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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

EDITORIAL: When Did We Lose the Joy of Dressing Up for Occasions?

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There’s a funny thing that⁢ happens, especially here in hometown Schenectady, when you’ve watched⁤ the sun rise⁢ and set over the same streets for what⁤ feels like more centuries than a⁤ human lifespan ‍should permit. You start to notice, ‍to really take stock, of the changes that sneak in under the cover of night. ⁤Especially when they involve things as seemingly negligible as clothing choices.

Now, I won’t class myself as a fashion connoisseur. ‌The most ‍daring wardrobe choice I make is on the occasional Tuesday evening Scrabble tournament at The ⁤Horseshoe Inn when I trade my dad jeans for a pair of corduroys, but hear me out. I’ve⁣ been observing, you see. People⁣ don’t seem to dress for occasions anymore. They just, well,‌ dress.​ They throw on a shirt, tie ‍up their laces, ​and be done with it. And quite frankly, I miss the time when people did dress ⁣up, when the clothes they wore reflected the ‌significance of the event they were ‌attending.

I might sound like some old geezer bemoaning the death of true ‌romance or good jazz, but⁣ consider this: When did ⁢you last spot ⁤a man in a neatly pressed ⁤suit at Sunday Mass? For that matter, when⁢ did you last see a boy wearing⁤ something more elaborate than a graphic tee on a first date?

But none of this just sprung up at the⁢ drop of a hat. There’s a ⁤discernible trend here, rooted in a past less than a generation removed. ​Back when I was a child in ⁤the ’70s, there was an⁢ unspoken law understood from Fort Edward‌ to Catskill: ⁤Sunday best was for church, work ‍clothes were for work, and you ‌absolutely did not ever, EVER wear your muddy ⁢shoes past the front mat. You wouldn’t dare. ‍Such disrespect was akin to sacrilege.

Not to mention, I vividly remember my first date​ with Mabel, my late wife, God bless her soul. She wore a floral sundress that almost made me forget how to ⁢speak. I, on the‌ other hand, saved up two ‍weeks’ allowance, ⁣enough to‌ rent a tuxedo for that ​special night.

Nowadays, I glimpse guys in board shorts ⁢and‍ flip-flops headed to ‌the office daily. It doesn’t help‌ that their ‘office’ happens to be a coffee shop. Or I see gals in⁢ their workout gear ⁢ambling to⁢ the grocery store post-gym, tongues out in blasé defiance of⁣ oldie ideas,⁤ like a change of clothes, being ever-necessary. ⁤I mean, what happened? Did ⁢comfort become the ultimate ​goal?

Of course, I’m a tortured student of history; a habit drilled into me during my time in‍ Ms. ‌Hartford’s 3rd​ grade class ⁤over at Union ⁤Street⁣ Elementary. I can almost hear her wrinkled voice echoing in my mind, harping on about the ancient Egyptians who ⁣donned ceremonial dress‍ for religious rituals, or the formalized courtly attire of⁢ the 18th Century ‍European courts that spoke volumes about‍ a person’s social standing.

Now, ⁣I’m not saying I want us to revert to an era of breeches and ​petticoats – that would be more of a headache than parting with​ my ’78 ​Pontiac Firebird⁢ last month. What I’m getting at is simple: I believe the dismissal of dress codes for⁣ occasions signals an overall apathy toward maintaining social etiquette, tradition, and ultimately, respect.

Fashion communicates. Clothes tell a story about who we are, where we come from, or where ⁣we’re headed. They⁤ mark the⁣ boundaries between different realms ⁣of life – the everyday ⁤and the⁤ extraordinary. By⁢ dressing up, we used to mark special occasions as a society, elevating ‌them in significance and‌ making them memorable.‌ We were once participants, ⁤not mere observers in comfortable sweatpants and oversized hoodies.

There’s something ⁢noble,​ something admirable‌ about taking the time to look your best for a special occasion. It’s about ‌respect – for others, certainly,‌ but also for yourself. It’s about acknowledging the importance of the moment, and staking your place within it.

Perhaps, in ​our rush to adopt⁢ a globally streamlined casual-cool aesthetic, something uniquely ours – the pride we took ⁣in dressing for occasions without the ​fear of being deemed old-fashioned – was lost. So here’s⁢ my⁣ invitation. Break out⁣ the fine wares. Iron that shirt. Polish those shoes. Wear the damn tie. You don’t have to ⁤wait for a wedding or funeral to look sharp.

I’m not requesting a reversion to moth-infested tradition, just ‌a gentle remembrance of times when we, ready to face the world, would admire our reflection one last‌ time before stepping out ⁢and remark, “Not bad, Brian McCarthy, not bad at ⁢all.” How I yearn to see that quiet dignity draped around our city⁤ once again -​ as commonplace as the leaf peeping tourists in the fall.

So, how ⁤about⁣ it, Schenectady?‌ Shall⁣ we bring back the joy of dressing for occasions? Or‍ have we grown too comfortable in our flip-flops and board shorts to even care? You decide.

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Brian McCarthy
Brian McCarthy
I'm Brian McCarthy! At your service to offer traditionally informed perspective on today's issues. Some call it out of touch; I call it time-honored wisdom.
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