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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

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


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.

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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