Go Put Your Pants On

A week or two ago I noticed a rather disturbing trend among men here in the Nation’s Capital, something which I had read about in several publications, but until then I had not noticed on our sidewalks: the trend of wearing a shirt and tie to work…with shorts.

Now let me begin this post with a caveat. As an attorney, I admit that I work in a sartorially buttoned-up profession. I wear a suit most days, and always on days when I have scheduled meetings. On those days when I don’t have to meet anyone in person, I might wear a blazer or sports jacket, but always with a tie, dress shirt, dress shoes, and trousers. It would never occur to me to wear shorts to the office.

I also know that many professions allow for shorts, due to the nature of the work itself. A driver delivering packages, or a waiter serving tables at an outdoor restaurant, no doubt is grateful not to have wear long pants as part of his uniform.  Particularly in this swamp-like city, the ability to wear shorts to work can be a great blessing for those engaged in manual labor in the services and trades.

For those who work in offices however, I find the trend of shorts and ties ridiculous and incomprehensible. It lends an infantile air to someone who ought to know better than to imagine that other adults are going to take them seriously. Because to be frank, if you came into my office wearing shorts and a tie, I would from the get-go think there was something deeply wrong with you, even if I might not say it aloud.

In some ways, this trend is of a piece with the increasingly lackadaisical attitude toward men wearing shorts in cities in general. I am not quite sure when adult males collectively decided that what they wore to the beach was acceptable at the supermarket, as if they were only 11 years old and out shopping with their mommies.  And the overall laxity of standards in this regard is perhaps most irritating when it comes to church.

My Fellow Fisheaters: there is NO excuse for a grown man to wear shorts to Mass. None. If you are old enough to vote, buy cigarettes, and pay taxes, you are too old to wear shorts to Mass. Even then, I would suggest the cut-off date probably lies closer to the age you begin shaving.

I do not care how hot it is. I do not care what you are doing before or after Mass. I do not care that the church has no air conditioning, or that you are on vacation. In fact, the latter is something baffling that I witness at my downtown DC parish all the time, surrounded as it is by hotels. If you’re visiting someone else’s home for the first time for an indoor, sit-down supper – and in this case, the Supper of all suppers – why would you show up dressed for a volleyball tournament? Look at pictures of your grandfather attending Mass fifty years ago, and I guarantee you that there will be not a single one of him inside a church wearing shorts.

How did we get to the point where no one even thinks this is worth criticizing? It occurred largely because people are now deathly afraid to criticize, which of course is part of the reason we have grown a large crop of infantile males who would want to dress like this in the first place, over the last few decades. It is also because we have forgotten the difference between style and fashion.

Style exists in tandem with, but ultimately independently of, fashion. Cuts, colors, and fabrics can change from season to season, as they go in and out of fashion. Yet style changes more slowly, developing as one ages. I could never pull off a leather jacket when I was a fresh-faced kid; now that I’m more weathered, I could never pull off a shirt and tie with shorts – nor would I attempt to. In what I choose to wear, I send a message; if I choose well, the viewer appreciates the clothes, but appreciates me, more.

What’s the message a grown man in shorts and a tie is trying to send as he clomps along in dress shoes without socks – I’ll save that pet peeve for another time – to those who see him on the street? That he may technically be an adult, but he would rather be in Kindergarten? That it’s better in the Bahamas? That he’s a member of a Boyz II Men cover band?

There is certainly a place for shorts in a man’s wardrobe, no one is questioning that. Not everything that is older is better: I would never suggest you play tennis in the summer in white flannels, for example.  Rather, the real point of inquiry is where and when the place for wearing shorts may legitimately be found. The answer will vary based on the activities you perform, and the environment in which you perform them.

However as a general rule, gentlemen, I am going to keep this simple for you. Please do not wear shorts with a tie. Ever. And more to the point, when you’re planning to see your bank manager, your attorney, or most importantly God, please go put your pants on.  

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Back to Earth

I’m writing this from several thousand feet over the State of Georgia, on my way back to DC after the 2015 Catholic New Media Celebration (CNMC). No, I am not sporting a cape and tights as I do so. While this will not be a particularly lengthy post, it is an important one for me, in that it marks my return to regular blogging following the past two months of hiatus. And before continuing I want to once again thank all of my readers for their gracious expressions of kindness following the death of my Mother.

There will be some fairly substantial changes afoot here in the coming months. I cannot yet provide a timetable, but I would ask that you keep your eyes peeled so that, as the saying goes, you will not find yourselves caught asleep at the switch. These changes should allow those of you who appreciate reading my fitful scribblings to do so in a better-framed context. My goal is to build upon the last substantial changes I made two years ago, in order to make the perusal of my writing a more user-friendly experience with respect to content, design, and accessibility.

For those of you who have never attended, I should explain that the CNMC is the perfect venue for a media producer looking to step up his game or tweak what he is already producing. It was refreshing to be encouraged to examine my content with a more critical – if not to say jaundiced, á la (Florence) King – eye. Even if, as it turned out, some of the presenters happened to make digs at me during their presentations. You know who you are (Greg Willits and Maria Johnson), and you’re going on a list.

While there was a great deal to process coming out of this CNMC, both personally and professionally, perhaps the most important takeaway was the notion that it’s time to pick up and start again where I had left off: a bit sadder, but hopefully also a bit wiser than I was before I stopped. I hope that your gracious patronage and engagement, gentle reader, will continue as it has lo these (nearly 7) years now. God bless you!

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Somewhere Over Georgia

A Brief Note of Thanks

I want to take a moment to thank all of my subscribers and readers for your kind messages of support over the last seven weeks. The Masses, rosaries, novenas, prayers, and kind gestures have meant a great deal to me and my family. Your charitable actions will not be forgotten.

My Mother was seriously ill for the past few years. I did not write about this, or talk about this openly, whether in print or on the air; some have expressed surprise that I did not share this with my readers. Given the outpouring of kindness from you, perhaps I should have.

However, I did not do so for the simple reason that it was not my illness to share. I respected my Mother’s privacy enough to only speak privately about what was happening to a select few. Thus, you should not expect to read anything further from me regarding this subject at present. Perhaps one day I may change my mind, but the circumstances would have to be very particular.

In the meantime, I am also not quite ready to start writing again. I know I need to do so, but I also need time to reflect on how and why I write, and whether some changes are warranted. To that end, I’m likely going to hold off on posting again until I return from the CNMC in Atlanta, hosted by SQPN. If you happen to be attending – and you should definitely be there – I hope you will come over and say hello.

My most grateful thanks!

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