I took my son shopping for a suit yesterday. It was no great surprise that the suit he had worn to a wedding three years ago was too small, but I was hoping the jacket from last spring’s banquet would fit. No such luck. Teenage hormones kicked in over the summer, and he is at least four inches taller than he was last spring, so shopping we went.

As we browsed the racks of suits on sale (“Do I really have to try these on?”) and picked out jacket, pants, shirt, tie, and shoes, he mentally began adding up the cost of this outfit. He knows that most of his clothes come from the 80% off sales racks and are usually under $10. “Are we really going to spend more on this outfit than you spend on a month’s worth of groceries?” he asked, surprised. “No,” I replied, “but probably more than I spend for a week’s worth.” “Wow!” he responded thoughtfully. I turned and faced him, looking him in the eye, and said, “This is important and we want you to know that.”

Now, I do not intend to say that spending more money makes something more valuable, but I do believe that making the effort to dress more formally on some occasions lends an air of importance to the event. A bride will sometimes spend thousands of dollars on the dress she wears for a few hours to mark what should be the most significant event in her life. We want our son to see this evening of transition into manhood as a significant turning point in his life. Having everyone dress up makes the occasion more memorable and marks it as different and more special than an ordinary get together with friends.

Our society has become so casual that what were the markers of important events for previous generations have been lost. Casual Friday has become casual everyday, contemporary church services mean wear your blue jeans; no suits allowed, and when is the last time you saw someone dress up to get on an airplane?

I am all for any effort to reduce the number of days when I am expected to wear pantyhose, but I think we’ve taken this casual thing a step too far. Wearing uniforms at school and dressing nicely at work promote a sense of value for the effort put forth that day. Dressing up in suits and “special occasion” dresses will make our Friday evening celebration just that – a special occasion. Besides, just think how handsome my son will look. It’s enough to make this mother want to cry!