Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Why clothes no longer make the man for me (as long as both are clean)

If I could turn back time and change three things about my much-younger self, I know exactly what they would be: 1) I would have come out sooner (during the summer between my freshman and sophomore years at the University of Florida); 2) I would have cared less what others thought about me; and 3) I would have rethought my entire approach to footwear. The latter could have cost me meeting Mr. Right much earlier in life.

In my twenties, bad footwear was my public enemy No. 1, and I had the most ridiculous sartorial rule about it: I wouldn't date anyone who wore running shoes when he wasn't running. It didn't matter what he was wearing on the rest of his body -- his feet had to be perfectly attired.

That's not to say I'm a suit-up kind of guy. I've never been one, and thank God, it's never been required of me. But I had my clothing hang ups, which had more to do with level of stylishness than degree of formal. I kept them until my last year few years in New York City.

If only Kevin had stuck around that long. He's the ex who dumped me in the spring of 2003 because he wanted "a t-shirt and jeans kind of guy" (his words). I wonder what he would have thought of "Casual Weekend Jeremy," the alter ego who started emerging twice a week toward the end of my time in NYC. Whenever my best friend Lori saw me on the weekend, she'd marvel at what I had on (frequently a t-shirt and jeans or track pants) because it was so unlike the trendy and sometimes flashy business-casual designer attire that I favored the rest of the week.

"I love Casual Weekend Jeremy," she once said, coining the moniker that she still occasionally drops. I'd smile, knowing that he'd soon go away for another five days.

After I moved to Buenos Aires and no longer had an office full of people to dress to impress, I spent the next eight years looking like Casual Weekend Jeremy 24/7...at least when warmer weather permitted it. When I flew from Cape Town to Sydney last September to be interviewed for my current position at Ninemsn, several of my friends asked me what I was going to wear because they couldn't imagine me dressed up. Dov said he'd never even seen me in a shirt with a collar and couldn't imagine me wearing one.

On the day of the interview, I dressed like it was a Tuesday morning in 2005. I wore black slacks, a brown button-down Hugo Boss shirt and $800 black John Varvatos boots. When one of my future bosses commented that I looked too fresh to have just arrived after a billion-hour flight, I knew I'd passed the dress test.

Now that I have the gig, I don't dress up every day, but I've yet to wear track pants, shorts or flip flops to work unless it's my once-a-month Sunday shift when there is no one there to see (and judge) me. I do miss Casual Weekend Jeremy, though, especially since he once again only surfaces on weekends -- and sadly, not always to great reviews.

You'd think Casual Weekend Jeremy would be a smash in Australia, a land where board shorts and Havaianas rule, but I may have miscalculated Aussies...we all may have miscalculated Aussies. They have a worldwide reputation for being so laid back, and in some ways they are, but there's another side, one that's anything but easy.

I find that as a general rule, they're cool, calm and collected mostly in presentation. Truth is, I've never lived in a more micro-managed society. It's in the strict adherence to rental rules, the unyielding customer service, the lockout laws and the dress codes. Yes, dress codes. I never had an issue with them until I moved to Australia, and Casual Weekend Jeremy was just as under-dressed in Buenos Aires, Bangkok, Cape Town and everywhere else I've been since I left New York City.

To date, I've been denied entry into three nightspots down under for not dressing up to sartorial code -- one in Melbourne and two in Sydney -- and they weren't fancy blazers-required establishments. Wearing running shoes on a Saturday night in Melbourne and Havaianas on two separate Friday nights in Sydney led to my being turned away from places with dirty sticky floors where people who looked far worse for wear than I did were being admitted.

Several months ago, my friends and I couldn't have lunch at one of my favorite places on St. Kilda Beach in Melbourne because, according to the host, who could have used with a bit of grooming, my shorts could pass for gym wear. Never mind that it was a blistering summer day, and the restaurant was right on the beach. Was I expected to show up red-carpet ready?

Things might be about to get worse. I recently read that Qantas Airlines will be imposing a strict dress code in its airport lounges because, well, looking good is apparently more important than feeling good during a billion-hour flight. Considering those micro-managing Aussie tendencies, I wonder how long it will be before the new requirements extend to long- and short-haul Qantas flights.

The writer of the pro-Qantas dress code editorial was thrilled by this development because "Thongs, bad shorts, trackies and sloppy singlets fill up terminals and airport lounges to the point where we're seeing better-dressed bodies on bus and train trips." Not in the airports that I frequent, and even if they did, bad body odor and terrible breath are far more frightening to this frequent flier than what that writer perceives as lapses in good fashion sense.

Telling fliers that they can't be as comfortable as they want to be in-flight is as unfair as twentysomething me expecting my boyfriends to look sharp from head to toe 24/7. I love flying Qantas, and I hope the dress code backfires because I want to continue to love flying Qantas.

Clothes don't necessarily make the man nor do they define travelers, who can be annoying and revolting dressed to the nines. A friend of mine recent posted a Facebook status update where he slammed the woman sitting beside him on a flight for snoring, farting and picking "parts of her body that ended up in her mouth." Yuck. I thought he was a bit harsh, but to his credit, he never mentioned what she was wearing.

On a packed airplane with crying babies, too little legroom, lousy in-flight entertainment, farting, snoring and picking, board shorts and exposed toes really should be the least of everyone's problems.
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