I wonder whatever happened to the phrase "clothes make the man."
That thought came back to me a few days ago as the middle school students at the school where I work were hanging out in the cafeteria waiting for another day to begin. It was game day for one of the boys basketball teams, and the team wears dress clothes to school on game day. At this age, that means nice pants, a button-up shirt, and a necktie. Nothing fancy, but nice to see for a change.
So the young man I noticed walking into the cafeteria wearing the requisite pants, shirt, and necktie (with black dress shoes, even) paused for just an instant, gave himself a quick visual once-over, straightened his tie, and then squared his shoulders before continuing on toward his group of friends.
It was as if he was saying to himself, "Hey, maybe there's something to this dressing-up thing. I think I look pretty sharp here."
When you're in junior high, that's a pretty big discovery. Especially, perhaps, in these times-when it seems that jeans are the clothing uniform for all ages, one can never be out of step if you're wearing the right t-shirt with a team or college name on it, and tying your shoes is optional.
And this isn't just in a school environment. I find myself becoming more and more appalled at what I see adults wearing when they're out in public. Just why is it necessary to wear what looks like pajama pants when you go to the store? And how can you look anything but sloppy when your feet are shod in slippers? (Maybe there's a reason some people used to call them house shoes.)
My dad, part of the Greatest Generation, would not approve of this trend. He truly appreciated nice clothes even though he didn't have a need to wear them daily. I remember well how his eyes would light up at the thought of wearing a new suit or when he would consider just the right necktie to go with the suit.
One of his favorite stories was about how his older brother bought him a new suit of clothes (Dad's words) to wear at his high school graduation. It was all the more special since my dad was the first in his family to graduate high school.
Dad had very firm opinions about what should be worn when, and he wasn't afraid to share them-like why we think it's necessary to wear dungarees (his words) when we should be dressed better.
Needless to say, Dad was a proponent of the "clothes make the man" theory, very close to the "you are what you wear" approach. I believe the young man I noticed in the cafeteria just might agree with that approach, too. And, judging from what I see around me all too often, so do I.