I’ve heard more than one person assert John Kennedy was the single greatest contributor to the demise of the men’s hat industry in America. Allegedly, he refused to wear a hat because he thought it made him look old. Other men didn’t want to look older than the President, and thus ended the days of men’s hats. Snopes.com says this is untrue, but lore lives on.
When I was a kid, we weren’t particularly sophisticated. Many of my people were country people. But we were all proud. When there was an event, we dressed up. Men wore suits, women wore dresses. Whether is was a wedding, church, funeral or baby shower, you were expected to look the part. We only had one bum that I ever saw in my hometown. He wore a suit every day.
The past few years, I’ve noticed a shift. We’re a jeans and flip-flops culture. People don’t seem to dress appropriately for anything. I’ve seen women in track suits at weddings, men in what appeared to be pajamas at the courthouse and children in flip-flops at church. What gives?
Side note: I’m not referring to churches who, for a variety of social reasons relating to the ministries they have the populations they serve, have made a conscious decision to dress down. I understand, and even applaud these ministries finding unconventional ways to show God’s grace to people who are reluctant to come to traditional services. I’m confused by people in traditional settings who seem not to know how to conform to social norms.
At first I thought it was the dot-com bubble that was responsible for the change. If you can take your dog to work, then why bother with dress socks? That theory doesn’t quite work because so many of the people I knew as a child worked with their hands all week, but wore a suit and tie at the appropriate times. Now I actually know a number of 30-something men who do not even own a suit. How is that possible?
At the same time, women’s fashion is getting dressier it seems. It’s nothing to see “hair bling” or bedazzled shirts on any given Tuesday. Women wear shiny fabrics and disco boots to work. What I would consider club clothes can be spotted at any sandwich shop in town. I want to ask some of these women if they’re maybe a little overdressed for the carpool line.
I’m not assigning value to clothing choices, as if that makes me better for conventional taste and those with different tastes, worse. I just feel like somewhere there was a cultural shift, and I missed it. I can’t quite identify the cause of it. The social scientist nerd in me would love to hear your thoughts on the matter.
What changed? Why? Am I truly as old-fashioned as I fear?