What Happened to Clothes?

 

In the prophetic movie Idiocracy (watch the key part here! – NSFW), all the idiots in the future wear Crocs. The writer said, “I thought the worst thing that would come true was everyone wearing Crocs.” Life imitates humor.

From bottom to top: once upon a time, not so very long ago, people wore hats. All people — from dock workers to railway-layers — wore hats. It was a part of being fully dressed. Indeed, it was a reflection on the person in every respect: class, job, status, etc.

That was a long time ago, of course. Daily wear of hats was abandoned by most people during my lifetime.

Today I noticed that even in my straight-laced orthodox Jewish community where people wear suit jackets (and usually hats) all the time, classy footwear has been totally abandoned. Gone are most formal shoes. Black sneakers are common. And so are – gasp – Crocs. For formal Sabbath wear.

The top went first. The bottoms are gone. And all the middle is on its way out. People wear pajamas in public.

Clothes still have meaning, they reflect on the wearer. But what people choose to wear today does not say anything good about the wearers. The emperor has clothes, but they make him look like he belongs in a movie that takes place in 2505.

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  1. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    One of our favorite movies is Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House. We watch it once a year. :-) It was produced in 1948.

    I cannot find a clip of just the opening sequences, but if you fast-forward to about one minute into the video, you’ll see the actual footage of Manhattan that the opening of the movie includes. What a different and better world it was.

    People treated themselves with respect and one another. I think the loss of the Standard Manhattan Uniform has been accompanied by the loss of manners.

    I have a theory that it is harder to be poor today than it was back then. People were nice to everyone around them back then. There was a middle-class code of dress and behavior that ensured the emotional safety of the poor.

    I can’t help wondering if the poor are angry all the time because the middle class is treating them so shabbily.

    Clothing matters a lot. I used to make my family get a little bit dressed up for dinner sometimes–mostly around the holidays. I was always shocked at how changing their clothes also improved their manners. :-)

    It’s a complex equation–clothing, manners, community–but they are all related.

    • #1
  2. DonG (CAGW is a hoax) Coolidge
    DonG (CAGW is a hoax)
    @DonG

    I was in a Walmart last week and I happened by the shoe section.  I was amazed at the collection of “croks” they had.  They had so many colors.  And different shapes even!    I just did a quick check of their website and they have 931 products matching “Crocs”.   931!!

    • #2
  3. DrewInWisconsin, Oaf Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Oaf
    @DrewInWisconsin

    MarciN (View Comment):

    I have a theory that it is harder to be poor today than it was back then. People were nice to everyone around them back then. There was a middle-class code of dress and behavior that ensured the emotional safety of the poor. 

    I can’t help wondering if the poor are angry all the time because the middle class is treating them so shabbily. 

    The middle class is angry all the time because the upper class treats them so shabbily.

    Also, that’s a fun movie. I need to watch it again.

     

    • #3
  4. DrewInWisconsin, Oaf Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Oaf
    @DrewInWisconsin

    One interesting aspect of the past (at least, as it filters through the entertainment media) is that even people who struggled with making ends meet seemed to have reserved enough to hire housekeepers. Whatever happened to that?

    • #4
  5. Amy Schley, Longcat Shrinker Moderator
    Amy Schley, Longcat Shrinker
    @AmySchley

    As someone who has sold a lot of shoes, I place the blame on inflation and outsourcing. 

    This is a men’s shoe ad in 1964:

    Eight dollars in 1964 is around $70 today, according to official inflation data. To actually get a similar show with a leather upper, leather liner, and leather sole, you’re looking at a minimum $100, and often quite a bit more. That’s a massive increase that even people who might be interested in buying such shoes are likely to be put off by. 

    So those who are disinclined toward what they see as unnecessary expenditure seek out cheaper substitutes. Those substitutes are available around $50 or so thanks to outsourcing, and they’re terrible. They fit poorly; the materials combine uncomfortablity and short life span in an unholy union. And instead of blaming their own cheapness for buying crap, they write off the entire category of grown-up shoes.

    Enter the Croc. They are one of the most comfortable shoes you can get at their price point ($30 – $50). They actually have a healthy amount of room in the toes. They actually have some limited arch support. They’re hardly buy-it-for-life quality, but they don’t self-destruct in three months. I would never recommend buying them, but I can’t deny that they are one of the best options at their price point. 

    • #5
  6. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    I have 75 year old retired stock brokers in my practice who are worth millions and they dress like children.  In public.  Shorts, t-shirts, and sneakers.  It’s the weirdest thing.  I’m fascinated by it, as well.

    My Dad says that the only time he ever saw his grandfather not wearing a suit was on Independence Day, when he wore a Hawaiian shirt.  That was the ONLY time.

