Sunday, August 31, 2014

Dressing To Impress Or To Offend?

I want to draw your attention to the article by Theodore Dalrymple called Slobbery as Snobbery. The article is quite old (it was originally posted by Taki Mag on June 15, 2014), but I only read it yesterday as some other blog I visit linked to it.

The article makes some very good points and coincidentally, it's about the author's trip to Amsterdam and how he was shocked by the horrible way people around him dressed. (My countrymen certainly won't win  the European Prize for their sense of fashion, though I'd say that what I've seen in England was not always much better). However, Mr Dalrymple also makes general observations about the state of things in the West concerning dress and manners (the comments were well worth reading, too, all 500+ of them:).

He starts by saying that there are very few well-dressed people around which he partly attributes to the mass production of clothes, but then Mr Dalrymple points out that there is also a deliberate act of will on the part of people in general to look like slobs:

Practically everyone now dresses not merely in a casual way, but with studied slovenliness for fear of being thought elegant, as elegance is a metonym for undemocratic sentiment or belief. You can dress as expensively as you like, indeed expensive scruffiness is a form of chic, but on no account must you dress with taste and discrimination. To do so might be to draw hostile attention to yourself.

I personally find it a very astute observation. It's true that the majority of people nowadays, both men and women look as if they are afraid of being accused of looking too well. Heaven forbid you put some thought into the way you dress, it's almost as if they desire to look as slovenly and unkempt as possible. Some sort of trashy chic, I guess. The objective seems to be to look as if you bought most of your clothes at Salvation Army charity shop (though I personally bought good quality stylish clothes at a Goodwill type of store).

Mr Dalrymple notes that even expensive shops (and those in Amsterdam can be very pricey indeed) offer clothes which hardly can be described as elegant. It's interesting that when a discussion like this begins, people will tell you that nice clothes are expensive, and they can't afford looking better than tramps, and yet, as the author of the original article points out, they do have money for tattoos and piercings:

Is it not odd that in an age when more people have a large discretionary income than ever before, and are prepared to pay thousands for such adornments as tattooing (some one in five American adults are now tattooed), almost everyone should look as if he or she had just rolled out of bed and picked up a pile of clothes from the night before that was lying crumpled on the floor?

People in the West aren't really that poor that they can't afford to own some decent-looking garments. Mr Dalrymple admits that when he was younger he thought that dressing well wasn't important at all, however, as he grew older, he changed his mind. That's actually a normal process called growing up, though a lot of adults nowadays seem to be stuck in the perpetual adolescence.

Mr Dalrymple is correct in pointing out that slovenliness in dress is nearly always the result of laziness. However, he is probaly right in stating that it's more than laziness which causes moderns to look as horrible as they do: the conscious desire to offend others, to express your contempt for their opinions of you:

The problem is not merely absence of self-respect, it is active hostility to self-respect, replaced entirely by self-esteem. The former says, “I will keep myself looking good in the eyes of others;” the latter says, “What is good enough for me is good enough for everyone else, and if they find me an eyesore they can jolly well put up with it.”

The author describes a fashion show he witnessed in one of the shops in Amsterdam where the female models paraded around with an expression of hatred for people around them on their faces. I quite often buy sewing and knitting magazines which feature pictures from catwalks and I noticed it, too. Instead of trying to look pleasant, female models have a look of universal contempt for those around them.

In short, as Mr Dalrymple sums it up: This is the first age in which people do not dress to please others, but dress to displease others...

I believe he is right, too. We went from teaching our children to dress well to please or impress others to letting them dress in deliberately offensive manner in order to express themselves or some such nonsense. Our whole society is oriented towards the worship of Self (think of the obsession with selfies). So here is the challenge: if you want to change things for the better and to save Western civilisation you can start by making a conscious effort to dress elegantly and to look well at all occasions and teach your children to do the same.

Let's all try in our daily life not to look like the people featured in those pictures:
People Of Walmart


  1. Lady Lydia has had posts in the past dealing with this subject beautifully too. I agree with your concerns. It seems no one has pride in themselves. I am not meaning selfishness but pride in being the best they can be. Looking, acting and being as good as they can. We used to take pride in our whole being. What we did in life, how we looked, how we kept our homes, pride in our towns and churches and such. We would not even want to defame our families by being thought of as sloven. Now so much of that seems to be set aside and what is left is a do your own thing attitude. Please stop and look at yourselves! If you were dating again would you go out looking like that? Well I hope not. Please do not dress your little ones in sassy clothes with uncouth sayings on them. They are children not tiny adults. Even adults should not be seen in some of the outfit I have seen 4 year olds in. Dress your children with care innocently and appropriately. Why would you let your own under garnet straps show? It is not just how we dress but how do you as women stand and act? How gracefully do you get out of your car. Do you think how you are sitting while other people are viewing you? Yes you are tired from working outside of the home. Then coming home to take care of your family and home. Also getting out for other activities in the few hours you have off work. Well something has to give in this type of life and it seems your appearance is one of them. Would you dress like this if you were going out for your first date with your now husband? I hope not! He too needs to watch and not dress like he is about to wash the car instead of going out with you to dinner. We are all guilty of some of this. Please take some pride in your appearance. It is not selfish pride but pride in who you are. We used to have pride in our families and selves and homes and churches and even our towns. We would not think to disgrace our family! We upheld our standards of conduct and had a set of moral rules to live by. They were not hard rules they were just decency rules. Rules are a way society keeps things in order. I am sad to look around and see how things have slipped and changed downwardly. Please teach your little ones table manners and how to be polite. How to take care of themselves but also how to be of service to others and society. These were things taught to all once apron a Nice time. I remember it and it was a gentler time. The earth has always had troubles and bad people around but the people around you that mattered to you had manners and some refinement and there was a sweetness to live that is missing now. A refinement. Yes try to do better. Keep your head up with better posture and wear clothes that fit and are clean and pressed and appropriate. Be a stand out. Don't you look at a decently dressed person in a beautiful outfit? Well be one yourself!!! Sarah

  2. I sometimes think that our society hates beauty if we can judge by the modern fashions, popular music and art. At least, in architecture I see the signs of improvement as the new trend seems to be 1930s style homes which look quite decent.

  3. What a great post! I am going to read the original article. I saw the most offensive baby outfit on the other day and was incredibly shocked people would put their babies in such clothing-

    You might also enjoy for more tips on dressing/looking nice. I found her website through Home Living's side links.

  4. I totally agree with your article, and the article Mr. Dalrymple wrote. I've fallen into that trap sometimes too. (Why bother when no one else does, you know?) One of my favorite movies is "How to Marry a Millionaire" because I love the clothes the men and women wear. The women dressed like women and the men dressed like men back then. Also, I love the Andy Griffith Show because even though they are "country bumpkins" they dressed the best they could, even to run errands. I wish we lived like that now. If we dressed like that now, we would be candidates for the loony bin, because people would think we have a mental disorder.

  5. Anonymous, as per blog rules, please pick a handle. I'll let this comment stand, however, comments which are not signed will be summarily deleted. You don't need to sign in with your blogger account, just sign your comment with some name/letter/letter combination. As for the link, yes this outfit is horrible. Also, thanks for the tip about!

  6. Maggie, I know, I know... Sometimes I think why bother ironing my clothes or shining my shoes when nobody else does? I believe it's called the tyranny of the low expectations:)