Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Celebrate Liberty...Dress Like A Slob

(NB: This post was partially inspired by my first-and last-exposure to this television show. There was a marathon on, my bad ankle was acting up and the remote was across the room. I finally get around cable and this is what happens. It also has a lot of things that I have been thinking about for some time)

I have often heard it said that everyone develops their own sense of "style." I have never been sure what to make of this rather nebulous term. In other words, I do not know really what style means to me or to others.

I, furthermore, do not see my self really ever caring about this. If pressed with the question, "what sort of look were you going for there?," I would really not know what to say. I usually have some smart-assed remark ready to hurl like "annoyed middle-manager of a moderately successful mid-level corporation" or "annoyed mid-level bureaucrat in a non-sexy government department."

So, why do I dress the way that I do? Mostly practical concerns. I want to hide my nakedness (believe me, the world wants NO part of that). I am, at present and for some time now, usually stony broke. I have to comply with some vague, non-specified dress code for whatever job I have.

Do I care at all what my clothes look like? Well, yes and no. I want them to be clean and in reasonable repair. As for color, I shy away from anything bright or attention-getting. Frankly, if they sold buttoned-down collar shirts (in any pattern or sensible color) in a roll like paper towels, I would buy them in a second.

Why then, Will, are you writing about this? It comes from a connundrum that I had upon viewing the above-bookmarked television show.

On one hand, I believe that people should be able to spend their money on whatever consumer goods strike their fancy. This is why markets are the best and most fair way to allocate resources. People, making their individual decisions for selfish reasons, end up fulfilling the desires of all concerned. Sound familiar? It should.

On the other hand, and quite differently, I felt myself feeling that pursuing some sense of a "current style" went against the fundamental freedom of all people to allocate their resources as they see fit. In the past there were sumptuary laws that limited access to certain forms of consumption. The only barrier to individual consumption, the only fair barrier anyway, should be prices set in free and open markets.

Another source of my qualms has been some notion that people in other countries (particularly European ones) are thought (by themselves and us) to be "better dressers" than Americans. This is perhaps not the place to speculate on this score, but I would figure that this is a subset of the argument that Americans care about quantity over quality, breadth over depth and practicality over fashion. I am not sure why I felt this way, but I did and somewhat still do.

Why is this? I think it comes from the mere fact that in saying that someone looks "better" dressed a certain way, it makes a value judgement on that person's resource allocation decisions. It also makes a value judgement on the right of that individual to do exactly as he or she likes as long as that action does not harm other people.

I am not comfortable with either of these value judgements. If you want to spend all (or most or some) of your money on expensive garments, fine. Just don't judge me because I choose to allocate my scarce resources in a different manner. Don't hurl the epithet "slob" at me because I look like a pile of laundry with shoes under it. Just know that I make different decisions about opportunity cost. Don't make the call that, because I don't fit some certain mold of looking "put-together," that I am somehow defective in other ways.

The fundamental issue here is, therefore, that when value judgements enter decisions of resource allocation, problems arise.

What I am driving at, in the end, is that people should dress however the hell they damned well please. If that is a suit that costs what I make in a month, fine. If it is cut-off sweat pants and a BBQ sauce stained NASCAR shirt, fine. Anywhere in-between these gross stereotypes, fine.

But Will, you protest, what about decorum and dress in certain situations. I do realize that certain situations seem to call for certain modes of dress. Employers, schools, restaurants, cultural attractions and others have dress codes that must be followed or punishments can be meted out.

We must ask ourselves, though, why does it "seem" that these situations "call" for certain modes of covering one's nakedness? Why, furthermore, do dress codes exist? My short answer to both would be enforced conformity. My long answer? Perhaps for another day, that.

So, what say you, dear readers?

While you think that over, I am going to work on that "tear-off roll of shirts idea." I might be on to something there...

1 comment:

Lost A Sock said...

I'll try not to act like you've struck a nerve. But I haaaaaate that show.

Wait. First let me say that, in all fairness, sometimes people do let themselves go, and being brought back with a new "look" or whathaveyou is good for them.

But unfortunately with most shows like that, sweeping generalizations are made over all body types, people who work as CFO's or shit-shovelers, and, well, me.

I once heard a fashion-conscious woman advise, "Let's face it ladies- gym shoes should be left in the gym." And then she went on to discuss our society's need for heels across the board, bringing us to a higher standard for ourselves. (I say we take it a step further - let's try some feet binding! Go China!)

I have no need for a blazer. I wear heels to weddings - the one pair I own. I spend my days covered in baby puke, cleaning house, playing trains, running errands at W*lmart and the like. Heels? Never. Not even CLOSE to practical. Even when I go out, it is in a style that is acceptable, appropriate and mostly comfortable to my taste.

Someone please add a practical edge to one of these programs and I might be tempted to watch again. ...In all of my yoga pants, solid color tee-shirt glory. ;o)

Sorry to hijack your comments section.