I was watching Blitz Street on Monday and once again it struck me how well turned out everyone was in old video footage from the era.
I’ve mentioned it before but it never ceases to amaze me when I see images of people sheltering from bombs and picking through the rubble of their shattered homes and lives wearing stockings and overcoats with perfectly coiffed hair
I can only imagine scenes like this on a British street now, full of tracksuits, jeans and T shirts and probably a smattering of pyjamas.
It’s not that I don’t appreciate the fact that we don’t HAVE to dress up every day in the modern world. Trust me, sometimes when all I need to do is get a pint of milk, it’s a relief that I can just go to the shop in jeans and shoes I can actually walk in. It’s just that it seems that we’ve gone too far the other way. Where making an effort with your appearance on a day to day basis has become a sign of vanity and viewed as aberrant behaviour in some way.
Once, at work in a Call Centre, I was in the ladies toilets. I was dressed in a green bias cut skirt, black v neck jumper and black court shoes, nothing particularly over the top. A Woman looked me up and down and said “Oooh, where are you off to? Anywhere nice?” when I replied “Nowhere” I could see visible surprise on her face and she just scurried away. When even wearing a skirt to work is dressing up you know there’s something weird going on.
To me making an effort when you dress isn’t about vanity (ok, sometimes it is) it’s about respect. Not only respect for myself, but for others.
Dressing up doesn’t have to mean stockings and a hat, it just means dressing appropriately to the situation and making sure you’re smart and well presented. Arriving at a Wedding Reception, for instance, in jeans and a t shirt (and someone did at mine. Someone I didn’t know and hadn’t invited personally as well!) demonstrates a flat out lack of respect for your hosts and the effort and expense they have put in to arranging the event.
Now, I’d never claim you can’t be a total scruff bag and the most altruistic person who ever lived. Or that sartorial elegance makes you immune from being a selfish, evil git, I’ve seen enough Bond films to know that’s not true. But it does seem that the death of dressing up is a symptom of a larger issue of respect. It’s nice to live in a (mostly) relaxed and tolerant society. It’s not nice to live in a society where people no longer CARE. Not caring for your appearance might be one thing, but dropping litter and spitting in the street are another. They might not harm anyone directly, but that doesn’t mean it’s OK.
It seems the more people keep shouting about a return to “traditional values” (which ones? the oppression of Women? Sending small children up chimneys?) and irritatingly plastering pictures of Churchill all over their literature without any real understanding of the mans life and politics (you know who you are), the less likely they are to actually be applying any of those values to their life.
Presumably they’re talking about someone else?
It makes me even sadder when I hear news stories that tell me that “young people” don’t care about Politics, I’d rather they thought about it carefully then voted BNP (actually no I wouldn’t, but you get my point, surely?)
P.S. If you don’t know who to vote for try this site.
Caring about things just doesn’t seem to be the done thing. Well, I DO care.
I care what I look like, I care what the streets look like and I care what YOU look like.
So next time you decide you can’t be bothered to brush your hair to go to the Post Office it might be worth stopping and thinking about what else you’ve stopped caring about, because the much touted political word “community” isn’t about being bessy mates with your neighbours (god forbid, I hate talking to my neighbours, brings me out in a cold sweat). It’s about showing respect for other peoples work, property and privacy and realising that we don’t exist on this planet alone.
I think over the last few years or so there HAS been a slow move back towards caring about the quality of your clothes, where they were made and who by and a slight shift away from Sportswear in public. Long may it continue.
BRING BACK DRESSING UP!
Seriously, it could be the answer to all our problems, both the ones made up by the newspapers and the REAL ones.
Photo by Danny McL