Whether we are too close to see it or not, America remains the bratty teenager of the world. Don’t get me wrong, I do love my country, but our over privileged projections of ourselves as seen by the rest of the world remains a running joke. As if street signs urging people to keep their pants pulled up to an acceptable height wasn’t warning enough that we are in the middle of an identity crisis as a culture (yes, such signs really do exist here in New York), we are now being reminded by what was once our parent country that we have to start dressing appropriately if we want to sit at the grown-up tables of the world, specifically when it comes to being in the presence of The Royal Family.
England has a long, rich standard of tradition and culture. Although we will always be the new kids on the block, we should have at least passed the awkward tweener stage where we can confidently dress ourselves knowing it will be acceptable to a more-refined audience. Now before you break out your flags and start chanting “U.S.A.!”, let me present to you part of a memo sent by Buckingham Palace regarding the British royals’ upcoming visit to our fair land regarding the press coverage.
Their guidelines state: “Smart attire for men includes the wearing of a jacket and tie, and for women a trouser or skirt suit. Those wearing jeans or trainers will not be admitted and casually dressed members of the media will be turned away. This also applies to technicians.” In other words, Buckingham Palace is asking us to step it up for their first family, but do we really need their guidance? The answer is a resounding yes.
If we as a culture are good at one thing, it is taking advantage of situations. There was a time when suits and dresses were the norm for us — there were even such things called house dresses, which was a dress women would wear so as not to get their going-out dresses ruined — but as time went on, and we kept pushing our individuality, suits were traded in for jeans, and dresses were traded for yoga pants. Not that I am against comfort, in fact, I, too, consider jeans and a T-shirt to be my uniform of choice, but there is a time and a place for everything.
Some time ago, I wrote a story about what to wear when presenting ideas in the work place. It was meant to help young professionals understand how to obtain an element of professionalism. To my surprise, however, the majority of feedback from the story geared toward how out of touch I was and how the clothes don’t make the person, the work does. Maybe this is a generational ideology conflict, but yes, clothes do make a difference. What you are wearing is your first impression, not your body of work, not how you present yourself once the meeting gets started, but as soon as someone lays eyes on you, their impression of you is already being formed. This is not to say that we should have to dress up for every moment of the day, but in instances when let’s say, one might have the opportunity to meet the royal family, we should know to put a tie and a jacket on — without having to be told. Yes, people considered to be technicians by Buckingham Palace including photographers and camera operators, this means you as well.
Have we become so spoiled as a country that we have to actually fight against getting dressed up? Maybe it is our natural attraction toward conflict or our strong belief in individuality that we are using as an excuse for not conforming to what may be considered adult attire, but there is something to be said for respect for not only ourselves, but others as well.
No one is trying to discredit the individualism that makes us who we are, but on occasion, it just makes sense to dress and act like an adult, especially when company from out of town is coming. So the next time you are meeting someone important, whether it be the royal family or your next potential employer, have some class and dress the part.
No one has ever died from putting on a tie, unless they pulled it too tight, and if you get to that point, maybe it isn’t such a bad thing for the rest of our society …