My maternal grandfather, James Albert Stewart, was a manual laborer most of his life. He lived a hardscrabble existence in Tennessee before moving to Muncie and then worked, along with his wife, Ida, in the town’s dirty, hot factories. He was by no means a dandy.
Yet in the years I remember him best, after he was retired, my grandfather dressed in black slacks, a white dress shirt, a thin black tie and (sometimes) a jacket and hat every day. Not just for attending the Baptist church on Sunday. Every day. He would get dressed up and ride the bus downtown and pass the time in stores and coffee shops, dressed in a manner most people these days would associate with the Blues Brothers or the Men in Black. That was how men dressed back then.
My mom and dad were more casual than my grandfather but still pretty “dressy.” Mom wore dresses to church and Dad wore a tie and jacket on Sunday but during the week Mom wore slacks and blouses and Dad wore work pants and shirts.
Five days a week, I’m likely to be wearing khaki pants and oxford shirts, which may be why I love being able to wear shorts (or jeans) and knit polo shirts on weekends. I have a rack full of ties but break them out only occasionally.
Sensing a trend here?
To carry the dressing-down timeline a bit further, I see people in their 20s who seem to live in shin-length shorts and concert Ts. Or even worse, pajama pants and T-shirts. Nothing says, “I just rolled out of bed and I think I brushed my teeth” like pajama pants worn out in public.
I don’t long for a return to the days of white shirts and fedoras, despite my fondness for the TV show “Mad Men.” But I’m officially tired of people wearing Nike pool shoes everywhere but the pool and wearing ratty jeans to mortuary calling hours.
I’m gonna continue to dress down on weekends and days off. You’re not going to see me sporting spats and a cummerbund (okay, maybe the latter in case I’m best man in a wedding again) anytime soon.
But if you see me on the street in pajama pants, please wake me up gently because I’m sleepwalking.