1/29/2009

White House Casual Friday: The Fall of Western Civilization


According to the NYtimes:

Over the weekend, Mr. Obama’s first in office, his aides did not quite know how to dress. Some showed up in jeans (another no-no under Mr. Bush), some in coats and ties.

So the president issued an informal edict for “business casual” on weekends — and set his own example. He showed up Saturday for a briefing with his chief economic adviser, Lawrence H. Summers, dressed in slacks and a gray sweater over a white buttoned-down shirt. Veterans of the Bush White House are shocked.


And so am I. I do not approve. Kennedy buried the top hat. What sartorial standard will Obama bulldoze? I am picturing a louche president in cargo pants and sandals in two decades. There's a scene in the film Faces by director John Cassevetes where a man complains in embarrassment about his son wearing sneakers off the tennis court as informal attire. Our grandsons will shame us by doing away with shirts altogether. USATODAY, harbinger of doom asked its readers not too long ago whether flip flops were appropriate business casual attire. The end is nigh.

I would not call myself a traditionalist, but you have to draw the line somewhere. Doesn't the national office deserve some sort of formal mystique?

For all of us normal people in the workplace, its better to be overdressed than underdressed. Casual attire is only nominally more comfortable than business formal wear, anyway. No one at your job will reprimand you for being the best dressed guy at work. Taking that extra step can be an extension, and expression, of your attitude towards your job at the office both your client and your employer can see the seriousness of your attire (which hopefully matches your work output).

When it comes to output Obama has a lot on his plate. So far he's done well, signing into law today The Ledbetter Act which (finally) ensures equal pay for equal work, and signing an executive order to shut down Guantanomo Bay. But we wish style could be elevated along with the quality, and morality, of American political culture. Perhaps our standards are too high?