Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Why Americans Dress Casually

One of the things most men dread hearing from their girlfriend/wife/significant other is the time-honored question, "Are you going to wear that?"

The question usually arises after the lady has spent a great deal of time putting on makeup, getting her hair exactly right, and selecting the perfect outfit and matching accessories, only to discover that her partner is unshaven and wearing jeans, old sneakers, and a ratty t-shirt. They have differing opinions of what the word "casual" on the invitation meant.

But differences between the sexes aside, Americans generally tend to dress more casually than people in other countries. Why is that?

Well, according to this article by Dennis Green from Business Insider, the answer is simple: because we can.

There's more to it than that, though. In many countries with well-defined social levels, the way one dresses tends to be a marker of one's place in the society. Working class men and women, for instance, wouldn't dress the same way members of the more aristocratic classes would*. Here in America, where we take pride in individuality and a Constitutionally-mandated lack of an aristocratic class**, people tend to dress down. It wasn't always this way, though. According to the article,

"For much of the 20th century, Americans didn't dress casually all the time. There were dress codes and customs. Men wore suits and hats; women wore dresses. Jeans and T-shirts were for laborers, not professionals."

Although we tend to dress more individually, we still don't want to stray too far from everyone else ... we want to be individuals, but we still want to be part of the group, if not of a defined elite. As philosopher Eric Hoffer*** once commented,

"Woe to him inside a nonconformist clique who does not conform with nonconformity."

 We could go on with all that sociological stuff, but I think the real reason Americans dress casually is the same reason I do: it's just a lot easier.

I don't mind getting dressed up occasionally. I own a tuxedo and a set of formal tails that I sometimes don for special occasions, and I enjoy looking good and getting the occasional admiring glance from the ladies when so accoutered ...

But more than that, I enjoy rolling out of bed and sliding into a pair of comfortable old jeans and a t-shirt with a message that expresses my opinion of the moment+.

Because I'm an American, and we do that.

Have a good day. Dress how you like, as long as it's appropriate to the situation.

More thoughts tomorrow.


* This is why we describe some jobs as being "blue collar" or "white collar."

** Article 1, Section 9, Clause 8.

*** The "longshoreman philosopher," and one of my favorite authors.

+ And I've got lots of those!


Duckbutt said...

I enjoy wearing casual t-shirts, especially those with ironic messages!

eViL pOp TaRt said...

I like your interpretation of why we dress casually so often! It's our right as Americans! Europeans in Europe find some American casualness to be off-putting, though.

Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer said...

I admit that I prefer going casual.

Mike said...

Casual is me. Shorts in the summer and jeans in the winter. Funerals and weddings get business casual unless it's close family which I haven't had to do in quite awhile. I can't remember the last time I had a suit on.

Pep said...

I have mixed feelings on this...I feel I perform better at work when I look better and feel dressed for the occasion. Although I enjoy comfort as much as most do, I don't like going out in sweats; they're reserved for home. I really enjoyed knowing that in New Orleans , you were EXPECTED to dress appropriately (plus it kind of kicked Sam in his perennial jeans-wearing ass.) Great post, Bilbo...good food for thought!