Back in the early seventies which were also my early days of teaching, I took off my tie one day while school was still in session. It was a very hot, you see, and owing to its location my room was exceptionally torrid. I had windows but no view unless you count a gymnasium wall a view. The sun beat off the wall, off the gravel between the wall and my windows, and into my room. So, I took my tie off late one sweltering afternoon.
My assistant department head was scandalized: "Tut, tut, tut. AC, you never take your tie off. You just don't." Being a rookie, I complied and knotted the cursed thing back up, but little did I know that I was in the vanguard of change.
It wasn't long after, maybe even the next school year that some impudent young upstart teachers took it into their youthful heads to come to school tie-less. Perhaps it began as a stroke of warm weather sensibility. And you know what? The earth continued to rotate on its axis, neither did the moon didn't fall from its orbit. In fact, I guess no one scolded them because they continued to do it. I can't remember exactly when I joined the trend for good … or mostly good, because I'm sure that I was still happy to dress up the rigours of the dress code on many days and in appropriate weather.
Let me hasten to assure you that most of us were still relatively well-dressed specimens. We'd don our dress shirts and properly pressed pants. Heckfire, I even had hair to fuss with back then. According to my recollections, that transitional phase of dress lasted for about a decade. I particularly and rather fondly recall one outfit of those times. One Christmas Cuppa gave me a wonderful red vest sweater. I loved it. With that and a clean white shirt and a tie (when I was in the mood), I felt pretty good about my appearance.
However, I did say that those were transitional times. Soon the dress shirts disappeared too. Some guys, but not many because we still had some pride, would even wear blue jeans to work. I don't think I ever did that, but I did ease into more casual and comfortable (but still decent) slacks.
It wasn't just a set of rebellious young teachers, however; a whole societal change was occurring. As I have recently posted, we have recently attended concerts in rather plush venues and even churches – okay one plush concert hall and one church. Of course, I dressed up a little for those events: put on dress pants and worn spiffier-than-average sweaters. But I needn't have bothered … because few others did. Denims and other very casual clothes seem to comprise the sum total of the modern wardrobe. I don't condemn that, for those items are the staples of my wardrobe too; comfort is important after all. I am merely surprised by the degree to which we have changed and the relative rapidity of the transformation.
I look at photos and film clips of old sports events. Even at hockey games and baseball games, the gents were all suited up. It doesn't make much sense to us now, but that was the way of it. Perhaps it felt like an achievement to be able to dress up and go out. I don't know.
I wonder if this is mostly a North American phenomenon. I understand that Europeans are much more fashion conscious, for example. I also recently saw pictures of business people in one of the Australian cities at lunch time. Based on those pictures and when the photographers reported, black business dress is most assuredly still in fashion Down Under.
Personally, as long as we are clean and neat, I prefer the casual look and feel. What about you?