Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Kiss my denim-covered butt, George Will

So I miscalculated about that Mason City dateline business (see previous post). Faced with a full day of cleaning, paying bills, changing my address, etc., it became clear I’d go nuts if I didn’t do something in between to take my mind off it. This is it.

Reading other blogs after cleaning the stovetop last night (dressed in jeans), I found a mid-April column written by George Will, a syndicated Washington Post columnist, taking America to task for its favorite fabric: denim. I know the Will face, having seen it published beside quite a number of other columns I’ve never bothered to read. What the heck. I read this one.

George apparently was inspired by a guy I’d never heard of, Daniel Akst, quoted extensively. I Googled Akst, who describes jeans as “work clothes for horny-handed sons of toil and the soil" but not for our betters. He writes a column, too, apparently, for The New York Times. Will uses Akst quotes as a jumping off point as he goes on to bewail blue jeans as “this blight on Americans’ surfaces.”

“Denim,” Will goes on to say, “is the carefully calculated costume of people eager to communicate indifference to appearances. But the appearances that people choose to present in public are cues from which we make inferences about their maturity and respect for those to whom they are presenting themselves.”

In all fairness, I’m sure both Akst and Will had their tongues lodged in their cheeks at least part of the time as they wrote, but still --- them’s fighting words for those of who are horny-handed sons of toil and soil or the sons of those sons, especially if we always wear jeans, too, and I do.

My dad, a son of toil and soil if ever there was one, usually wore overalls --- both pinstripe and classic blue, not jeans, although not to church. But I’ve attended many a service back in the day and sat quite comfortably next to guys whose idea of Sunday-go-to-meeting attire was a white shirt, tie, dress shoes --- and overalls. Not too much of that any more. Now, we wear blue jeans.

In fact I buried my dad in overalls --- sort of. Daddy wanted to be cremated, having found nothing comforting in the full-tilt, rent-a-preacher, corpse-present sendoffs he’d given all previously-deceased loved ones. I humored the undertaker, though, by investing in a little file-drawer-sized cement vault for the ashes with enough room around the plastic box containing them for an old blue work shirt, his favorite shoes and a pair of overalls --- with his driver’s license, valid until the day he died at 90, in the vest pocket. Heaven, after all, is overalls and blue jeans country. God is far to wise to force us to endure eternity in a suit and tie. And Daddy’s out there now I feel sure in his overalls and work shirt, drivers license ready, awaiting the arrival of “Old Green,” his pickup --- still going strong here on earth. (Now don’t get your knickers in a twist here about the theological basis for eternal life and the wrong-headed opinion that pickups do not have souls). But I digress.

And I don’t mean to badmouth business types forced by circumstance, including office dress codes, to wear something other than denim during working hours. I had a publisher once, a little guy who looked and dressed a lot like the produce stocker I like at Hy-Vee West, who imposed the harshest of dress codes, updated regularly. Denim was one of his whipping boys. I always ignored that, and you’ll note I’m no longer employed there. So you gotta do what you gotta do.

What I do mean to badmouth are folks who worry too much about what other people are wearing and to a lesser extent, about their own attire. For most of us, I'm afraid, very little careful calculation is involved. You get up in the morning, you take a shower, you put on what's handy, comfortable or required and that's about it.

I’m working on overcoming my own bias here, since I tend to react to someone in a suit and tie (other than in church or at a funeral) in roughly the same manner I react to a snake --- jump and run.

But it never hurts to remember that the folks who got us into the current economic unpleasantness were not wearing denim for the most part, but suits and ties (or the female equivalent). Interesting to think about, that.

1 comment:

Ed Abbey said...

I have had one job that required a button up shirt and khakis. It lasted two years and I rarely have worn them since. Any future job will be weighted more heavily towards ones where jeans are acceptable attire everyday of the week.