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October 14, 2011

What You Wear. Who You Are.



I am of the opinion that there are certain events for which we should dress up. Among these events are holidays, the theater, and court.

My holidays are pretty casual and consist of visiting friends and loved ones but I always insist that no one wear jeans. My kids scoff at this but yet I refuse to capitulate. The interesting part is that I have no good explanation for making them wear dress clothes except that more photos are generally taken on holidays and it wouldn’t hurt to look nice in a photograph that is a snapshot of time. Other than that logic, it just feels right to dress up on holidays. (This is applicable only to the major holidays, by the way. I’m okay with a pair of jeans on Columbus Day.)

I feel the same way about the theater. My family frequently attends performances in Chicago and at the Paramount and I believe we owe it to the performers to put forth some effort in our appearance. Not to mention that theaters are typically ornamental and decadent in décor and we should blend in with the surroundings. I think it adds to the magic of the evening when you make an effort to dress up. If you have no interest in the arts, you will find this preposterous or not applicable – or both.

You may find it strange that I didn’t include church on my list. As a child, I dressed up in my Sunday best because it was expected. I still adhere to this myself but I have bounced around a few churches in Aurora and have noted that the trend is more casual than the days of old. I firmly believe that Jesus just wants you to show up whether it is in cut-off jeans or a nice suit. You might feel as strongly about dressing up for church as I do about dressing for the theater. This is the beauty of life. We can co-exist even with different viewpoints.

Someone told me that commercial air travel in the 1940’s and 50’s, there was an unspoken dress code. Air travel at that time was used primarily by affluent individuals and dressing up to board a flight denoted status. Today, commercial airfare is affordable and commonplace so it is not unusual to see someone in flip-flops and cut-offs. I’m a little conflicted on this issue. Personally, I don’t like to look like a slob to the person who is greeting me at my destination.

I have been in many courtrooms over my career as a police officer and it astounds me how people present themselves in a court of law. Even if you appear for something as minor as traffic court, I believe you should look professional. The same goes if you are a defendant or a plaintiff in a criminal proceeding. For some reason, wearing a torn T-shirt with a heavy metal rock band emblazoned on its front and tattered jeans doesn’t portray a likeness of someone who respects the law or the criminal justice system.

The irony is not lost on me. For example, one of my favorite sights is a defendant in the courtroom dressed in a calm colored suit with hair that is neatly groomed only to watch the police video of the defendant at the time of the offense looking vastly different. I know they are trying to portray a wholesome look in court and I’m okay with that because I don’t think you can really mask your actions by putting on cufflinks.

This isn’t really about what you wear. It’s about who you are. You can dress up for church every Sunday or wear a suit to court but if your character is disheveled, the truth of who you are always comes out no matter how you attempt to disguise it.

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