Doug Robinson: Have Americans gone too casual?

By Doug Robinson, Deseret News

Published: Wed, June 18, 2014, 8:00 a.m. MDT

 Doug Robinson writes: In terms of dress, Americans have gone from formal to slobbery in the last 50 years — from Ward Cleaver's suits to Homer Simpson's too-small T-shirt.

Doug Robinson writes: In terms of dress, Americans have gone from formal to slobbery in the last 50 years — from Ward Cleaver's suits to Homer Simpson's too-small T-shirt.


I never thought I would write this sentence, but here goes: Americans have taken casual dress too far.

Maybe it’s my age.

Maybe it’s the era.

Or maybe it’s that disgusting, hairy man eating tikka masala at the table next to mine – in shorts and a tank top.

It could be that.

How do I put this tactfully?

Americans are slobs.

It’s not that I want everyone to wear suits and ties on airplanes the way they did in the ‘50s and ‘60s, especially since airline travel has has gone from being a pleasurable, special occasion to a sweaty, harried nightmare that lasts about as long as this sentence.

On the other hand: Do we have to look like The People of Walmart?

That’s where we’re headed.

The horror.

I grew up in the ‘60s and ‘70s. My generation invented casual. We were anti-establishment. Our style, if you could call it that, was post-hippie meets American teen peasant. That was the start of the decline. Succeeding generations have taken it down several notches from there, so that ultimately, in terms of style, we went from Ward and June Cleaver all the way to Homer Simpson – from hanging out at home in suits and dresses to an undersized T-shirt with an exposed belly.

You know what I’m talking about — women shopping in sweats, pajamas, yoga pants and Spandex; men and their armpits wearing tank tops in restaurants.

You see couples out for a weekend dinner at a nice restaurant. The woman is dressed in a color-coordinated outfit that she evidently picked out after some thought, and her man is wearing something he found at the bottom of the laundry pile at the foot of the washer. He doesn’t know it, but he is sending a message, and that message is: We're married, she’s stuck with me, I don’t need to try anymore.

I quote Cher Horowitz from “Clueless:” “So, OK, I don't want to be a traitor to my generation and all but I don't get how guys dress today. I mean, come on, it looks like they just fell out of bed and put on some baggy pants and take their greasy hair - ew - and cover it up with a backwards cap and like, we're expected to swoon? I don't think so.”

Now even some of the women are throwing in the towel, which I suppose is better than wearing one. They show up at the mall in sloppy shorts and an old T-shirt. This also sends a clear message: I give up.

A word about Spandex and other form-fitting casual/workout attire: Some people believe that because, say, Jennifer Aniston looks good in Spandex, so will they. This is not true. The percentage of the population that looks good in Spandex is approximately .0000001. What are the odds that this includes us?

I’m no expert on the sartorial arts, but if I could offer a few suggestions …

Under no circumstance should men wear tank tops in a restaurant that doesn’t have arches in front of it, because who wants to see armpits while they are eating (or doing anything else, for that matter)?

Clothes must fit. They must cover the essential areas, including the backside, if you know what I mean, especially at a concert when an entire family is sitting behind you for two hours!!!!! (You know who you are).

Cargo shorts, old basketball shorts, T-shirts ... fine in most settings., but a wedding reception?

Men, if you are on a date with your wife or girlfriend, would it kill you to leave the bean dip-encrusted Broncos jersey at home and clean up for her a little?

But we dress for comfort, people say. Fine, just don’t leave the house.

Bottom line, America: Let’s class up the place a little.

The New York Times published a collection of articles in February called, “The Casual Couture of the Average American.” It mentioned that clothing makers are producing a line of tailored sweat pants. Oy.

Jonathan Walford of the Fashion History Museum (did you know there was such a thing?), wrote, “Liberated from stuffy tradition, post-‘60s style was reinvigorated at a grassroots level. But soon a disdain for artificiality, a desire for comfort, and just plain slovenliness won out.”

And from fashion psychologist Karen J. Pine: “Psychological research confirms not only that we are what we wear, but that we become what we wear. So dress with caution, or a conscience.”


Doug Robinson's columns run on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Email: drob@deseretnews.com

1. igotworms
Salt Lake City, UT,
June 18, 2014

I completely agree with this article. I have yet to find a restaurant that has a dress code in Salt Lake City. My wife and I want to get all dressed up and go out on special occasions, but there is no guaranteed we won't be sitting next to sleeveless-sweatpants-guy. I have noticed that in Manhattan and Chicago, there is a culture of dressing nice that I really admire. Maybe it is a big city thing

2. DonP
Sainte Genevieve, MO,
June 18, 2014

You have nailed it, but it is deeper than merely appearance. Correct usage of the English language is gone with misspellings and grammatical errors showing up everywhere, not just in emails, postings and tweets but in news articles written by people who supposedly have a degree in journalism. Etiquette is also gone. People fight over parking spaces. TV shows accentuate drama over substance. I think what we are witnessing is a general decline in the society in general. I am hoping that the pendulum will swing back at some point.

3. Aggie5
Kuna, ID,
June 18, 2014

Dressing causal and grammar errors are bad in the same eyes? I guess I will stick with the dressed down crowd then.
Stuffy is out with the money is everything crowd.

4. 3grandslams
Iowa City, IA,
June 18, 2014

It's about time! Great article, cheap shot at Wal-mart, no reason to disparage others for cheap humor.

5. Mona
Beaverton, OR,
June 18, 2014

On a just completed weeks long business trip I had plenty of time to observe folks in airports. Oh, the horror. A very large woman wearing hot magenta sweat pants with a large PINK written across the behind along with a tank top that was bursting from its load; hairy men with not enough covering, and like you say, dirty laundry straight out of the hamper. How hard can it be to at least put on a clean pair of jeans and t-shirt. Or upgrade to a button-down?