Monday, November 23, 2009

Getting dressed up in Wisconsin and elsewhere

I like to say that in Wisconsin, formal dress is a sweatshirt and jeans.  My wife chides me since that is a big exaggeration.  Real formal dress here is a sweatshirt with a tie and jeans.

Just kidding.  Plenty of the Badgers own a tux or a formal gown.  People everywhere like to fit in.  For years, I wore a sports coat and button-down shirt and a tie to class.  But as I looked around, I realized that very few faculty wore such clothes.  I decided I was putting myself in a generation and group what I didn’t really want to be part of.

At one time, I could depend on looking all right for church with such clothes but again, nowadays, only the senior senior men dress that way and not all of them.

When I was in kindergarten, I walked home for lunch each day and walked back for the afternoon session.  One day, I thought I would dress up and look nice for the afternoon.  I was wearing long pants and a nice t-shirt that day.  I thought a tie would add to my appearance.  I only had pre-tied ties that fastened around the neck with a little belt and hook.  I didn’t understand that the belt and hook were typically hidden beneath the collar of one’s shirt.  I put the tie on with the t-shirt and proudly went to school.  My teacher phoned my mother to let her know about my chosen mode of fashion.  Mom had been working in the kitchen when I left by the front door.  But that was more than 60 years ago and I have forgotten all about it now.

When we attended church in Europe in 1974, we were careful to not wear jeans.  Again, I had a jacket and tie on.  When we returned in 1998, we found many of the Europeans were wearing jeans and no tie to church.

I heard of a candidate for an appointment to a southern US university who removed his jacket near the beginning of his presentation.  I was told that such a level of undress was strongly frowned on.  His move was unacceptable to the faculty he wanted to impress.

Last summer, I was in Vienna and I looked over the crowd at an outdoor cocktail party at a music concert.  Most of the European-looking men wore tuxedos but several Africans wore other kinds of clothing.

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