Dress for success

Formal attire has gone the way of the dodo and the powder blue tux

There are many good things about living on the West Coast, one of them being our casual lifestyle. Our laid back attitude is expressed best in the way we dress; basically, anything goes. We can wear shorts and sandals to church, we can wear a Hawaiian shirt and blue jeans to a wedding, or golf shirts and slacks to funerals.

Spending many years in the fire service and wearing a uniform made the decision easy. There was no need to stress over which slacks to wear with which sports jacket or whether my tie clashed with my shirt, it was literally, just black and white.

When I retired I had to go shopping because my daughter complained that the only suit I had was my grad suit. Sure maybe it was a bit tight in the chest and the pencil thin legs were no longer in vogue, but it was black. If I wanted to be real cheap, I could take the shoulder patches off my uniform shirts and I was back in black and white again.

Actually, all of us guys had black suits, white shirts and black ties at our grad. You went downtown to Arnold and Quigley Men’s Wear, to where the black grad suit rack was and picked out your size. Ten minutes in and out.

Maybe that is why our generation entered the work force conforming to the old adage, ‘you only get one chance to make a first impression.’ If we were going to job interviews we ‘dressed up,’ jackets and ties for the men, dresses and jewelry — but not too much — for the ladies.

We wore suits to church because we had worn our good clothes to Sunday school. We wore dark suits and sombre dresses to funerals out of respect to the deceased. They were sombre occasions, not celebrations back then.

Personally, I’m glad I missed the leisure suit era; my skinny bow legs do not show well in powder blue bell bottoms. Even now, when I do shop for clothes, I find the green, brown, black section and do most of my buying there.

The fashion term business-casual means it’s acceptable to wear colourful open collar shirts to the office and casual blue jean Friday now starts on Wednesday. In some stores it’s difficult to tell the clerks from the customers, and don’t get me started on nose rings and tattoos.

Black tie events used to mean tuxedos and bow ties and elegant evening gowns. Gala events today are much more colourful and relaxed, and someone in a fine tuxedo or a three piece tailored suit will stick out as the exception rather than the rule. Pant suits for ladies are quite acceptable at any occasion but I still recall sections of our high school hand book that frowned on girls wearing slacks or jeans.

We can often see our prime minister or the president in casual shirts with no ties, trying to make that connection to the common man and billionaires like Bill Gates never wear suits and ties. We have learned we don’t need to dress up to be successful.

We have also learned we can worship just as well in shorts and sandals, it’s OK to celebrate a friend’s passing in a Hawaiian shirt and blue jeans. And if you see me in a bright, colourful shirt, it was probably a Father’s day present. At least, that’s what McGregor says.



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