Thursday, September 21, 2023

In the game of life, be a Tom, not a Bill

You've probably seen the news where a U.S. Senator has led the charge for it to be an even uglier place. They've dropped the dress code of suits and ties and now allow shorts and sweatshirts on the Senate floor. 

While I won't harp on him (enough others have), when your crowning career achievement is to make the Senate an uglier place, you didn't have much of a career. Welcome to Walmart.

I'm with Mark Twain, of course, that clothes make the man. They don't have to be expensive or chic or trendy. But you dress appropriately for the occasion. 

Oddly enough, one of the biggest changes and things I still grapple with after turning from Lutheran to Catholic 25 years ago is the dress code. At the country church I grew up attending, men wore suit coats and ties. And this church was surrounded by corn fields and attended by farmers who wore coveralls and wife-beater shirts Monday through Saturday. They recognized the significance of their venue, of whom they were honoring. They weren't feeding the cows.

Catholics are much, much less attentive to that philosophy and it still bugs me. Blue jeans galore. T-shirts. But not me. You can take the boy out of the Lutheran church but not all the Lutheran out of the boy. You won't find me in blue jeans in church.

My son as a teen wanted to wear sandals one day to church. I told him: "Unless your name is Jesus, you don't wear sandals in church." I was a mean dad.

Don't get me wrong. I can dress like a slob. Catch me on the weekends and you'll see. Often times the same shirt a couple days in a row. Baseball cap, almost always. 

But, elsewhere, I'm generally known for dressing spiffy. Rarely suit and tie, (those are just for special occasions), but I've got my own style. If I had to categorize it, I'd say it trends toward 1970s college professor hip. You know, turtle-necks, mock turtle necks, solid-colored button-down shirts, with sport coat, sweater or vest, sometimes even the always-classy sweater vest not just anybody can pull off.

I like to dress nice and for the occasion. I dress differently for a night in Deadwood than a night at boxing. But I have outfits for both. Fedoras for some, bucket hats for others. 

Shoes too. Not quite an Imelda Marcos situation (Google it, kids) but getting close. 

Am I judgey about how others dress? Yes. Sue me. I figure, if somebody doesn't care about an event they are attending, they don't care how they look at it. I've seen high-ranking government officials in ripped blue jeans at important events where I'm wearing a suit and tie; and I find it disrespectful. It tells me they are more interested in sending some kind of message (look at me, I'm cool) than sending a message to the people the event is honoring (I'm honored to be here and took a few extra minutes to dress nicely to show my respect). 

And it's not like you have to spend a lot of money to look good. I'm still wearing coats and sport coats handed down from my dad. Goodwill has them too.

I remember a friend 30 years ago, lived a couple houses down from me. He didn't own a suit coat at the time, but he was going to a funeral. He stopped by the house and asked if he could borrow one of mine. I said sure. I respected the respect he was showing the deceased and his willingness to overcome any little bit of embarrassment to ask. 

I'll quit my rant for now and send you young'ns to the Google machine again: In a world of Bill Belichicks, try being a Tom Landry.

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