This last Friday, one of my neighbors and fellow commuters arrived at the bus stop dressed in denims and a t-shirt. He is a civil engineer from Ireland, recently brought in from Australia to work for a construction firm in the Bay Area. His Friday garb reminded me that Dress-down Friday is still common these days.
This particular practice became popular years ago and was a particular favorite among employees in the tech industry.
Dressing down became the norm for 'techies' and spilled over gradually into other office-based working environments, depending on the industry. Dressing down in a law office is still rare. Like my character, David Gitano, in Salsa Dancing with Pterodactyls imposed on his staff, a dress code is in place in most legal establishments, banks, financial management, accounting - in fact, wherever there is a high level of fiscal, social or governmental responsibility.
Working people dress according to the perceived respect owed to their establishment. That particular aspect of dress reminded me of expectations for proper dress etiquette when I was a child.
We had recently moved to the Bay Area from rural Maine. My mother was adamant that certain conventions and standards were to be maintained, regardless of what anyone else did. For example:
- A lady always wears gloves (a good idea when you consider recent health reports regarding public transportation)
- A lady of whatever age always wears her Sunday best to go Downtown to shop (this now applies to shopping malls)
- A lady of whatever age always wears a hat in church (particularly important at Easter)
These simple requirements became archaic and unnecessary in the mid-1960s when any form of dress or lack thereof became acceptable.
They may seem inconsequential but this sort of elegance is a function of civilized society and their gradual disappearance and replacement with less formal and occasionally rude behaviors allows an erosion of basic etiquette.
In societies where close quarters means very little privacy, the development of strict formal behaviors is essential. Civility in crowded circumstances prevents altercations and my mother’s charming, superficial dictates were the cream on top of a standard of behavior my mother expected of us, as young ladies.