Following on from the recent strange decision by the Speaker of the House of Commons to allow MPs to discard ties in Parliament, you can probably imagine my joy when I read the headline ‘golfer wears a tie in the Open’. Perhaps, I thought, all is not lost in the declining sartorial state of the world. My joy was however short lived when I eventually found an image of the said golfer and his tie.
I suppose it comes down to definitions. My definition of ‘wearing a tie’ is that the top button of the shirt is fastened and the tie is knotted appropriately – not slung at half mast around one’s neck. Why even put on a tie if you are going to disregard its relevance in such a way? Add to that not having shaved, and the hideously large logos and the ball cap – well.
This leads me to a growing hypothesis in my mind over the increasing ‘casualness’ in our society and its implications. Walking my dogs in the local park is increasingly disturbing as I have to witness endless trails and deposits of rubbish left behind by people picnicking or just sitting on the grass. Often this discarded pile of food wrappers, empty bottles and cans, are left on the grass less than 20 yards away from rubbish bins. Why do people today believe it is acceptable behaviour to just dump their waste and walk away – assuming someone will clean it up for them? Such rubbish attracts vermin, poisons and damages wildlife, and is a risk for small children and people’s pets. It says much about the slobbish manners of those who deposit it.
Is slobbish too strong a word? The dictionary defines ‘slob’ as ‘a person who is lazy and has low standards of cleanliness’, so I would suggest it is the appropriate word to describe these people. But it is not just parks, rubbish is everywhere, anti-social behaviour is increasingly acceptable, rudeness is widespread. Why?
I suggest it can be increasingly linked to the decline in standards of dress.
G. Bruce Boyer recently addressed the matter in an article article about the “casual revolution” of society and the loss of sartorial occasions. He argues the term “casual” is considered obsolete as it can only be opposed to “formal”. Since “casual” has become dominant it is no longer “casual” but simply “normal”, or “ordinary”. When casual was unusual in public, suits were the norm. Now that suits are the exception, they are considered formal.
What is perhaps also concerning here in evolution terms is what will come to be the norm once ‘casual’ is seen as ‘formal’. There are already open disagreements over exactly what the boundaries of ‘casual’ are – recently whilst flying to the USA on BA in Club Class I could not help but notice the man across the aisle from me was dressed in a strangely logo’d t-shirt, cargo shorts and flip flops. He proceeded to walk about the aircraft in bare feet, displaying feet which had clearly never been near a pedicure – his feet were frankly disgusting to look at. I felt sorry for the flight attendants, smartly dressed in their uniforms, having to administer service to someone who I perceived as disrespectful to the surroundings he was in. But, I suspect, he would argue he was simply dressed in a ‘casual’ manner – casual used to mean clean trousers, a collared shirt and shoes and socks, not cargo shorts, bare feet and flip flops.
If we adopt such a casual disinterested approach to how we look surely that ultimately influences our attitudes and behaviour. Perhaps it is a stretch to label overly casual styles to slobbishness, but I am increasingly convinced our society is heading to a state of complete disrespect for traditions, culture, history which can only lead to an eventual breakdown in basic acceptable norms of civilised behaviour.
It is therefore time to take a stand, to refuse to be shamed or bullied into lowering our standards to the new ‘norm’ of slobbish behaviour. I for one will wear my suit and tie to work with pride, to dress in a casual style (when appropriate) respectful to those around me, to create a pleasing aesthetic (and never wear cargo shorts and flip flops). Heaven help my local MP if I ever spot him in the House of Commons without a tie – he has been warned!