    • #6
  7. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    I remember a hospice patient in CA who had pictures of herself all dressed up, in hat and gloves. She was a beautiful woman  in her 80’s when I met her, and stunning in her hat and gloves.

    I think something has been lost (even though it might be more comfortable) in our dressing for comfort, not beauty. And I’m as guilty as anyone, although I try to dress appropriately for certain occasions.

    • #7
  8. Amy Schley, Longcat Shrinker Moderator
    Amy Schley, Longcat Shrinker
    @AmySchley

    DrewInWisconsin, Oaf (View Comment):

    One interesting aspect of the past (at least, as it filters through the entertainment media) is that even people who struggled with making ends meet seemed to have reserved enough to hire housekeepers. Whatever happened to that?

    Women could get better paying jobs, and the people who wanted to hire housekeepers couldn’t afford competitive wages. Plus the administrative costs of having an employee have increased dramatically. 

    • #8
  9. DrewInWisconsin, Oaf Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Oaf
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Amy Schley, Longcat Shrinker (View Comment):

    DrewInWisconsin, Oaf (View Comment):

    One interesting aspect of the past (at least, as it filters through the entertainment media) is that even people who struggled with making ends meet seemed to have reserved enough to hire housekeepers. Whatever happened to that?

    Women could get better paying jobs, and the people who wanted to hire housekeepers couldn’t afford competitive wages. Plus the administrative costs of having an employee have increased dramatically.

    Yabbut, I mean, even “housewives” had housekeepers.

    EDIT: Never mind. I misinterpreted.

    • #9
  10. DrewInWisconsin, Oaf Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Oaf
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    I think something has been lost (even though it might be more comfortable) in our dressing for comfort, not beauty. And I’m as guilty as anyone, although I try to dress appropriately for certain occasions.

    I think one of the things that has been lost is “beauty.”

    American culture is terribly ugly these days, and I don’t mean how people behave. I mean that everything looks ugly.

     

    • #10
  11. Amy Schley, Longcat Shrinker Moderator
    Amy Schley, Longcat Shrinker
    @AmySchley

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    I think something has been lost (even though it might be more comfortable) in our dressing for comfort, not beauty.

    Chef watches a lot of historical dressmakers and costumers on YouTube. Several of them now live their whole lives in historic dress and shock other people by how comfortable those clothes are. 

    First, historic clothing is made of much better fabric. Wearing layers of cotton, linen, silk, and wool is nothing like being encased in the layers of various plastics and polyesters in cheap off-the-shelf clothes made today. 

    Second, far from the torture devices they are slandered as, historic undergarments like corsets and stays were quite comfortable. For a large-breasted woman, a corset is enormously more comfortable than the modern options. A properly fitting bra is supposed to be so tight around the ribcage that friction keeps it from sliding down. Most women wear their bands too loose, and so all the weight is put on their shoulders. A corset, by contrast, supports that weight with a woman’s hips.

    Third, historic clothing was tailored to the wearer. By creating a pattern unique to each person, the seamstress could do things like cut arm holes much tighter into the armpit so that range of arm motion wasn’t as limited. 

    • #11
  12. Amy Schley, Longcat Shrinker Moderator
    Amy Schley, Longcat Shrinker
    @AmySchley

    DonG (CAGW is a hoax) (View Comment):

    I was in a Walmart last week and I happened by the shoe section. I was amazed at the collection of “croks” they had. They had so many colors. And different shapes even! I just did a quick check of their website and they have 931 products matching “Crocs”. 931!!

    On the subject of Crocs, I do have to share one of my favorite memes:

    • #12
  13. EB Thatcher
    EB
    @EB

    The other day, I was looking at pictures taken when I was on an Art History trip to Italy and France when I was in high school (late 60’s.)  We went to museums, cathedrals, outdoor sights like the Forum and Pompeii, etc.  All the girls had on skirts or culottes and the guys wore slacks and short-sleeved button-down shirts.  We looked so nice.  And I don’t remember that we felt uncomfortable.

    • #13
  14. EB Thatcher
    EB
    @EB

    Amy Schley, Longcat Shrinker (View Comment):
    Women could get better paying jobs, and the people who wanted to hire housekeepers couldn’t afford competitive wages. Plus the administrative costs of having an employee have increased dramatically.

    Agatha Christie is reported to have said, “When I was young, I never could have imagined being rich enough to own an automobile and too poor to have servants.”

    • #14
  15. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    The sixties happened. So everything that happened before was bad according to the most privileged generation ever.

    • #15
  16. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    EB (View Comment):

    Amy Schley, Longcat Shrinker (View Comment):
    Women could get better paying jobs, and the people who wanted to hire housekeepers couldn’t afford competitive wages. Plus the administrative costs of having an employee have increased dramatically.

