When did tacky become cool?

Randy Riley - Contributing columnist

We have all visited a large grocery store or a big-box department store and seen people who are walking around shopping in various degrees of undress. There is even a website dedicated to photos of people who were shopping at Wal-Mart when someone took their picture. None of the pictures are flattering.

When did it become socially acceptable to leave the house and go shopping in pajamas? For that matter, when did it become socially acceptable to leave a dorm room and go to class in pajamas, or walk down the sidewalk in pajamas? When did our dress codes change to make casual attire include sleepwear?

OK, I know I’m starting to sound like an old fuddy-duddy. That doesn’t bother me in the least. I still remember my Mom telling me, “You’re not leaving the house dressed like that.” Or, “We’re going to the store. Get dressed.”

It just wasn’t acceptable to go out in public wearing clothing that was designed for bedrooms.

Even nowadays, if I’m having a lazy day, with absolutely nothing to do, I am still hesitant to go outside to get the mail in my robe, or wear my pajamas while I bring in the trash cans. I still feel the need to get dressed to go through the drive-through at Wendy’s. It just doesn’t feel right to be out in public in my pajamas. To me, it feels … tacky.

Speaking of tacky … Debbie and I were driving south on I-71 recently when the driver of the car in front of us rolled down their window and emptied a large soft-drink glass out the window. The wind caught the fluid and it sprayed a sticky soft drink all over our car. The soft drink and ice was quickly followed by the paper cup, lid and straw.

We were astounded, but we weren’t about to go all-road-rage on her. Luckily the stickiness washed off the windshield with a few squirts of windshield wiper fluid. Why would anyone think that was an OK thing to do? Talk about tacky.

Low-slung pants that only cover half of a guy’s butt should be outlawed, but I’ve discovered that it’s impossible to legislate good dress, style or taste in clothing. As much as I would like to shout out the window of my car to some guys walking the sidewalks of downtown Wilmington, “Put your shirt on. Nobody wants to see that body of yours.”

But, some guys still insist on showing off their decidedly unmanly bodies. Tacky. Tacky.

I’ll be the first to admit that fashions and styles change. Years ago, almost everyone dressed up in their Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes when they went to church on Sunday morning. Our church has become much more casual. Several people still wear a suit or nice dress, but many are wearing business-casual and some are going very casual, but I’ve yet to see anyone in church wearing their pajamas.

At least, not yet.

Maybe some of the extreme casual dress stems from the examples set by performers, singers, actors and various “fashionistas” that, for some reason, set the standard of dress for the rest of the world.

I well remember the days when singers, especially country western stars, would really dress up for a performance. Some of them took dressing-up to an extreme – sequins, floral pattern, gaudy cowboy shirts with fringe and lace. It really looked kind of silly, but Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton could pull off that look and make it work for them.

There were times that I thought the outlandish clothes were somewhat tacky, but they were more like costumes than clothing. Last week on the American County Music Awards show, many mega-stars wore t-shirts and ratty old jeans. Times have changed.

The more I think about it, the more I think I’m not an old fuddy-duddy. I just believe that clothes reflect a person and that people need to dress for success. We should all look in a full-length mirror before stepping out of the house. No one should look at you and think, “Wow, cover that up.”

We need to remember what our parents and grandparents told us.

“You’re not leaving the house until you get cleaned up. Don’t walk out of this house looking tacky.”

Randy Riley is President of Council of Wilmington.


Randy Riley

Contributing columnist