Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Dress Code

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?

15 comments:

Gina said...

Casual all the way. Although I think people dress down a bit too much for weddings and funerals. Especially funerals. You are there to pay your respects, and that means looking nice, IMHO.

As for teachers, my sister is one and she does so much moving around and the like that she wears comfortable cotton pants and shirts all the time.

Coll said...

I too prefer the casual look and feel.. but every once in awhile I like to really dress it up... just for the fun of it. My hubby is the real dresser in our family. He has always been the stylish one.

methatiam said...

Tie-less? You wild man!
Jeans, T-shirt, Tennies (tennis shoes, sneakers, whatever they're calling them this week).
I have to do semi-dressy at work, but as soon as I get home....

Bonita said...

My worry is that people of other cultures will think this 'jeans look'is best, and forfeit their traditional attire. I shudder to think we would loose the Tibetan head-dresses and the flowing floral patterns seen in Africa. I like to see personal comfort, but pin-striped gabardine slacks and a beautifully pressed shirt with a collar and cuff-links are beautiful. I miss seeing this.

Heather said...

I'm of the "casual but not too casual" bent. Alot of people wear jeans to the office, but that's a line I never cross. I feel I have to appear at least somewhat professional, even though I wear fairly casual pants and rarely wear a business suit anymore.

I found it fascinating to be in Africa where business people, teachers, church leaders, community leaders, etc. all dress up with either their traditional attire, or neatly pressed suits and ties. We could be in the middle of a remote community, but people would still come to meet us dressed very sharply. There's something to be said for dressing well, even though my personal preference is to be comfortable.

Anonymous said...

It depends so much on the setting. It is one thing to wear casual clothes for everyday things. Mine certainly are.. and I also have some nicer things for special events. All of my clothes are of one basic style (Thai) but vary based on circumstances. To show respect for a person or situation, I will dress differently than I dress to do gardening. :)

Clothes are great for personal expression. At school though, for the students, I prefer to see uniforms. At that age, they use clothes to create divisions. I'm not sure about the teachers. That's something to think about.

Jeans? Gosh, I haven't worn jeans in a long time.. but they sure are comfortable!

Peace,

~Chani

Anonymous said...

I'm a jeans, t-shirt/sweatshirt and boots kind of gal. I work in a government office, but we specialize in conservation and agriculture. I would be run out of town on a rail if I dressed in anything but denim. Lucky me.

I do clean up fairly well when I have too give presentations, workshops or formal meetings though. I even have "girly" shoes!

Arctic Fox said...

When I first came to the north to teach I brought up a lot of 'teacher clothes' - dress pants, blazers, blouses, nice shoes, etc...

I soon learned that casual was the way to go. At first I had a hard time with it, but over time I allowed myself to wear jeans...on Fridays only! I considered it "Casual Fridays" as did the schools where I did my practicum sessions in Ontario. After 2+ years here, I can now teach in jeans and a t-shirt (usually with a toasty-warm sweater over top) any day of the week - and that's OK with me!

Cathy said...

This is eliciting some painful memories. I think I actually wore bell bottoms that were frayed from stepping on the too long hem. I remember my mother sneering that we'd enterd the age of ugliness. For her generation that form of informality sullied the notion of social propriety. I, too, am always surprised to see blue jeans in a church.

Maya's Granny said...

When I started teaching, it was dresses or skirts and blouses for the women, with high heels and nylons. Now, since I work for a non-profit and with teens, I sometimes wear jeans. More likely to wear coordinated casual slacks and blouses, but tees happen. Since I had an advance bout with plantar fasciitis and bursitis of the heel and a pulled Achilles tendon, I wear men's leather walking shoes per doctor's orders -- I wish someone would have told me years ago how comfortable they are! Haven't worn hose of any description in over 14 years. Freedom!

mreddie said...

It's suit and tie for funerals and weddings, dress shirt and slacks for church, tee-shirts and pants for everything else. Sometimes what I wear is what the Spice will permit. :) ec

Anonymous said...

Definitely casual. Ish. I wear jeans most of the time, but I wouldn't if I was working in an office again. I wouldn't be wearing pantyhose, though, either!

Anonymous said...

I wear stuff that just screams "Grandma".

I'm much into casual comfort.

My husband is fashion-minded.

I'm sure I embarrass him nearly to death at times. Even though I try, I just cannot seem to make myself care.

I do clean-up nicely for weddings and funerals though.

PBS said...

I used to never go to work without wearing a dress, skirt, and/or suit. Now I mostly wear pants to work with a jacket and lower (not tall heeled) shoes. Part of it is age, as the younger women at my office still dress up--a lot. I'm more into comfort than the latest style, which frankly looks a little weird on me anyway. I do wear dressy clothes to weddings, funerals and other more formal occasions, though.

Anonymous said...

I like the fact that we can be either casual or dressed up depending on our mood (or the weather). In the early 80s, Wes and I had season tickets for the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. EVERYONE dressed up then and I remember one night in particular when I got frostbite because I was wearing stockings on my legs. If I'd have had the choice, I'd have been wearing longjohns and a toque.