    Agatha Christie is reported to have said, “When I was young, I never could have imagined being rich enough to own an automobile and too poor to have servants.”

    That is one of the best defenses of capitalism ever. 

    • #16
  17. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Currently, my issue is FINDING shoes that fit my comfort and style needs.

    I went to target looking for dress shoes for my daughter. Everything is so ugly. There weren’t even basic black flats. The best shoes were gold flats that topped out two sizes too small.

    Even going to shoe stores or Amazon gets me little in the way of results. Maybe if I go to kohls?

    And that’s just my daughter’s feet.

    I still wear dresses to church. And nice shoes. Though one pair I may have to find a repair service for because I like them too much and can’t find a replacement for them and they are wearing out.

    • #17
  18. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat
    @GossamerCat

    I never liked to dress up and believe women’s dress shoes to be a form of legalized torture.  When I was a teenager I worked in the family business and I used to show up rather late in the morning in very casual clothing.  My aunt who was always dressed to the nines said one day: “What are you going to do when you get a job when you grow up?”  I boldly declared that I was going to get a job where I could dress the way I wanted to and come in whenever I want.  And I did!  A west coast college professor.

    But seriously, my aunt was right and even though I can come in when I want and dress the way I want, I am always respectful of the occasion and teach my students to be the same.

     

    • #18
  19. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Amy Schley, Longcat Shrinker (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    I think something has been lost (even though it might be more comfortable) in our dressing for comfort, not beauty.

    Chef watches a lot of historical dressmakers and costumers on YouTube. Several of them now live their whole lives in historic dress and shock other people by how comfortable those clothes are.

    First, historic clothing is made of much better fabric. Wearing layers of cotton, linen, silk, and wool is nothing like being encased in the layers of various plastics and polyesters in cheap off-the-shelf clothes made today.

    Second, far from the torture devices they are slandered as, historic undergarments like corsets and stays were quite comfortable. For a large-breasted woman, a corset is enormously more comfortable than the modern options. A properly fitting bra is supposed to be so tight around the ribcage that friction keeps it from sliding down. Most women wear their bands too loose, and so all the weight is put on their shoulders. A corset, by contrast, supports that weight with a woman’s hips.

    Third, historic clothing was tailored to the wearer. By creating a pattern unique to each person, the seamstress could do things like cut arm holes much tighter into the armpit so that range of arm motion wasn’t as limited.

    You are renewing my interest in making my own clothes…

    • #19
  20. Amy Schley, Longcat Shrinker Moderator
    Amy Schley, Longcat Shrinker
    @AmySchley

    Stina (View Comment):

    Currently, my issue is FINDING shoes that fit my comfort and style needs.

    I went to target looking for dress shoes for my daughter. Everything is so ugly. There weren’t even basic black flats. The best shoes were gold flats that topped out two sizes too small.

    Even going to shoe stores or Amazon gets me little in the way of results. Maybe if I go to kohls?

    And that’s just my daughter’s feet.

    Quality kids brands: Nina, Striderite, Elephantito, Ecco, Keen. Dillard’s and Nordstrom will have actually kids shoe salespeople. 

    Just recognize you’ll pay closer to eight 1964 dollars than 2021 dollars. 

    • #20
  21. Hammer, The (Ryan M) Member
    Hammer, The (Ryan M)
    @RyanM

    I love wearing nice shoes.  To Church, Court, etc…   the problem, of course, is that in order to wear nice shoes, you need to be wearing nice pants.  They look very silly with a pair of jeans.  My courtroom has been moved; it used to be in a nice little building, and now it is virtual.  I honestly don’t think they will ever go back.  Now they are just used to it, so why change?  (equal protection, you say?  sure…  quote “the constitution.”  Didn’t you know we ditched that old document over a year ago?)

    I still usually wear a suit and nice shoes even in virtual court.  Just on principle.

    • #21
  22. Amy Schley, Longcat Shrinker Moderator
    Amy Schley, Longcat Shrinker
    @AmySchley

    Stina (View Comment):
    You are renewing my interest in making my own clothes…

    Check out Bernadette Banner and what the YouTube algorithm recommends from there. 

    • #22
  23. Hammer, The (Ryan M) Member
    Hammer, The (Ryan M)
    @RyanM

    Amy Schley, Longcat Shrinker (View Comment):

    Stina (View Comment):

    Currently, my issue is FINDING shoes that fit my comfort and style needs.

    I went to target looking for dress shoes for my daughter. Everything is so ugly. There weren’t even basic black flats. The best shoes were gold flats that topped out two sizes too small.

    Even going to shoe stores or Amazon gets me little in the way of results. Maybe if I go to kohls?

    And that’s just my daughter’s feet.

    Quality kids brands: Nina, Striderite, Elephantito, Ecco, Keen. Dillard’s and Nordstrom will have actually kids shoe salespeople.

