Yesterday it was extremely hot (96 degrees) and very humid, so we spent most of the day holed up in the comfort of the house, and ventured out around 6:30 PM to get a birthday present for my brother and have dinner.
In line at the store, I noticed that there were two men of roughly my age ahead of me, one with a wife or girlfriend, the other with a young daughter. Also, both of them were wearing tank tops. I'm used to seeing this choice of clothing among young guys on the T, but on middle-aged guys it gives me pause. I'm not talking about being in shape; I'm talking about dignity. I don't own a tank top, but if I did, I would not wear it out in public. I feel that some items of clothing are appropriate for inside your house, and that's it, and tank tops are one of those items. Exposed armpits and hot, humid days--ugh, I don't even like thinking about it.
Later, at the restaurant, I saw another guy wearing a tank top. Now, shopping on route 1 on Saturday evening is one thing, but going out to dinner? We're not talking about the dining room at the Ritz-Carlton (oh wait, that got sold and is now called the Taj Boston), but we're not talking about the corner diner either. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, or just old, but when I go to a semi-nice restaurant, I don't expect to see male patrons wearing tank tops. Many restaurants used to have dress codes, but they have all but vanished due to the continued overcasualization of every aspect of public life in our society.
To be fair, I was wearing a short-sleeve shirt, cargo shorts, and fisherman sandals, so there are probably more than a few places I would have been turned away from back in the Rat Pack days. (Yes, I have been watching Mad Men, and yes, it does make me nostalgic for a time when men and women knew instinctively, or were taught, how to dress appropriately for any occasion.) The line between casual dining and upscale dining, and the differences in attire and behavior that go with it, pretty much no longer exists, and maybe that's the problem.
Every year around this time, the men's magazines start talking about how "this fall, men will be dressing up again!" But it seems like they're trying to convince themselves rather than their readers. Maybe some intrepid restauranteur needs to step up and be willing to reinstate a dress code and stick to it. You know how certain clubs have a rule about no sneakers or ball caps? No one seems to care much about that, except the occasional frat dude that gets turned away, and you can bet he'll either go home and change or remember how to dress when he comes back next time.
I would be willing to put on long pants, even on a 96-degree day in August, if I knew that it meant all the other patrons at that restaurant had to do the same thing, and if it would assure me I wouldn't have to see any men in tank tops.