27 September 2010

Don't Confuse Comfort with Laziness

We often lament the loss of decorum in society in general. By we, I mean myself and the other odd-balls who seem to be reading this blog and others like it. Don't get offended by that, the oddest thing about us is that we take care to present ourselves well and see it as something more than just a clothing fetish. Aiports, of course, provide a particularly extreme example of the opposite of my way of thinking in sartorial matters. Recently, this article about the legendary Gay Talese has been floating around, which illustrates another kind of extreme. Somewhere between the two is a workable medium. In a recent email, my old pal Keohane (the guy who kindly opened a juicy can of worms on this blog in the past) had this to say about it:

I don't wear a three-piece suit when I fly, but I always wear a blazer, a button down shirt, and often a nice hat. It pains me to no end to see some maundering bag of food draped in matted velour sweatpants waiting at the check-in line. The 60s are big again style-wise, yet the idea that you should be presentable when you fly (which was a hard, fast rule forty years ago) remains inconceivable to most people. The wonder and ceremony, like in most other parts of life in America, are all gone. When J*** and I were flying to Argentina in 08, I had my usual uniform--jeans, shoes, button down, grey sportcoat, straw fedora, on. The kid checking IDs at the gate did a double take and said, "You look like a movie star, yo."

People bitch to no end about treated brusquely causally by airport personnel. But if you don't dress in a way that expresses a measure of self-respect, how can you expect people to treat you as anything but cattle? I find I'm almost always treated better when I fly, because my appearance suggests that that's what I expect from people. This is a general rule for life, I think.

Well said, old friend, well said.


Main Line Sportsman said...

I dropped my Mother in law at the Airport today. The parade of sloppily dressed mutts lining up to check their bags was 20 souls long. The interpretations of air-travel appropriate in that line was astounding...rigs you would not wear to clean out the garage...

Johnny said...

Mr. Talese's comment that "people dress for comfort, caring little about being eyesores" perfectly sums up the whole sad situation today.

spoozyliciouzz said...

That should not only be the case when flying, but always. Present your self in respectable manner & attire and you´ll be likely treated the same way.

FLW said...

Good advice, gents. It has been unfortunate that the revival in old world style has not translated to air travel yet. I never really understood what was so uncomfortable about flying, anyway. Granted, you are in a cramped space, sitting still for several hours, but I don't think swapping slacks and a button up shirt for stained sweatpants and a baggy t-shirt is really going to help matters. When I travel with my students there is always a bonus lecture about the importance of dressing for travel and how it impacts the way you are treated at the airport and even on the plane. Let's fight the good fight.

Northmoon said...

Good point.

Rebecca said...

It IS a general rule in life! (Or at least it used to be...)

But sadly it is one that is tested and defied in MOST public places, it seems to me...

Thornproof said...

Having done my far share of transatlantic flights, I do have to say that dressing nicely will help. I have never been rudely treated while flying internationally (domestic flights are a different story) and have even been given the occasional upgrade because I looked like I belonged somewhere other than coach!

Unknown said...

To be fair, when I flew on business class, I always tried to dress as if I were going on business. as the company started to make us fly coach (which is fair given the exorbitant fares airlines charge for biz class), I went down to jeans and a sweatshirt. There was no point wearing a blazer (unless you fall for the old line of being upgraded if you dress well), as there was nowhere to store it. Inevitably, the riff-raff bring on too much carry-on and then heave these on to overcrowded overhead cabins. Look, flying has stopped being a comfortable experience. I had a top status on BA for about 3 years and no matter what, if I paid for coach, I got coach. But then again, BA are notoriously racist.

Old School said...

How it used to be:




Tanner said...

I was raised by parents who taught us to look respectable while flying; and as a result, I never get more frustrated by the sloppy state of American dress than I do in an airport. I just got back from a trip to Italy and the difference between the appropriate dress of men there and men here was like night and day. It was actually discouraging to come home.

Anonymous said...

What may be presentable to you may not be perceived as presentable to others, and vice versa. I get wanting to look nice and the whole trad thing. Great, good on you…..write all you want about it. But when it starts coming of as cocky and judgmental towards what others are or are not wearing you are in turn doing to others what you do not want done to yourself. A 3 pc suit on a long flight!?! That is impractical. Getting better treatment because of the way you look, now that is pure bullshit. You should be ashamed to agree with that uppity buffoon.

Anonymous said...

I do not like the tone of this post. It just does not sit well with me.

Matthew Lawrence Woodwork said...

I always dress for comfort . . . that of the people with whom I come in contact. Not necessarily my own.

