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Are We Too Comfortable?
I'm taking time out of our discussion on pornography to post my syndicated column! The other discussion will return, likely this weekend, but for now, here's something completely different. Every Friday my column appears in a variety of newspapers, and here's today's. Hope you like it!

I love a man in a suit. He looks like he takes himself seriously. He looks powerful. He respects himself, and he respects those he’s with. And if he lets his wife choose his tie, he’s likely colour-coordinated, too.

Few wear a suit these days, and perhaps it’s just as well given the cost of dry cleaning. But until relatively recently suits were commonplace. All self-respecting men donned them, and usually topped it off with a fashionable hat. Pore over pictures of the Great Depression, and you frequently see men, in three piece suits, sitting around playing checkers. Even the poorest owned a suit. Come to think of it, so did gangsters. I guess they figured if you work for Al Capone and you have to take somebody out, you may as well do it in style.

These days suits are passé. Executives and politicians may don them, but we’re a little suspicious of those who seem overly successful. Instead, most of us don’t care about formality anymore; we care about comfort.

Now I have nothing against comfort. In fact, I’m rather attached to my denims. I’m just wondering what happened over the last few decades. T-shirts and camisoles were once underwear, not outerwear. People dressed to show they took pride in themselves. Today, with jeans hanging below one’s nether-regions and bra straps revealing more than they should, it’s hard to see the pride. Maybe it’s there, buried underneath the metal studs, but I’m not catching the vibes.

Clothes aren’t the only thing we’ve sacrificed on the altar of informality. People once called each other “Sir” and “Ma’am”, or they at least addressed each other by last names, like Mr. and Mrs. Smith. They wrote thank you cards. Clerks believed in customer service, not in lurking in the automotive department playing on your iPod touch in case somebody might need help in toys.

Teachers dressed formally and expected compliance, even if the kids didn’t like it. Today the emphasis is on making learning fun. And students learn best when they’re comfortable, so the theory goes.

What about family dinners? For most families, dinnertime was a ritual. One child would set the table, and another would clear. You waited until everyone was seated to dig in. You passed the salt. Today many families heat up dinners in the microwave and collapse in front of the TV or computer.

I’m turning forty this year, so perhaps I’m becoming even more of a curmudgeon than usual. But I think a little bit of discomfort and a little more pride may be a good thing. We don’t have to go overboard; after all, I spent several years avoiding some relatives at family reunions because I had forgotten to write thank you cards, and I was mortified that they may remember the infraction. One of my worst clothing memories is of serving as a bridesmaid in a wedding on a day that made hell feel like a cool breeze. I had the good fortune of wearing a short-sleeve dress. The men wore wool suits—complete with vests. I spent the entire service staring into my husband’s sweaty face, willing him, and the other ushers, not to faint.

Nevertheless, I wonder what it says about us as a culture when our highest virtue is not working hard, or respecting ourselves, or taking pride in our accomplishments; it’s instead living a life when we do whatever we want, however we want to, as long as we don’t have to exert any extra effort. Even gangsters took pride in their work way back when. Surely we can again, too?

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At 8:39 AM , Blogger Kelly said…

Love it! Great post.


At 9:06 AM , Anonymous Quiet Mom said…

Sheila - I agree. I love a man in a suit. In the early days of our marriage hubs wore a suit to work daily (I know - shows how old we are). Then came "casual Fridays" which turned into, in a VERY short time, casual everyday.

Think I'll pull out my pearls for dinner...


At 9:08 AM , Blogger Jamie~ said…

Totally, totally agree! And I'm not even forty, yet...

Comfort is definitely what it's all about these days which is rather unfortunate. When we let ourselves get to comfortable, we lose the beauty of pushing ourselves harder. Does that make sense?

Definitely makes me want to dress up a little today! Thanks!


At 10:15 AM , Blogger Neal Ford said…

Where do I begin?

It was not long ago when it mattered how you dressed. I was in Toastmasters back in the eighties and early nineties, and we were held to the highest sartorial standards-not necessarily expensive, but neatness and a professional appearance was demanded.
Fast forward to 2007 I went to a Toastmasters meeting, and was surprised to see everyone in casual attire.

Sadly, as things changed in the nineties, going forward, I too hung up my suits, except for special occasions.

Some observations, not just restricted to clothing, but also to the attitudes and behaviour the formality engendered:
1)Language and attitude have deteriorated. Four letter words have become acceptable in many office milieus, and even adolescent -ahem- "body functions" jokes are mainstream.

