An open letter to the grown men of Australia:
Note: The following post was written just before I read, in horror, possibly the most ill-advised piece of “career advice” ever scribed. It is just plain irresponsible, and an indictment of the publisher’s credibility.
“You know what’s great about living on the Northern Beaches, mate?” a colleague said to me recently, “You can just wander down to the shopping centre in thongs or barefoot, and nobody cares. It’s just so casual.”
This is true. The bit about nobody caring, that is. The “casualisation” of men’s dress standards that has been happening since the late 1960’s in America and Britain can seem amplified here in our Lucky Country and perhaps has hit an all-time low. Most average 18-55 year old males on the street not only appear to not care about how they look these days, but often seem to have gone out their way to dress poorly for the sake of personal comfort. God forbid an Australian man over 30 consider wearing a collar outside of the office, or consider a daytime casual dress option for the bottom half of his body other than below-the-knee baggy cargo shorts and Havaianas.
My opinions on the topic are usually readily dismissed as being a quirk of the foreign-born: “This is Australia mate! What are you on about?”
My apologies, but that is bullshit. Dressing awfully has less to do about the laid-back aspects of Australian culture, and more about loss of respect. Respect for aesthetics, occasion, other people and ourselves. I suppose I could blame the Baby Boomers, if they were not already such a popular and easy target.
Above is a photograph of my grandfather, walking down a Sydney street with my grandmother and mum in the late 1940’s. I never met the man, but by all accounts he was as true-blue and dinky-di as any Aussie ever was. Like many Australians, he was born into a working class family and worked for a living. The family in the picture is not dressed-up for some special occasion; that’s just how Australians dressed when they walked down a city street back then.
Apart from his tie being on the short side and coat a bit tight in the chest, I think he looks likes a million dollars. It might be difficult to believe at this time, but Australian men used to actually care about their appearance when in public once upon a time.
The point is not that that every Australian should return to a 1940’s level of dress formality in public, but perhaps we can put in some effort to regain our dignity. Maybe we can start to reconsider our appearance when in the presence of others.
I would be remiss to state the problem without offering a few options to consider:
- Eschew the wearing of thongs or bare feet more than 600 meters from a beach or swimming pool. As much as we have all come to tolerate and expect it, nobody really wants to look at your big hairy man-feet.
- Men over 35 years old could choose a polo or casual button-front shirt instead of the ubiquitous t-shirt, occasionally
- If one chooses to wear a t-shirt, consider plain white, grey or navy blue without huge logos emblazoned all over them
- Unless you are a teenager, actively exercising or an Internet billionaire, avoid hoodies altogether
- Shorts with a hem below the knee are not shorts but capri pants, and should not be worn by grown men
- It is entirely possible to be part of, and celebrate surf culture in your dress with dignity
- Do not wear Ugg boots outside of your own home
- If you are under 25, feel free to ignore all of this advice and go and wear what you like. Making your own mistakes and having fun is what being young is all about
- When and if you decide you a suit is required, wear one well. Don’t take the piss by grudgingly wearing something cheap and ill-fitting with a novelty tie.
Dressing better does not make you effeminate or a dandy. Dressing well is not un-Australian. You are a fool if you believe that you will not be judged by others by what you wear and how you appear in public. At work, follow advice to the contrary at your peril.