Like any respectable geek, I am only vaguely aware of fashion. I was thoroughly astounded to learn that J. Bryan Lowder, an assistant editor who edits Slates LGBTQ section, Outward, and is apparently much ashamed of his first name, decided to ask people to “Stop Dressing Like a Slob When You’re Traveling” or “Take a One-Way Trip From Tatty to Natty.” Natty means smart and fashionable and is Lowder really either one of those things?
First, I would tell Lowder’s editor that that Thinkstock photo isn’t doing his article any favors. That hairstyle looks like it is the survivor of an aviator helmet and the white shirt is boring and the collar down makes me think someone didn’t hang the shirt up correctly the night before. Then I wondered if anyone still wears t-shirts and tank tops for their original purpose (something to go under that shirt).
After a quick look outside the Fine Whine and Department of Complaints, I couldn’t tell if there is an actual department for the fashion police in Slate. Reading the article, I began to wonder about other things. I thought one curated fine art, but Lowder curates his “travel costume.” I was hoping for something a bit more spectacular than “these chinos will pair nicely with a different shirt, and those dressier shoes will come in handy when that friend takes me out for dinner later in the week.”
What is this man railing against?
However, the primary reason I make the extra effort to plan my travel outfit is because, well, no one else does. Among the cavalcade of pajama pants, tracksuits, nightgowns, painting rags, and ill-fitting sweatshirts that one encounters in the world’s terminals and stations these days, the competently dressed individual stands apart as a beacon of civilized life, an island of class amid a swamp of schlumps. By dressing myself as a decent human being who is aware that he is in public, I like to think I am performing a small act of resistance against the increasingly slobbish status quo.
The man wants an army of men and women in chinos as if we are uniformed for a day at a mandatory public school. He wants to increase the snobbish status quo to fight the slobbish status quo. He’s not calling for “a three-piece suit on every JetBlue hop or Megabus jaunt (though that would not have been abnormal mere decades ago), nor do I mean to dictate what you should wear within the tinted confines of your own car.”
What he wants is:
- an attractive trouser,
- a pressed shirt,
- close-toed shoes,
- and perhaps even a light sport coat or cardigan—the kind of thing I generally wear to work—with little effort or expense.
Lowder does not like:
- mangy t-shirts
- ill-fitting sweatshirts
- pajama pants
- painting rags
Does that mean people who actually work in tracksuits or pajama-ish pants need to yuppy-up?
I’m guessing that Lowder isn’t one of the Little People or somewhere in between a munchkin and a hobbit or leprechaun (the nice kind). That means he can readily find clothes that fit him, even if he doesn’t truly know how to properly use the word mangy and probably hasn’t had much experience with mange itself.
Lowder does want to dictate the fit of one’s sweatshirts and the number of holes in one’s T-shirts. Although I have entered an age of bliss where I no longer subscribe to Glamour magazine and no longer follow adult fashions, I do know how to travel in comfort. Since I have embraced my inner child and almost exclusively wear children’s clothing, I have been much happier. While children can dress in yuppy togs, I feel no need to embrace the yuppy uniform of chinos.
Lowder shops in the adult world, and travels enough to be annoyed, but he seems unaware of the first-class luxury of airline-issued pajamas. Yes, that’s right. Airline-issued pajamas are a topic in travel blogs and news. That means Lowdry either didn’t do any research or has never flown first-class. The trend has come to business class. The big question in the 2013 conversation is: When to change–before boarding or after boarding? There are also comparisons between which are the best airline pajamas.
Alas. I don’t travel business class. I’ve never traveled first class. Yet I would be one of those people wearing pajama-like pants or even leggings because during my wait and even in my economy seat, I intend to do some stretching. I may do a handstand at the airport. I will likely do a split. I might even do a one-minute shimmy.
In the airplane, I will actually exercise and I understand doing so is healthy and a way to avoid getting blood clots. I need pants that can stretch with me and shirts that won’t rip when I flex. That means instead of getting dressed to look like George Sand or Katherine Hepburn, I will likely wear yoga pants and not trousers with a matching jacket. I will never wear a pressed shirt as I don’t usually do so when I dress up. You also press a shirt exactly because it tends to wrinkle. A sweatshirt is a better choice although I’m not sure what exactly Lowdry means by ill-fitting since styles vary–oversize to go with leggings, short to show the belly button?
A suit jacket or a cardigan might be something worth considering, but a long coat is more practical in case they run out of blankets or you have to sleep in the airport. You never know if the weather might change and there might be rain or wind.
Dresses are extremely impractical for rushing around, hauling luggage and sleeping in public. Nylons are not advisable since during a fire, they will melt to your skin in a way that should only be imagined in horror movies. High heels and flip flops and dangerous should one need to run or have something heavy rolled over their feet. If you have to run across Heathrow with your bags, flat, closed-toed shoes with rubber soles are the most practical, but slip-ons are a must unless you want retie them post-security check.
I don’t really care what the other passengers are wearing as long as they are adequately clothed since I don’t want some half-naked sweaty guy crushed next to me in line. I’m all for comfort and good manners. I be happy if you don’t grumble when I recline my seat and don’t expect me to allow your excess body parts to hang over into my space. I don’t want to see excessive cleavage, front or back.
Glamour suggests a white maxi dress. How many ways is this impractical? And those clunky platforms or the laced up deck shoes? Is someone else carrying my luggage? They also recommend “boyfriend” jeans that, in this case, are shown with holes at the knees. This is a fashion statement. You can buy them that way. Fashion calls them distressed jeans.
My latest dancewear catalogs show me that t-shirts with holes are popular and so are baggy pants. For the last couple of years when I’ve been shopping for pajamas, I’ve found that outside of specialty places like Victoria’s Secret, there are few choices. Pajamas have fallen out of favor because so many people just wear sweatsuits or big-T-shirts. Now we see that airlines are trying to bring back the trend.
What other trends are missing? T-shirts with artistic holes, painted pants or shirts and long flowing pants might not meet Lowder’s fashion sensibilities, but who commissioned him to be the fashion police and guardian of civilization. Some civilizations began in long flowing pants or a kimono. For some, just women wearing pants is a sign of the loss of civilized life, but as a woman who has worked and traveled on her own, people who don’t approve of women wearing pants or trousers don’t bother me. I ignore them. I suggest people also ignore Lowder. He believes he gets better treatment because he dresses better, but I’d probably get better treatment if I was white and male. It shouldn’t matter.
Let’s remember that Lowder wasn’t railing against current fashions and that he wasn’t criticizing the policies and trends set by the airlines. He was criticizing the personal choices and trends in individual passengers and as a fashion police he’s way behind on the current rules and as a journalist he’s neglected his research. Lowder is neither a fashionista nor a giornalista.
This is criticism without a clue. My suggestion? Travel on in comfort and ignore this man’s whining.