When I moved from New York City to San Francisco, one of my initial reactions was "Damn, everyone here dresses a fright." I eventually acclimated, but it took a minute to get used to everybody doing everything in yoga pants. And then, suddenly, I was wearing yoga pants too.
Later I moved from San Francisco to Berkeley and was like, "Damn, I thought San Francisco was bad!" The Berkeley scene was no joke — Birkenstocks with soy ink-dyed hemp-wool socks galore, North Face vests paired with denim cargo shorts as far as the eye could see, and I regularly saw a man wearing a white t-shirt with "Ask Me Why I'm Vegan" scrawled on it in black sharpie.
Apparently this "casual Friday-and-then-some every damn day" way of dressing is a national epidemic — and according to a some, a tragedy. To wit, Notre Dame professor Linda Przybyszewski teaches a class called called "A Nation of Slobs." Which sounds even more amazing than "Underwater Basket Weaving," or "American History: Sweet Valley, 1983-present."
It's cool there's a college class dedicated to studying our sartorial downfall, but back in the day dressing properly was considered so important it was taught starting in the first grade. "Up until the 1960s, gloves were considered a requirement," Przybyszewski said. "You were considered slightly undressed if you didn't have a hat on."
Plus, people wore more clothing. "There's got to be a happy medium between wearing a burka and running around half-naked," said Przybyszewski.
Wanting to learn more about the Olden Times, I asked my mom what people dressed like in the 60s. She said, "You've seen Mad Men, right?" So, I guess that confirms that.
"Well what did you wear to the grocery store?"
"A skirt or slacks. Nobody wore jeans."
For the record, as of this writing, my mom is wearing jeggings and a "Chocoholics Anonymous" t-shirt. Otherwise, I haven't seen this woman sans Lululemon in years.
"What did people wear to work out?" I ask.
"Oh, nobody worked out." She pauses. "Well, we worked out by walking to the bar. San Francisco, 1965. Walk into any shithole, you'd see your mother tossing back Chivas Regal."
I'm not sure which is better — the booze and pearls of 1965, or the protein shakes and sports bras-as-tops of 2013. It's nice to not feel confined to such strict wardrobe guidelines, but it's also nice to not stand in line at Trader Joe's behind a man wearing Snoopy boxers and a t-shirt that says, "Free breathalyzer exam, blow here" with an arrow pointing to his crotch.
Meanwhile, my time and Berkeley has possibly left me scarred — I just moved to Los Angeles and am worried my NoCal slobbery could reach record levels when the temperatures reach record heights. I don't want you to see me walking down Sunset in nothing but an oversized JUGS t-shirt and mismatched flip flops. For the sake of humanity's eyeballs, I'm gonna try to channel my personal style every day, and not be a total fucking mess.
I recognize that it's a choice to wear whatever the hell you want to wear, and it's cool that there's so much more leeway these days, because ultimately I stand on the side of wearing whatever makes you feel good. (My JUGS t-shirt makes me feel good, but not that good.) For me, I feel best when I put some effort into my appearance — even if I'm wearing colored jeggings that would make my 60s-era mom and some of my friends cringe — so I'm gonna try to hang onto my "looking good, feeling better," mantra for now and match those jeggings to my top. (Like, in a cool way.)