Wednesday, 29 May 2013

A nation of slobs - CBS News Video

There has been quite a bit of talk over the internet as to whether the west has become a "nation of slobs" since CBS News ran a story on May 19th. I just saw this video for the first time this evening. If you haven't, check it out.



This professor has stirred up quite the debate in the blog landscape. I love this debate. The journalist asks if we've become a nation of slobs in this piece. Linda Przybyszewski, Norte Dame Professor of History and author of Nation of Slobs:  How Americans Learned and Forgot How to Dress teaches a course on this very topic. Must remember to check if it is an on-line course!

She examines literary and historical texts that teach how to dress and present oneself. Ah, the golden days before personal shoppers and celebrity stylists. The days of soup and fish.

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She tries to pin point the cultural shift where we slid down that slippery slope to sloppiness.

The journalist questions if the 1960s with the simple styles played a role in the rise of casual attire.

Przybyszewski focuses a critical eye on the advent of the suburbs. Suburbs invited a more casual lifestyle as outdoor entertaining grew in popularity.

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The casual styles of the sixties and the demand for cheaper clothes, Przybyszewski adds, moved from "simplicity and then slipped into stupidity."

I would like to throw in the appearance of the shopping mall as a contributing factor in sloppy dressing. Stores crammed with fast fashions that have to turn over quickly because the the next season's items are piled sky high in the cramped back rooms. Shopping centres also made a spike in popularity at the same time as suburban living.

I don't agree that America has become a nation of slobs. Canada has its own fair share of pajama/yoga pant/flip flop wearing folks this side of the border as well.

I think that it more an act of defiance and rebellion to dress in a non-conventional manner--a rebellion against dress codes. That with a dose of fashion narcissism. Consider the university student's statement at the end of the video where she describes a fellow student that shows up in pajama bottoms while wearing make-up. They are making a statement or a demand to be noticed. It seems like they fit into a fashion subculture.

What I do like about this interview is the fact that Przybyszewski embraces the small details in her own creations. Yes, Professor Przybyszewski sews! She is right, if you want the unique and exquisite details  of by-gone fashions, resurrecting sewing skills is the way to go. I don't think it is too late or that these by-gone skills are totally lost.

What do you think?



4 comments:

  1. I blame Dockers. In the mid 1990s, they pushed for companies to allow 'business casual'(ie, Dockers) on Fridays as a 'free' benefit for guys. Women were allowed to wear slack suits. I was working in a company where the managers all wore suits at this point. We went from Dockers and sport shirts and blazers on Fridays to golf shirts and blue jeans in one year. Women were not going to allow the guys to get the benefit, which started on Fridays and then went through all days of the work week, and not get their own casual dress. Before this, even in our little city away from a big metro area, people dressed for work; after about 1995, it was totally gone. So, I put a lot of the blame on Dockers and their campaign on this.

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  2. Thanks for the link Graca, I hadn't seen this. I remember when I was a child in the 60's, girls weren't allowed to wear pants/trousers to school and forget about wearing jeans to school! While I think this is kind of silly, when the schools relaxed the dress code, that seems to me to be the start of the slippery slope. People seemed to start more and more casually. It has happened everywhere, I used to work in banking (in the 80's) and even the most junior male staff had to wear dress shirts and ties to work. Now in the same bank, all the men are wearing golf shirts. Seems wrong to me.

    BTW-I am Canadian and I think we have become a nation of slobs.

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  3. "I think that it more an act of defiance and rebellion to dress in a non-conventional manner--a rebellion against dress codes. That with a dose of fashion narcissism." I agree with this. Where I live, in the San Francisco Bay Area, the minimalist Steve Jobs uniform of black T or turtleneck and jeans signifies independence and freedom.

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  4. Office wear has become very casual in Australia as well. We also have "jeans Friday" all over the country. My children's High School has gone from navy pants to navy track pants as their "uniform" in the past 3 years. Not a good look but the look of public High Schools everywhere here now. My oldest daughter and I just spent a few weeks in Vietnam and whilst we would normally consider ourselves reasonably well dressed, my dd commented one day that she felt like a "bogan". I agreed. They dressed so much nicer and took more care over there than Aussies seem to.
    Bogan = http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bogan
    PS: I am generalising. (smile)

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