There are people out there — fancy, elegant people — who strongly argue the case for dressing nicely on airplanes."The plane is not your living room," they say. "Dressing well around other people is a show of respect so why not put in a little effort when you travel?" The answer is easy: Because I don't want to and airlines don't deserve it.
In a recently published plea, Slate's J. Bryan Lowder gives the hard sell for breaking out your glad rags when flying the not-so friendly skies:
Among the cavalcade of pajama pants, tracksuits, nightgowns, painting rags, and ill-fitting sweatshirts that one encounters in the world's terminals and stations these days, the competently dressed individual stands apart as a beacon of civilized life, an island of class amid a swamp of schlumps. By dressing myself as a decent human being who is aware that he is in public, I like to think I am performing a small act of resistance against the increasingly slobbish status quo.
Having just faced this onslaught of sartorial neglect yet again on an overseas trip, I'm pleading with you: Join me. Dress decently when you travel. Seven hours to Madrid in la clase turistais trying enough without your mangy old T-shirt adding to the sensory assault.
Let's make a deal! We, the schlumps from Schlump Swamp (which is absolutely beautiful this time of year — you should fly there) will stop traveling in our scrubbiest clothes when airports stop treating us like human garbage.
Look, I get that the leggings and stretched out t-shirt that I'm wearing while sprinting through LaGuardia (because they've changed my gate for a third time) might offend some people's sartorial sensibilities and I feel sorry about that (I don't, actually), but the fact of the matter is that dressing fancy — or relatively nice, even — is not worth it when flights are routinely overbooked, airline staff is rude and overworked and the only food option available to us is a Chili's fucking Too, which, YES, happens to give some of us diarrhea. Throw in a little racism, sexism and the occasional loss of a relative and what do you get? A slovenly and angry proletariat (i.e., people from coach in sweatpants).
And it's not like things improve once you actually board the plane — you know, that alternately hot and freezing germ tube in which you might be lucky enough to get the seat you paid hundreds of dollars for, because sometimes — hey — they just give the seat to someone else. Once on, you're then subjected to extremely limited leg room (look at the flexibility my leggings give me now, fool!), potential fights with your fellow travelers, no food, limited access to water and the chance of getting stuck on the tarmac for hours and hours and hours.
Treat me like a sky peasant and I will dress like a sky peasant. I think it was Marx who first said that.
I don't mean to suggest that flying is the worst thing in the world. It's not! Traveling anywhere is a privilege and the fact that a person can make it from New York to Chicago in only two hours seems nothing short of miraculous. That said, air travel is not the elegant affair that it used to be. There's a reason that Don Draper looks so suave on an airplane and it's not just confidence and a nice suit — it's also leg room and complimentary scotch. Give me those things and I will arrive at the airport in a fucking ball gown.
Until that time comes, I plan to make travel slightly less tedious by dressing comfortably and — worth noting — responsibly. High heels, a staple of a fancy lady's wardrobe, are discouraged on airplanes because they're known to puncture escape slides. They also advise you not to wear tights and nylons because, in case of a fire, they can be grafted to your legs. But what a classy burn victim you'll be!
Ultimately, what another person wears on an airplane is none of your goddamn bee's wax, unless, of course, the clothing physically enters your space or the soul in question is wearing a t-shirt advertising the Nazi party or — I dunno — a Dave Matthews Band tour or something equally offensive. Otherwise, that person's only responsibility to you and the airline staff is to be reasonably polite and try not to wear clothes that smell badly.
Showing up to the airport freshly showered and wearing a clean pair of leggings (and a SMILE) is the farthest I'm willing to go, respectability-wise. Others might want to go farther and wear a three-piece suit and that's up to them. Come the day that we all get stuck at the Detroit airport over night and have to sleep on the floor (it's happened to me), we'll see who's happier with their decision.
In the words of Columbo: Just one more thing. Wearing a suit to the airport doesn't make you the arbiter of what counts as elegant or classy. And furthermore, "classy" is often just code for "rich and white," so — also in the words of Columbo — no one else should give a fuck about your dumb standards.