What is appropriate attire? My how that has changed. I have tried to go out with a shirt untucked, and before I leave the house I tuck it in.
When I was younger, we dressed up to get on an airplane-not anymore. Several months ago, Nancy and I were on a flight together. One of the young women across from us was wearing yoga pants. That was fine, I guess. I was wearing shorts and a golf shirt. But these yoga pants didn’t cover everything on her backside, so each time she got up, it was a bit X-rated.
On another occasion Nancy and I were in the first row in first class when all of a sudden I looked between us to see two bare feet sticking through between our seats. Thankfully, the flight attendant intervened before I stuck a pointed instrument in the sole of his foot.
It was only a few years ago that I wore a suit to church each Sunday morning- Not any more. Fast forward, last Sunday at the early service at our church, several older men were wearing shorts, golf shirts and Birkenstock sandals or flip flops. So far I have never worn shorts to church, but I suspect that won’t last long.
What do law students wear to class these days? When I entered law school, Dean Muse advised the male students that we would have to wear suits (not sport coats, only suits). He believed it was important to look professional even though we were only in law school.
I didn’t own any suits. I bought one on sale at E. J. Korvette’s for $14.95. I bought another at a cheap men’s store in Richmond. The suit, shirt, tie and socks cost $49.95. It was my “good suit.”
What is the appropriate attire when meeting a client on a muddy construction project? Probably thirty years ago I was asked by a large Mississippi contractor to meet him at a project his company was building in Arkansas. He explained they were having trouble compacting the soil and that after we met we would meet with the Arkansas DOT officials.
Knowing I would be walking in the mud, I showed up wearing jeans, cowboy boots (that hurt my feet) and a casual shirt. When Bill first saw me, he said:
Cordell, I want my lawyers to dress like lawyers, not like a contractor.
I was taken aback. If I had worn one of my nice suits and a pair of wingtip shoes, I would have returned with mud over my ankles. But, it made me think about what is proper attire.
Most of you likely never watched a Thin Man movie. They were made in the 1930s I’ve watched all of them. In those days, Nick and Nora Charles were always dressed in suits and dresses even when they were on the train together.
Did you ever watch Father Knows Best? In the 1950s, Jim and Margaret Anderson always were dressed in suits and dresses. Ozzie and Harriet were dressed the same way. In the 70s and 80s, Mr. and Mrs. Cunningham on Happy Days wore suits and dresses.
My old law firm first announced “Casual Fridays.” Before long it was business casual every day. Call me old fashioned- I was against the idea. I didn’t own any clothes I would describe as business casual. I owned suits and dress shirts, golf clothes and workout clothes. Some of our younger lawyers thought golf shirts were business casual. Maybe they are now.
Have we lost anything by dressing casually at the office? What do you think?