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America – Going Down The Tube In A T-shirt



Since 1960 and the onset of anti-establishment attitudes, standards of dress have declined. Not only has dress for traditional roles and occasions become increasingly casual, but jeans, T-shirts, and sweats lead the fashion trend list.

Levi Strauss called the casual dress movement “the most significant apparel trend of the century.” What is most notable, however, is that decline in standards of dress goes hand in hand with cultural decline, manifested in productivity and participation, personal identity, manners, and ultimately, morals—with casual dress being both cause and symptom. In short, America is going down the tube in a T-shirt!

By productivity and participation, I refer to personal effort and output. Personal identity means individuality, personality, character, and independence of thought. For centuries, perhaps excluding the present one, manners has meant common social courtesies and traditional standards of etiquette. By morals, I mean self-control, respect, and discipline—social and sexual.

By continually wearing casual clothes, even grubby T-shirts and jeans, people are saying “no” to anything that requires effort, respect, self-motivation, or self-control. Being well-mannered and courteous to others demands all of the above, and people are saying “no” to manners as well.

In the years before 1960, families ate meals together, and children received daily training in good manners. Perhaps you remember some parental admonitions: Wait for everyone else before you start eating. Don’t slurp your soup. Don’t talk with your mouth full. In the following decades a large majority of families gradually relaxed or relented, adopting a casual, fend-for-yourself approach to meals. Today it’s called “grazing,” and parents are assuming a nonchalant attitude about, and even saying no to family mealtimes—more of the casualization of America.

When was the last time you got “dressed up” in something you really like. Think back on where you went and how terrific you felt. Did you step out on the town, visit friends, or go to a movie or a meeting with more than your usual enthusiasm and self-confidence? Were you pleased with the way you looked and felt? Did you stand a little taller? Did you speak with others a little more often or longer? If so, then your sense of self was getting some healthy exercise. Why should that experience be relegated to just a few times a year—if ever?

The American population is suffering from conformity and confusion or misunderstanding about clothes. For generations, people have been caught between conflicting ideas; on the one side, that they must wear the latest style and brand to be accepted and of value; on the other side, that attention to image, clothing, or fashion is frivolous, artificial, vain, superficial gloss, and without redeeming value. People pretend that clothing has no symbolic significance, that it doesn’t influence them, that it’s not important and doesn’t matter.

The way we look, the way we care for and carry ourselves, our personal style, posture, and presence—these are all part of who we are. Clothing reflects who we are as well as our values, attitudes, interests, roles, and often our goals. It influences what we think, how we feel, how we act, and how others react or respond to us.

Why not use this holiday season, beginning with Thanksgiving, to ratchet up attention to the way you dress, manners and courteousness? The results might be rewarding.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Juetta West permalink
    11/27/2013 10:44 am

    This was a great article Rick. It’s very true—no manners, no playing dress up any more. Happy Thanksgiving you and yours

  2. Dave Zentmyer permalink
    12/02/2013 9:54 am

    Well done, Rick! Right on the mark! Happy holidays to the Rusch family.

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