Great blog. Keep up the good work!

Giuseppe said...

Anon. 10:47,

"getting better treatment because of the way you look, now that ispure bullshit."

Consider the treatment I got when I revealed my tatoos versus when they're hidden beneath a suit and tie. There was nothing bullsh*t about that, was there?

"Maundering bag of food" may have been a bit much, but I don't think it's so uppity to be insulted by the fact that so many people find it acceptable to wear pajamas in public. And if you read closely, neither Keohane or myself are suggesting aa three piece suit.

A long flight may be uncomforatble, but it's not a sleepover party at your cousins house. As for me, I can think of few things less comfortable than leaving the house in my pajamas.

David V said...

I've recently come to the realization that when people say they dress to be comfortable what they are really saying is that they are just to lazy to put any effort in getting dressed.

Anonymous said...

David Sedaris may have had the last word on this topic:

"I should be used to the way Americans dress when travelling, yet still it manages to amaze me. It's as if the person next to you had been washing shoe polish off a pig, then suddenly threw down his sponge, saying, 'Fuck this. I'm going to Los Angeles!'"

initials CG said...

what's wrong with a three piece suit on a plane?

Hey, I got lucky. Have you?

Anonymous said...

I love this, Giuseppe, "As for me, I can think of few things less comfortable than leaving the house in my pajamas." That makes sense to me.

And I am a little discouraged with the way people dress for something as important as a trip that you need an airplane to go on. That said, however, I have a hard time holding it against someone for wanting to be as comfortable as possible during what is, for many, an intensely uncomfortable experience.

I wasn't alive 40 years ago, but I'm assuming that air travel was significantly less common, and that it was primarily done by a higher than average socio-economic class, right? Also, you could light up, and I don't imagine the seats were quite so tightly spaced. When I fly, as important as dressing usually is to me, I don't want to feel a collar around my neck, nor do I want to worry about fucking up a nice pair of pants by being crammed into a little seat for six hours. (Until I can get to an iron, anyway.)

I don't know. It's a cool idea. It's just... ok, it's shit like this that gets me:

"sloppily dressed mutts"

"I looked like I belonged somewhere other than coach" (So some people do belong in coach?)

And, yeah, you called it already, "Maundering bag of food."

Dressing well is about you, and the people you present yourself to, right? It's not about putting others in a separate, lesser place. Obviously I'm over-reading this, but those are some dismaying value judgments on human worth, you know? Over clothing...

Ok. Sorry. That was grim. Like I said, your point about how *you* feel was well taken, Giuseppe.

Jax said...

The "wonder and ceremony" of commercial air travel? Please...

Anonymous said...

As an airline employee, I can attest to the poor manner of dress many passengers choose when flying. What has really surprised me though, are the many times I've come across passengers checking their 'luggage' in hefty bags. Sometimes even the clear ones!

Spiro said...

Here's my two cents on the topic: People are only concerned with their physical comfort and not their mental comfort zones. Nobody ever asks themselves "hey, can I even step outside looking like this?" anymore. I'm perfectly capable of being physically comfortable sitting in coach for a few hours in a button up and a blazer, AND I'm significantly more comfortable with the image I'm projecting than if I were wearing designer sweatpants and a coed naked t-shirt. Why can't that be true for everyone, anonymous posters?

Gregorius Mercator said...

I can say from experience that this rings 100 percent true and accurate. The last time I flew, I wore a suit with no tie and I was treated with a lot of respect and deference, even though I was only 21. The airline staff were all noticeably friendlier and more accommodating as compared to some of my less well dressed traveling companions. What's even more interesting is my Congressman was on the same flight in a t-shirt and an old pair of shorts and I'm fairly sure I probably got better treatment than he did.

If you dress with respect, you get respect.

Anonymous said...

Sloppily dressed mutts?

Y'all sound like the bad-guy frat in Animal House, or something.

Don't confuse taking pride in your appearance with denigrating others'.

Still... We'll get you Deltas yet! (Right?)

Coastman said...

My wife & I just returned from a short domestic flight. Yikes! I could not agree with you more. While I do not dress in a suit for air travel, I do make an effort to be "clean & pressed". I think it makes a difference in the service you receive.

Two rants: 1) why do you think I want to hear your cell phone conversation about paint colors being broadcast at 110 dB while waiting to board the aircraft?; and, 2) just because your suitcase has wheels does not make it a carry-on bag. Why the airlines do not enforce this policy is beyond me.

Finally, it is not permissible to FLOSS YOUR TEETH in your set on the plane!

