As I See It

Dress for Success -  GrahamWhen I was told that the theme for this issue would be fashion, my first thought was that in today’s world most people dress very casually. The more I pondered the issue, the more I thought we have lost something good from the past.

Did we first become more casual, and then we went to sloppy and offensive? As a young man, I remember wearing a suit to church. If the family went out to a restaurant, the whole family would shower, change and “dress up.”

When I first sought a job, I was given a book by my father called Dress for Success. Truthfully, I don’t even know if it is in print, but it was the basis for my wardrobe. I had just returned from Germany as a criminal investigator in the Army. The military had an emphasis on uniform appearance, and private industry also linked uniformity in dress with professionalism – remember IBM and its “men-in-black” suits and ties. In office work, ties and suits for men and conservative dresses for women were the rule of the day.

In Germany, even line workers and laborers wore suits to work; they had work clothes in a briefcase and changed in locker rooms. One could look at almost the entire workforce and almost 90 percent of the people were dressed in a professional manner. At the time, I thought it to be a really nice custom. Everyone had pride in his or her appearance.

The first break in this tradition of more formal dressing at work and special occasions was “casual Fridays.” We have gone from suits and dresses to jeans and yoga pants. Most children today seldom dress up for any occasion, and when they do, they look as though they are fish out of water.

I once read a book called Diary of the Invisible Man. In it, there was one sentence that just stuck with me over the years – “He wore his tux with casual indifference.” This sentence encapsulates exactly what we have lost in our society; individuals who can dress up, look comfortable and be elegant.

I am an older person who stills believes that when one goes to dinner, consoles a friend at a funeral, represents his office at a meeting or courts the woman he loves, he should look groomed. Elegance is still important.

I have had students interview with me for a very coveted internship at my forensic center. It is astounding to see what they will wear to the interview. Seldom do women come in with either a dress or a matching pants suit. Many times, they appear with tight mid-waist jeans and tank tops with multiple layers of flesh escaping out of its tight enclosures. I have seen men with T-shirts or soiled shirts, pants falling off their rumps, their faces unshaven and covered either with piercings or tattoos. Every one of these students believes that they have this right of self-expression, and I assume that is true, but I also believe that I have the right to say, “This is not the image I want my office to reflect.”

Don’t get me wrong, I love my jeans and cowboys boots, but I know what to wear and when to wear it. If that book were still out there, I would buy a copy for my kids and everyone in the office. We have gone from being causal, to losing our sense of pride in our appearance. There is no way this is good for any society.

Why not try dressing up, taking the family out to a restaurant without a drive-through window and have conversation without cell phones or iPads?

Elegance in dress, music and literature are good for a society. It reflects the better things within our culture, and that’s important. It’s not a matter of money; it is a matter of taste and pride.

Graham Hetrick

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