Public Appearance?

I happen to like vests, but it’s clear that, except occasionally with three-piece suits, vests are not currently popular or fashionable in most parts of the United States. But what is fashionable today?

The definition of fashionable is “characteristic of, influenced by, or representing a current popular trend or style,” while stylish is usually defined as “fashionably elegant and sophisticated.”

Now, obviously, with my love of vests [tastefully flamboyant with matching tie when I’m making writing-related appearances, and quite conservative otherwise], dress shirts, and cowboy boots, I’m no slave to current fashion, but what I wear, according to more than a few people, is a style that suits me, in more ways than one. Because I have high arches, cowboy boots are one of the few forms of footwear that don’t destroy my feet, and all of my boots are either solid black or brown.

When I was younger, I sported longer hair and a mustache, partly because my first wife thought both were more fashionable This was in the 1970s, and 1970s fashions, especially in retrospect, didn’t benefit most people, and I was no exception. I look better with short hair [even if there’s not much of it left on top] and clean-shaven. I also feel better that way.

Any type of fashion trend generally tends to look better on people who are young and painfully thin. Most of us aren’t. And that means, if we want to look our best, we need to choose what looks good on us and what is also practical and comfortable.

What I don’t understand is why so many people, especially younger [defined loosely as those who are less than forty] people, particularly men, seem to go out of their way not to look good. Maybe I’m missing something, but when people I know are not poor, or even close to it, show up wearing ripped pants or cargo shorts, dirty shirts, and flip-flops in forty degree temperature weather, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Nor does wearing shorts that swallow you, or tank tops that show and exaggerate every extra pound.

If dressing like that is making a statement, what exactly is that statement?

8 thoughts on “Public Appearance?”

  1. Tim says:

    Where I live here in rural UK, the richest landowners I know look like they shop in a thrift store.

    A friend who has travelled in the best style said that the celebrities he recognised seem to universally dress down when travelling.

  2. Tom says:

    Perhaps the answer regarding choice of “style” is in the combination of these two thought provoking products.

    New Clues about the Origins of Biological Intelligence
    December 11, 2021 Rafael Yuste and Michael Levin Opinion Scientific American.
    A theory which I cannot think as other than unworkable. But, this article created a recall of Asimov’s short story first appearing in Galaxy Science Fiction, November 1950 under the title of “Misbegotten Missionary” (Asimov preferred the title “Green Patches”).

    We have discussed in depth our different societal views of freedom, anarchy, sovereignty, slavery, individuality and community: because I think reading the current Scientific American opinion piece and Asimov’s short science fiction story allows us to think about our current society curiously; I bring them to your attention.

  3. Postagoras says:

    How you dress is a statement of who you’re conforming with, and who you’re not conforming with.
    My father wore suits every day to work, and never wore a t-shirt or blue jeans. Not once. I wear a t-shirt and jeans every day (unless someone’s getting married or dead). So I’m a nonconformist vis-a-vis my father, and a complete conformist vis-a-vis my peers.
    That cycle just continues. If you’d told me as a teen that folks would be paying hundreds of dollars for pre-ripped jeans, I’d think you were insane.

  4. Joe says:

    Like Postagoras says… I buy N clothes that fit in. Then I don’t waste any of my mental energy in the morning putting them on. Whatever is at the top of the baskets is what is worn today. Of course weddings, etc, are a different story. (Basically the Steve Jobs method, but with some variety).

    1. Joe says:

      (although fitting in doesn’t mean ripped jeans in my case…)

  5. Frank says:

    When I younger, I was able to choose to wear all of the things considered by my peers to be in fashion during the peace and love days, including a pony tail and long hair.

    Now, somewhat like you Lee, I wear what is comfortable, Collared shirts and slacks or shorts during the appropriate season here in Australia. Some of time the slacks and shorts have cargo pockets because I am unable to carry things in my hands while walking. Even the pocketed items are ironed and do not wrinkle easily.

    Hair, like you with a closely trimmed beard.

    For what it’s worth, when I first arrived in Australia the 35 years ago the locals said I was overdressed. These days most people my age dress the same.

    It is those in-betweeners who no longer have a teen-aged body who seem unconscious as to how they look — trying to recapture a bygone era, I guess.

  6. M. Kilian says:

    Like Frank I live in Australia, and because I live in the tropics I typically don’t get to wear the more formal clothing I prefer. So, most days it is a t-shirt with the emphasis on light fabric and shorts to help vent heat.

    Towards winter I can get away with jeans but even chinos can be too warm for much of the year, even night-time outside of winter. As for the trashy fashion, I think it’s as much exploiting rebellious intent on fashion- once, jeans and uncollared shirts were viewed as poor people’s garb and unsavory, and teenagers often wore such in spite of their parents.

    Now that I’m a bit older and I don’t much care what others think about what I wear, I’d happily wear a full suit with half calf leather boots and gloves normally, weather willing.

  7. Carl C Federl says:

    Regarding your three blog posts titles Competence, Public Appearance, and The Fragile Generation, I believe that they all have the same root cause. From history, the Greatest Generation (born 1901 to 1924) and the Silent Generation (born 1925 to 1945) experienced World War I, the Spanish Flu pandemic, the Great Depression, climate change (the Dust Bowl), World War II. The following generation experienced five post war recessions between 1945 to 1960. The survivors of these events were those who emphasized self reliance, competence, objectivity, conscientiousness and planning for the future.

    The current young adults of ages 18 to 22 were born between 1998 and 2002 and have experienced very little stress in their lives with only one recession in 2008 and almost all have not participated in wars. Just as physical ability increases due to stress, that is exercise, emotional flexibility increases when exercised by overcoming small stressful situations. These young adults have been protected from all personally stressful situations and have been subjected to social media stress on appearance, social justice and climate change.
    Psychologists have correlated that achievement increases self esteem, a desirable goal, but did not identify that the effort and conscientiousness needed to attain the achievement are the cause of the increased self esteem. Hence, participation awards are given to increase self esteem but when they are in a situation where participation is insufficient, such as college or a job, they don’t know how to behave and experience crippling anxiety. As the students are failing to meet education standards, instead of failing the students, they are promoting to the next grade, graduating from high school and lowering or eliminating standards such as standardized achievement tests. Since high school graduates are no longer competent, instead of attempting to achieve competence, they disparage it.

    Public Appearance:
    With Social Justice becoming the predominant philosophy, dressing in a manner that reflects anything other than the unsuccessful groups becomes a matter to be shamed and not admirred. Additionally, the quality of basic clothing such as jeans and t-shirts has decreased, but not the price, and the clothing quickly develops holes and tears, which are worn as a matter of pride rather than shame.

    Some recommended reading:
    The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure by Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff.
    Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion by Paul Bloom.
    Science Fictions – How fraud, bias, negligence and hype undermine the search for truth by Stuart Ritchie

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