A CEO of a Fortune 500 company was participating in a televised interview this week, wearing a suit jacket and dress shirt with no tie visible to the camera. A few days earlier, another business boss, seated, appeared on the tube with a camera framing the open sports coat, no tie and dress shirt rumpling down over his belly.
I Googled for thoughts expressed about what these casual dress choices meant. I was especially interested in what the audience thought the speaker was expressing to them, but the only choices presented had to do with what their dress mode said about them.
Proper dress always followed rigid standards for men and women. A man appearing in public in a suit, dress shirt and no tie would make him an object of unfavorable notice, someone not to be taken seriously. Conventions of all sorts were rigidly observed with the exceptions viewed as real oddballs. The do-your-own-thing sixties forever stood those conventions on their head.
Attire is the most obvious component of the social contract we call convention. In the sixties, it was accompanied by new notions about everything, especially sex and drugs with survivors going on to teach the next generation how to be “hip.” Tenure protected them from getting the boot for their outrages.
What, then, is the takeaway from society’s peers’ adoption of neo-sloppy as the preferred appearance du jour. Are these the new “hipsters” trying to tell us we’ve got it all wrong? It speaks of a coarseness influencing a lot more than our attire choices; a coarseness inconsistent with our domestic tranquility.
Tieless TV appearances do not cause coarseness any more than a thermometer causes heat but, like a thermometer, it gives us a reading on our mutual regard for each other. An occasional one-off appearance in casual mode might be mildly notable but as a de rigueur prescription for public exposure, it is the essence of phony.
Dress shirts unbuttoned at the collar are not designed to ever be anything but a statement that I can’t afford a necktie or I don’t think enough of you or myself, for that matter, to make the effort. It’s an attitude, the same one that has given us “untucked” shirts and blue jeans with factory slits. Who do we really want to be?
“Your appearance, attitude, and confidence define you as a person. A professional, well-dressed golfer, like a businessperson, gives the impression that he thinks that the golf course and/or workplace and the people there are important.” ― Lorii Myers, Targeting Success, Develop the Right Business Attitude to be Successful in the Workplace