Twice each year, an organization known as Dapper Day invites its members to visit the four theme parks at Florida’s Walt Disney World Resort dressed to the nines. Dapper Day is an organization dedicated to keeping the refined styles of bygone days alive in the hearts and minds of those who participate. Their efforts lead one to wonder what happened to taking pride in one’s personal appearance.
There was a day when people would not leave the house without getting dressed up. They did not necessarily don tuxedos or cocktail dresses to go down to the market, but they did make an effort to put on clothes that were more formal than what they wore at home. Unlike so many young people today, they certainly didn’t leave the house wearing pajamas.
Those were the days when just about every man owned a pair of galoshes; the days when polishing a pair of dress shoes took so much effort that it was well worth putting on a pair of overshoes when you went outside. Today, we live in a world of overpriced sneakers and shabby-looking crocs.
Not the Best Dressed People
It is easy to blame the coronavirus crisis for what appears to be a sudden plunge in pride for one’s personal appearance. After all, lockdowns and voluntary quarantines have left people thinking more about comfort than style. But as The Westerly Sun’s Rona Mann recently observed, “even before March 2020 dealt the world a cruel blow, we were not the best-dressed specimens going anywhere or doing anything.”
Mann went on to discuss some of her own memories as a child. She remembered that her mother never owned a pair of slacks. She didn’t own jeans either. Whenever she left the house, she wore a skirt or dress. Moreover, her shoes and accessories matched.
I am not sure how old Mann is. However, I was born in the mid-sixties to parents who were part of that first generation to trend toward more relaxed clothing. Yet I remember both sets of grandparents. They were a lot like Mann’s mother. Both of my grandmothers took great pride in their appearances. Though my grandfathers weren’t as picky, they still made a point of cleaning themselves up and putting on good clothes before leaving the house.
Multiple Sets of Clothes
Back in my day, everyone I knew had multiple sets of clothes. I had a couple of pairs of pants, dress shirts, and neckties I wore for school. I also had my Sunday best for church. I had some casual clothes for informal events and a general collection of leisure clothes for play and household chores.
As for footwear, I had a pair of dress shoes, a pair of sneakers, and a pair of boots for working. I took care of my dress shoes for the simple fact that my parents could not afford to constantly replace them. So yes, I wore galoshes. I hated them, but I wore them when the weather was nasty.
Plenty of professional men still wear galoshes. Many of them have invested in GC Tech waterproof overshoes. And of course, black-tie events featuring formal suits and cocktail dresses still take place. But by and large, Mann’s observation is correct. We are not the best-dressed people in history.
The days when people took pride in their personal appearance seem to be long gone. That is too bad, because the same attitude that goes along with taking stock of your appearance also makes you want to put your best foot forward in most other areas of life.