress in gloves, hats, and jackets even for the simplest of occasions. Now few people seem to take pride in how they dress and present themselves. What happened?
Studies show that the way we dress affects how we think about ourselves and how we perform. So if dressing nicely gives us more confidence, boosts our performance, and makes us look authoritative, why hasn’t everyone jumped on the wagon?
Americans have the reputation of being sloppy and poorly dressed, especially when traveling abroad. A well-dressed person commands respect. By developing this reputation we have made it harder for citizens of other countries to respect us.
And what about personal pride? What are we saying when we show up at a store or school in our pajamas?
We still dress up for what is important to us. People still pull out suits and dresses for proms and weddings. But in the past people would also dress nicely to go to the store or a restaurant or on a plane. The circle of events that are important to us is shrinking. And with it, apparently our motivation to take pride in what we wear.
It’s not that you have to put on make-up or a tie to go to the grocery store. But we need to talk a look at if we are grateful for what we get to do. We’re fortunate to go to school, to eat in a restaurant, and we seem to have forgotten this. A way to show respect and gratitude might be to dress nicely.
Arguments of this sort can easily edge on elitist or pretentious, but it’s not a question of price or label, it’s one of personal motivation. A person can dress nicely in clothes from Target.
And It’s not that McDonald’s should become the kind of country club restaurant that keeps extra dinner jackets in the back in case guests show up without one. People should still be allowed to be comfortable. Nothing should be required or pressured. It’s just that we need to take a look at ourselves.
Clothes don’t make the man. But we should take a little more care with what we are wearing.