At a recent breakfast meeting with my regular, evil, mean-spirited, right-wing Republican companions, the discussion turned to what we view as a general, across-the-board decline in the art of tasteful and appropriate dress.
Our respective ages (the youngest member is 65) naturally colored our mutually agreed-upon opinions. Nevertheless, though dinosaurs we may be, standards of propriety and common sense do not disappear with "dressing down" and "casual Fridays."
Our chief grievance was directed toward inappropriate attire at events usually reserved for ceremonial and/or solemn observance, particularly, but not exclusively, by young people.
The appearance of "cool" notwithstanding, the donning of tank tops, jeans, cut-offs, baseball caps and flip-flops is not only unseemly dress for attending church, weddings and funerals, it is also an affront to those who would apply proper taste and decorum to those functions.
While a more lenient interpretation of dress codes has resulted in more casual attire for men and women, it does not mean "anything goes" or "come as you are."
For example, it seems to be rather commonplace in today's world to go out to dinner, a movie, dancing or even bar-hopping in the same clothes worn to mow the yard, work on the family car, put up hay or slop the hogs.
If that is not the case, many people put a lot of thought and effort into achieving a tacky result.
Recalling my active duty military career, among the biggest shocks to a junior officer was the oft-painful discovery that informal dress is not a clean polo shirt and jeans, but a coat and tie.
As a battalion commander in the 1970s, I quickly learned that most lieutenants did not own a tie or have the foggiest idea how to make the knot required to wear one. It was, and remains, a valuable learning experience.
Perhaps it would be helpful to review what have been generally accepted dress codes that have served us well over the years.
The language has been modified somewhat, but formal still means tuxedo and black tie for men and long cocktail dresses or dressy evening separates for the ladies. White tie or ultra-formal is seldom specified but requires white tie, vest and tails for men and long gowns for women.
The attire commonly identified as "black tie optional" offers men the choice of the more formal tuxedo or a dark suit and tie; ladies' dress is the same as formal.
Semi-formal or "After Five" means dark suit and tie for men, cocktail or "little black dress" or a dressy suit for her. Business formal does not differ appreciably from semi-formal except that women may opt for more dressy suits, etc.
Most people who operate in the world of "black and white tie," formal, semi-formal and business formal are already well-versed in suitable dress for the occasion.
However, when "informal," "business casual," "dressy casual" and "casual" are specified, confusion is often the result. The most misunderstood may be informal wear — contrary to popular misconception, it is not "Larry the Cable Guy."
Taken to their common denominator, the terms usually mean a dress shirt and trousers for him, a dressy blouse and pants or a skirt for her. I won't dwell too heavily on a lady's choice of attire, as I find women to be far more aware and fashion- conscious than guys. After all, when did you last see a woman in both plaid and stripes?
Finally, casual means casual — but, within the limits of common sense and human dignity. I won't comment on styles currently popular in some circles — e.g. grunge, Goth, fashion popularized by Lady Gaga and Dennis Rodman, and trousers worn below the hips to showcase underwear. There will always be a need for horrible examples and circus clowns.
Proper casual dress can be jeans, shorts, T-shirts, tank tops, comfortable footwear — in short, any clothing that is clean, in reasonable state of repair (I recognize but don't understand the attraction of costly but ragged jeans) and inside the bounds of what reasonable people would consider decent exposure.
As a matter of personal preference, I would avoid camouflage except when stalking game, fishing, washing the car or watching war movies on TV. I readily admit to a certain parochialism, but I have never considered wearing camouflage BDU (Battle Dress Uniform) acceptable off-post.
Lastly, attire worn in public should be age-appropriate. Anyone over the age of 12 who is not a baseball catcher looks ridiculous with a baseball cap on backward. And, while I can be somewhat sympathetic to anyone attempting to maintain a youthful appearance, a balding male on the wrong side of 60 looks quite silly with a ponytail and an earring.
If I have stepped on anyone's toes, so be it. Still, I can only hope that many of you will view this with objectivity rather than hostility.