2)I have seen and heard of more abrasiveniess between co-workers, and even extending toward one's clients. The "let's be cool" attitude in blurring th lines of proper and improper behaviour,and a decline in manners.

As casual dress permeates society, it continues to push the envelope, especially with referene to the whole pornographication of society that is being discussed here on this blog. The way some men and women are dressing are placing others in temptation's way, puttig families at risk.

Here's one to think about: Who else is tired of men who think they should be able to walk around shirtless hither and yon?
Would anybody besides myself like to see a return to the fasion of the thirties and forties, where men wore what looked like basketball jerseys along with trunks to the beach, while wimen wore modest one-piece bathing suits that usually had a small skirt?


At 11:39 AM , Blogger Sheila said…


I'm with you! I think a bit more modesty would be a much better thing. And I don't know why we're so reticent to treat ourselves and others with respect. It does have repercussions that reach all through society, and I think it starts with how we dress, because it's in how we dress that we give people our first impression. If that impression is sloppy, then everything else is assumed to be sloppy, too. And often we live up to our assumptions.

I'm not sure how to fix it, but I wish we could try!


At 12:47 PM , Blogger living water homeschool said…

I think we're becoming a culture of lackadaisical, unmotivated, slobs. Granted, I'm not saying I dress up to go to the grocery store, but I at least make sure I'm showered and have a little makeup on, taking at least a little pride in my appearance. I agree about four letter words being thrown around casually, even in a business environment. It seems like the line between business, casual, and lounging around is completely blurred and now it's just all sloppy all the time. I do think it's an outward reflection of what is going on internally in our lives and culture.


At 12:56 PM , Blogger Neal Ford said…

Dress is just one symptom of a greater malaise plaguing society, and as an armchair social commentator I have picked up on one of the major causes of this laxing of standards which touches just about every aspect of life in the west, and that is a baby boomer generation whose parents in all too many cases made the mistake of not "raising their children up ithe way they should go, that they will not depart from it when they are older", to wit, not raising them in Christ, and instead let them "find their own spirituality". As politically incorrect as it may be, life without Christ is empty (I've been there, I know) and nature abhors a vaccuum (except when combined with love and honour ;-)). thus arose the me generation as worshp of image and the self took over.
We saw the rise of a generation that scorned their grandparents for living within their means.
They also, in their narcissism, decided that they were going to rebel against the natural processes of life which include ageing amd maturing. The big life skill they have missed acquiring in their pursuit of the fountain of youth is the art of aging gracefully. I'm not suggesting that means becoming a frump by any means, but you are going too far when you don't as Paul says, put away the things of youth". I'm sure we've all seen the cases of women in their thirties and forties trying to dress like their 14 year old daughters, or the women in their fifties who get their noses peirced and their first tattoos... Not to mention the men who seek affirmation in a younger woman & sports cars, or who in their late 20's and early 30's wear "pants on the ground" Baseball hats backwars, and 2 days stubble.
In other words, a lack of a solid foundation has resulted in a society where chaos is king, and slobbishness prevails (Until i moved to Belleville, i had never seen women walking around town wearing pajama bottoms!).
Many people have rejected proper attire and manners as their expression of rebellion and non-conformity, and the irony of it all, they are conforming in their rebellion.


At 4:27 PM , Blogger Nurse Bee said…

Let me just say if nurses still wore caps and little white dresses....I probably wouldn't be one!


At 9:34 PM , Blogger Aydan said…

You know, I don't think I agree.

The Bible tells us, I think, not to worry about what we're going to wear (the lilies of the field), and not to judge others based on what they look like or wear (James). I'd rather worry about how people act than how they are dressed; I'd rather have other people evaluate me on my behavior rather than my clothes, on whether I'm acting like a Christian rather than whether I look too "comfortable," you know? I don't think I would be more loving or more respectful if I dressed more formally, and I don't know if anyone else would, either.

Measures of respect and formality change from generation to generation, and that's ok. No one wears top hats any more, but we don't lament their loss, or think a man without one is disrespectful; few people think that a woman who exposes her collarbone is somehow morally deficient. It's good to dress up if that's your way of showing respect, but it's also good to remember that different people have different ways of being formal, showing respect, and taking pride in themselves and their accomplishments.

I think it's also worth noting that at the time when suits were de rigueur for men, the equivalent for women included aspects often harmful to one's well-being, like heels, girdles, and skirts and stockings even in winter. I'm not going to judge anyone else on the way they're dressed, but for me, my way of showing pride in myself, and love and care for the body God gave me, isn't by causing myself pain and chronic spine damage.

However, I'm just a young whippersnapper, so maybe I should just get off your lawn (kidding!)

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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