Column: Readers Offer Thoughts On Our Sloppy Clothes | Opinion

Doug Champion, a new neighbor here on North Weymouth Road in Southern Pines, emailed on

Doug Champion, a new neighbor here on North Weymouth Road in Southern Pines, emailed on a recent Sunday afternoon to say that his wife had been shocked by something she had seen.

“Susan came back from walking the dog,” he jokingly wrote, “and said it looked like you were headed to church without a suit on!”

I pleaded guilty — but added that my excuse was that as soon as I get to Emmanuel Episcopal, “I always put on a choir robe for the duration.”

Doug’s teasing message was one of several responses to my Oct. 13 column. The headline on that piece asked, “What Does Our Clothing Say About Our Society?” And the first sentence inquired: “Have we turned into a nation of slobs?” (Please note the word “we.” Let me emphasize again that I was talking about “us” here, not laying it on others.)

“You mentioned Sundays at Emmanuel,” wrote reader Clarkson Groseth, of Pinehurst. “Some 50 or so years ago, I was an elder in a megachurch in Prairie Village, Kansas. One Sunday, I was serving Communion in my brand-new, beautiful, light blue double-breasted blazer. I was roundly criticized for not wearing a dark suit.”

Then he fast-forwarded a half-century or so.

“A few years back,” he said, “one of our youth elders served Communion wearing a golf shirt and shorts. No one turned a hair!”

Clarkson concluded that he didn’t know whether all this could be counted as progress, but that he guessed Bob Dylan had it right when he sang, “The times, they are a-changin’.”

Reader (and old friend) Loretta Aldridge said she was “trying to be more positive” in her response, but she wasn’t very successful at that.

“I almost never say anything to people who look like they just got out of bed or worse,” she wrote. “But when I am dressed appropriately for a cocktail party or special occasion, I almost invariably get a comment similar to, ‘Why are you so dressed up?’

“I think the attitude of ‘it is all about me’ in so many people is reflected in their clothes, their rude comments, their refusal to obey rules that protect us all — and even on the sidewalks, where they are five across and completely ignore anyone coming toward them.”

Funny, but I had that exact same experience just the other day in downtown Southern Pines. And there really were five of them pushing me aside.

Then there was this, from longtime fellow Emmanuel choir member John Hatcher, of Southern Pines:

“By definition, clothes affect the way we see ourselves. As children, we followed the family ‘dress code’ for church and similar events and left casual dress for other occasions. Casual dress and loose behavior go hand in hand. It is inconceivable to picture events like Jan. 6 taking place by folks dressed in their Sunday best!”

Here’s part of the response from Dale Smith, of Southern Pines:

“Dressing for church was a sign of respect — of God, of the church. God may not care, but my mother sure did!

“Football games at UNC were another fashion opportunity: tweed suits, high heels for girls, three-piece wool suits for their dates. I see how college students dress now, and I am sad for them. Is there nothing in their lives that is ‘special’ and merits something more than jeans and a T-shirt?”

Tell me about it. I could write a whole other column about my bright journalism students at Chapel Hill and their attire — especially in the warm months. But instead, let’s close by returning to neighbor Doug, who followed up his earlier note with this:

“I recently watched a YouTube of Chuck Berry singing ‘Roll Over Beethoven’ from 1965, and every male in the audience had a coat and tie on! Different times.”

Steve Bouser is the retired editor and Opinion editor of The Pilot. Contact him at [email protected]