    Just recognize you’ll pay closer to eight 1964 dollars than 2021 dollars.

    My favorite dress shoes are Johnson and Murphy.  They have very nice shoes, but also comfortable dress/casual shoes if you need those.  Also at Dillard’s and Nordstrom.

    • #23
  24. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Sneakers for the lab.

    Steel toed shoes for the floor/flight line. For the proving ground too, if there is one.

    • #24
  25. Amy Schley, Longcat Shrinker Moderator
    Amy Schley, Longcat Shrinker
    @AmySchley

    Hammer, The (Ryan M) (View Comment):

    Amy Schley, Longcat Shrinker (View Comment):

    Stina (View Comment):

    Currently, my issue is FINDING shoes that fit my comfort and style needs.

    I went to target looking for dress shoes for my daughter. Everything is so ugly. There weren’t even basic black flats. The best shoes were gold flats that topped out two sizes too small.

    Even going to shoe stores or Amazon gets me little in the way of results. Maybe if I go to kohls?

    And that’s just my daughter’s feet.

    Quality kids brands: Nina, Striderite, Elephantito, Ecco, Keen. Dillard’s and Nordstrom will have actually kids shoe salespeople.

    Just recognize you’ll pay closer to eight 1964 dollars than 2021 dollars.

    My favorite dress shoes are Johnson and Murphy. They have very nice shoes, but also comfortable dress/casual shoes if you need those. Also at Dillard’s and Nordstrom.

    Oh, there are plenty of great quality brands for adults; it’s kids that are a challenge. 

    • #25
  26. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    I am universally known in my social circles as the guy who always wears a hat. Never a baseball cap – I think I look particularly bad in a baseball cap. Usually a fedora or similar style with a brim, or a driving cap style. I am somewhat bald and sunburn easily, so a hat is useful protection against sunburn. In cold weather my head is comfortable when others complain about cold. The brim allows me to be more comfortable in rain (or snow when I lived in snow country) when I don’t want to deal with an umbrella. Before retirement the hat was worn on top of a suit (with tie) with leather shoes on my feet, and in winter a full length wool overcoat with leather gloves. The running joke among my children’s classmates was that I must have been CIA agent. But similar to some comments @jameslileks has made , I found dressing for the office was a psychologically valuable signal to my brain that I was going to work, and not off to play at the park. Since retirement I don’t wear a suit much, but always wear a collared shirt (usually button front) and long pants. I kinda miss getting suited up. (I know I could just for the heck of it, but I’m too lazy to deal with all the curiosity that would generate. Not giving up the hat though.)

    • #26
  27. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    I like to dress up and even wear hats.

    But, I have no fetish about people having to be uncomfortable. Ties are uncomfortable. Expensive dress shoes are less comfortable than sneakers. 

    At the risk of being liberal or libertarian, why do any of you care how someone else is dressed? It is literally none of your business. 

    Now, you can judge them all you want too. But I’d seems like a waste of energy to me.

    I can close with this though. My wife has said if I wear sandals with socks she will divorce me. 

    • #27
  28. Mad Gerald Lincoln
    Mad Gerald
    @Jose

    There are so many aspects of this.  One is that most of our clothing comes from Asia.  I am firmly convinced that our shoes are uncomfortable because they are designed by and for Asians with smaller feet.  I used to be devoted to American made Red Wing shoes, until they stopped making them in the US.

    Another factor is so few people do physical labor outside in the elements.  My father, who grew up during the depression, was always amazed when he saw people wearing shorts during winter.  He always spent a winter’s day working outside, while most people work indoors until they walk to their car.  And growing up on a farm, I always wore a hat outdoors.  But no longer.

    On the other hand, the fact that people don’t feel pressured to dress a formally to impress others is probably a good thing, to a point.  But I am frequently dismayed by the casual wear I see during church services.  I decided, somewhat late in life, that if I was to worship a supreme being, it was appropriate to dress more formally.  I bought jackets and ties.

    Finally I would say that many people just don’t know how to dress nicely.  It takes some interest, training, and effort.  I was a fan of the book Dress for Success by John Malloy although it’s possibly outdated now.   He did actual research into how the general public reacts to an individual’s clothing; there was a detectable difference.

    • #28
  29. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Amy Schley, Longcat Shrinker (View Comment):

    Stina (View Comment):
    You are renewing my interest in making my own clothes…

    Check out Bernadette Banner and what the YouTube algorithm recommends from there.

    Ha! I’ve watched her for some of the no-poo hair washing stuff. How to keep your hair clean and fresh without washing it daily.

    • #29
  30. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Stina (View Comment):
    Ha! I’ve watched her for some of the no-poo hair washing stuff.

    Don’t most people not put poo in their hair?

    • #30