Josh said...

I don't fly often, but I learned from my father (who was a journalist and flew all the time) that wearing a blazer is indispensable. Not for any sense of style (the farthest thing from my Dad's mind) but for wholly practical reasons.

If I wear jeans and a sweatshirt, I need to repeatedly empty my pockets and worry about where the ticket/boarding past/id is at all times. With a jacket, I can keep the ticket and my ID in the inside pocket (or even the ticket pocket!!) and the rest of my stuff (phone, wallet, etc) in the other pockets. So walking through security I just take off my coat, lay it on the X-ray machine, and put it back on on the other side.

I took this another step and now wear dark jeans, a casual button-down, a mesh belt with a plastic buckle, and loafers/boat shoes whenever I fly. Dressing/undressing for the security line takes about 20 seconds.

It looks nice, but it is also utilitarian. Flying is increasingly become a downright dehumanizing experience. I don't want to begrudge anyone their right to wear whatever they want or find their own system that works. However, maybe if we all tried a little harder we could take back a little of our dignity as a travelling class.

Young Fogey said...

Anonymous 10:47,

You are both ignorant and judgmental. You are judging Giuseppe for making a judgment. If that isn't the height of hypocrisy, I don't know what is.

Your ignorance is shown in your uninformed assertion that people don't get treated better because of the way they look or dress. What planet do you live on, anyway--the Planet Where Everyone Always Treats Everyone Else As A Dirtball? As soon as I started dressing like a man (i.e., suit & tie, or at least jacket & tie) every day, I noticed that people treated me better, with more respect.

If there are any buffoons around here, it's you. Why don't you go back to your stained T-shirt, ratty shorts, and flip-flop life, little boy, and leave this blog for the men?

Young Fogey said...

Not just Anonymous 10:47, but it seems that Anonymous 10:48, Anonymous 6:12, and Anonymous 8:00 also all have a problem with Giuseppe calling a spade a spade (or, more appropriately, calling a pig a pig).

Yes, he's making a judgment. Yes, everyone makes judgments, all the time. Yes, how you present yourself to the world affects how people react and relate to you.

Is any of this new?

Dressing well is most assuredly not primarily about ourselves: it is about others. We do it to show respect to others, to show respect for the situation, to show respect for the institution.

Once upon a time, people wore their "Sunday best" to church, because they understood that going to worship in the house of God was the most serious and important thing they would do the whole week. They wanted to demonstrate to others that they understood the weight of the event. They wanted to show others courtesy and respect.

In contrast, dressing like a slob is all about dressing for yourself. Any moron can put on a T-shirt, a ball cap, sweat pants, and flip-flops. No matter how ugly it is to look at, it is physically comfortable for the wearer. On the other hand, it takes time and money and thought to dress appropriately, and may cause the wearer some degree of discomfort--but a man who wears a tie on a hot day shows that he is putting others before himself.

I'm amazed that I even have to explain this, but I guess you anonymice are either so unfortunate to have never been exposed to this, or are so unfortunate to have been raised by people who didn't know or didn't care. In any case, there is no excuse for your ignorance--or antipathy.

tintin said...

Savages! They're all savages.

Maurice Chevalier said...

Tin Tin,

Tu as raison.
Ils sont vraiment des sauvages!

Johnny said...

"Judgmental" is one of those meaningless and hypocritical words, much like "selfish." When you point out that someone else is being judgmental, you are, by definition, being judgmental about the fact that the other person is judgmental.

Anonymous said...

I don't know about the men folk, but I would guess the reason women dress in sweats in because women's fashion is stupid and uncomfortable. Low rise pants? Really? I want to sit for hours with half my hiny hanging out? No thank you. I personally never wear low-rise pants at all because, well the hiny issue and they are just really not flattering to about 90% of the population. Instead I choose to wear slacks when I fly (men's slacks because once again what passes for 'slacks' in the women's department is attrocious, low-rise full of stretch garbage ) paired with a nice v-neck sweater and my weejuns. Easy peezy lemon squeezy. Comfortable, age appropriate (late 30's) and presentable.

Anonymous said...

@Young Fogey

Anonymous 6:12 here. I... disagree. With you.

Like I said, I think Giuseppe put it very well.

It's stuff like calling "a pig a pig" that bothers me, especially when it's tied to a statement like "[dressing appropriately] takes time and money." Ah. So if you have the time to dress in the clothes you have, but not the money to dress in better clothes, you're a pig?

