I realize "business casual" is the norm in most companies today but I am wondering if we have forgotten how to dress appropriately for all other occasions. Years ago, when we attended church, we were usually expected to dress up as a sign of respect, but I don't see too many men in suits and ties anymore. There was also a time when you flew on an airplane or went to a Las Vegas casino you were expected to dress up. Alas, no more. In fact, we now look pretty grungy most of the time.
Recently, my wife and I went to see comedian Martin Short at Ruth Eckerd Hall here in Clearwater where he was putting on a one man show and supported by a five piece band. You might remember Marty from Saturday Night Live, Second City TV, Jimminy Glick, or some of his movies, such as "The Three Amigos" with Chevy Chase and Steve Martin. Nonetheless, prior to the show, we waited in the lounge area enjoying a drink and doing some people watching.
We saw quite an eclectic group of people dressed in a wide variety of tastes. I noticed the older men tended to dress up for the occasion, some in suit and tie, but most with a sport coat and slacks. The younger men tended to wear jeans and T-shirts. Rarely did they wear a collared shirt. But my favorite was a gentlemen I judged to be in his late 50's who wore a blue Polo shirt, cargo shorts, and tennis shoes (no socks). To me, he stuck out like a sore thumb, looking more like he belonged at a picnic as opposed to the theater. But I chalked it up to changing times.
Martin Short put on an excellent show that evening. In addition to his standup comedy, he demonstrated a fabulous singing voice which I didn't know existed. During one portion of his program, he asked for three volunteers to help him with a sketch related to his "Three Amigos" movie. He went into the audience and selected three gentlemen, one of which was the guy I saw earlier dressed in the cargo shorts. As the three stood on the stage, Short briefly interviewed each of them prior to performing the skit. When he got to the cargo shorts, Short gave a shocked expression and facetiously said, "It's good to meet someone who still knows how to dress for the theater." This resulted in gales of laughter from the audience. Short approached the man more closely on the stage, who now appeared a little embarrassed, and said, "Let me ask you something, if this is how you dress up for the theater, how do you dress when you go bowling?" I think the man wanted to crawl into a hole at this point, but took the ribbing graciously.
I know Short did this all in jest, but I sensed he was trying to make a point. Since he knew the patrons had paid good money to attend this prominent venue, he was trying to put on a first class show and dressed accordingly. And I believe he was offended to see someone dress like a slob for the occasion. His message was clear: How we dress is a sign of respect for the others around us. The cargo shorts may have been fine for some other more casual events, but not for the theater. As for me, I found it interesting how he was able to teach this lesson through comedy, and hopefully nobody's feelings were hurt. But then again, there are some people who are just plain thick and will never get it, no matter how you insult them.
Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.
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