New Clothes and a New Attitude

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!

2 thoughts on “New Clothes and a New Attitude

  1. While I do understand your point, and on the whole, agree that perhaps there are not enough times when the need to “dress up” isn’t emphasized in today’s society as it should be, I must say that I don’t fully agree with you.

    First, and least important, (yes, I said least,) there should be no reason to dress up on a plane, unless you have to be someplace dressed up within 30 minutes of landing. Unless you are flying 1st class, (don’t know about you, but I can hardly afford coach these days,) airplanes are quite uncomfortable. I do all I can to not be any more miserable than necessary on an airplane.

    More importantly, I completely disagree with having to dress up to go to church. Admittedly, I also disagree with shunning anyone who shows up in a suit. Paying attention to what people wear in church is the exact example of what we are admonished to avoid in James 2–being a respecter of persons. I’m not saying that everyone should be a slouch, we should always present our best to God, but if our best is clean jeans and a pull-over shirt, so be it. Also, at church, nothing should distract us from worshiping God. I am one of those people who can’t wear a suit and tie and be comfortable enough to pay attention to anything other than how uncomfortable I am.

    As far as events being special is concerned, I have been to plenty of casual dress events that were far more memorable and special than all but two brown tie or better events that I have been to. It’s the people you are with that make it special, not what everyone is wearing.

  2. Frank,

    Thanks so much for your thoughts! I don’t dress up on a plane anymore, either; that was just an example of how times have changed.

    And I absolutely agree with you that the people make the event, whether it a church service, a wedding, or other celebration. Certainly, if someone is dressing up merely to be seen by others in their new clothes, then their motives are misplaced.

    However,I do find that when people make the effort to look nice, even if it’s simply a clean T-shirt and jeans, then they do seem to care more about what they are doing. My younger children attend a school where uniforms (khakis and a polo) are required. One day a month is jean day, and the teachers always dread it because the kids are much harder to control on that day. There is an unspoken sense that it’s time to be serious when they have on their uniforms and that it’s party time when they don’t.

    I’m not one to say that we should go back to the days of coat and tie and dresses all the time, but I do think some folks have put their own comfort ahead of a healthy sense of respect.

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