Let’s improve our collective quality of life by dressing better. According to a column by Kerry Folan, we are placing personal comfort above showing respect for others. Yes, we’re wearing our jammies to the store.

This is the opposite of how Americans used to dress. In olden days, people endured uncomfortable clothing, to show respect for their fellow man. Men wore suits and women wore dresses. People got dressed up for travel, for church, or to go to work. Now lawyers wear shorts to work and keep a suit handy for court appearances. 

At international airports, it’s easy to spot the Americans. They’re wearing sweatpants. Our son, who screens passengers for TSA, reports that most travelers from other countries look put together. They wear high-end brands, while an American’s fashion statement might be a clean T-shirt.

The way people dress on public transportation has gone completely off the rails. A neighbor reported seeing a woman riding the Blue Line barefoot! I can remember when women put on white gloves for a trip downtown.

I’m not saying we should go back to starched collars and corsets but we need to draw the line somewhere. For example, there’s a proper way to wear yoga pants. Oversized sweaters help. Speaking of that region, there’s no need to display our boxers.  

Circle Lanes has a prominent sign on the front door. It reads: “Pull Your Pants Up or Don’t Come In!!! Try to have some respect for others. No one wants to see your underwear.” There’s an asterisk that says, “Does not apply to children under 3 years of age.”

Young children should be exempt but school-age kids should be held accountable. There was nothing comfortable about Catholic school uniforms. I felt sorry for the females freezing in their plaid skirts. But the uniforms gave us a group identity and made you think twice about causing trouble while you were wearing the school colors.

Many of us dressed up last weekend to attend graduations or first communions. I recently put on a suitcoat and tie for a special occasion and felt as uncomfortable as I did in my old communion suit. 

It reminded me of a church I attended where the men wore suits and the women wore dresses. They reasoned that they would dress up to see the president. Why wouldn’t they dress up to see God? But God doesn’t care what we wear and the church couldn’t attract new members. “Outsiders” were too intimidated by the dress code. So today these same church-goers wear jeans and shorts. Why should we be uncomfortable in church?

Or at work? Casual Fridays gave way to “business casual” for every occasion. Now we’re working from home and the only requirement during virtual meetings is not to be arrested for public nudity. Students also prefer staying home to attend virtual classes. I’m just trying to get through the day without seeing boxers, jammies or too much yoga. 

People have become so lax about what they wear, there’s a sign at the Forest Park Pool declaring that all patrons must wear a swimsuit. Talk about stating the obvious. But there must be people who either don’t own a swim suit or are too lazy to change into one. But there’s a worse atrocity. I’ve spoken with female staff members who are traumatized by men in speedos. I don’t think a family aquatic center is the same as the beach at St. Tropez. 

Which reminds me of a joke. Someone asked 97-year-old Mel Brooks if he wore boxers or briefs. His one word reply: “Depends.” 

John Rice

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.