I agree with you that "dressing like a slob is all about dressing for yourself," because it shows no motivation beyond taking the easiest path for oneself, but "a man who wears a tie on a hot day shows that he is putting others before himself" sounds kind of narcissistic. That isn't the point, is it?

And this, man... "I guess you anonymice are either so unfortunate to have never been exposed to this, or are so unfortunate to have been raised by people who didn't know or didn't care. In any case, there is no excuse for your ignorance--or antipathy." What the hell? This is a weird fucking conversation. I'll save the sarcasm—I think you're making a point about how you relate to other people, and it no longer has anything to do with style.

I bet we'd totally agree talking in person, but anonymous snarking and judgments about personal beliefs and parentage (what?) aren't working for me anymore.

PS—"Anonymous snarking." I know. Pot, kettle, black.

Young Fogey said...

Anonymous 6:12,

"So if you have the time to dress in the clothes you have, but not the money to dress in better clothes, you're a pig?"

Um, have you actually read this blog? You know, the one about buying classic men's clothes at thrift stores for a fraction of their cost new?

I used to buy ties new at about 35 bucks a pop. I can't imagine doing that now, because I get ties of superior quality (to what I was buying new) for less than a tenth of that price. Dressing well doesn't take money; it takes knowledge and effort.

Yeah, I mentioned money, but I "mis-spoke." Dressing at all isn't free, but doesn't need to cost an arm and a leg.

And it is a sad fact that many parents have failed to transmit values and instruct their children in how to perform all kinds of societal functions that are the mark of a civilized society. Don't shoot the messenger.

I do like that you think we'd probably agree in person, and have refrained from stooping to inappropriate levels (which I am not always innocent of).


I disagree that judgmental is meaningless. Some degree of judgment is required to survive. What gets me is people getting all huffy about someone else making a judgment, and then saying the other person is wrong to have made a judgment at all. That is what Anonymous 10:47 did.

It's a common ploy in the modern day, and wholly inappropriate, as it seeks to silence the expression of ideas that are outside of what is considered "acceptable"--an increasingly-narrow circle.

initials CG said...

Whoa! too deep...

It comes down to this:

1) if you're flying business class, youre so damend tired youre sleepin' you don't know what you're wearing. Or I'll FIRE your ass!

2) if you dress well in Economy, i.e. at least a jacket, and trousers, she just might take you to the lavatories at 30,000 feet...

if that doesn't make you lose the sweats...

Old Trad said...

We Americans have to pretend to believe in equality, so we're reluctant to make any comments that might be construed as being elitist.

Nevertheless: The barbarians are taking over step-by-step and the decline in standards of dress among airline passengers is only symptomatic of the general decline in civilized behavior.

Yes, I know that civilization is much more than a matter of dress, but many of us who prefer to dress like gentleman are consciously making an attempt to preserve one remaining vestige of civilization.

marc said...

"People bitch to no end about treated brusquely causally by airport personnel. But if you don't dress in a way that expresses a measure of self-respect, how can you expect people to treat you as anything but cattle?"

i think this is a very sad statement and i strongly disagree. i try to treat people with respect and would hope to be treated the same way even if i happened to be dressed inappropriately.

i agree with people not caring and airports being a prime example and i too think its unfortunate and all that.

however this post shows a great lack of well its bad manners really and no outfit could make up for that.

Anonymous said...

@Young Fogey

6:12 here, now drunk. Late night in the Midwest.

Agree on all points!

"Judgmental" is pointlessly recursive. Calling it out is silly.

Most folks can do their best, one hopes, regardless of money. The actions of one's parents are important, but not vital. (We should all be so lucky for good parents, but certainly the blame for lacking parents shouldn't fall on us.)

Glad we can discuss rationally, regardless of the conventions of the medium (internet comment threads).

Sorry. I'm passing out. Night y'all! We try to be good, well dressed

Young Fogey said...

Old Trad,

Amen, brother!

marc [sic],

Capitalization and punctuation are your friends.


Cheers. Hic!

Matt Fox said...


TRVS said...

"However, maybe if we all tried a little harder we could take back a little of our dignity as a travelling class."

September 29, 2010 11:25 AM

Arrest me for plagiarism~~but this is a more than valid point. And may I add,
"As a class in general."

marc said...

Apologies for not using proper punctuation and capital letters. I just typed out my thoughts after reading the post and posted without going over it again.

JimW said...

I'm enjoying this post from the archives, and am reminded of a line from the inimitable Sideshow Bob:

"Aah, for the days when aviation was a gentleman's pursuit -- back
before every Joe Sweatsock could wedge himself behind a lunch tray
and jet off to Raleigh-Durham."