Six holiday cycles, two school graduations (on the precipice of a third), and countless family gatherings later, and I still ask myself the same question: Why am I getting dressed up? Realistically speaking, I will only wear the outfit once or possibly twice, though that could prove scandalous should any family pictures be placed side by side. Yet we continue, year after year, to tidy ourselves up, walk about in our often uncomfortable fabrics, and then neatly hang them away for a future illustrious occasion where we try to convince ourselves that somehow that year-old Christmas long sleeve could make a comeback for a dinner party with friends. The inefficiency of it all is truly mind-blowing. But I suppose that I, like the vast majority of us all, must embrace the tried-and-true traditions of time.
Don’t get me wrong, I love looking my best―“snazzy” or “handsome,” as my grandparents might boast. The feeling of looking sharp amongst my family and friends is reaffirming in a way; for a fleeting few hours, I can pretend to be a version of myself that I am not. But being in the company of others who, like you, are portraying themselves as inauthentic, can be damaging. We begin to judge people by the occasional dressed-up instances in which we see them, and resultantly create an unrealistic view of their lives.
Besides the emotional argument, there is also a strong argument against the practicality of dressing up. If you are anything other than the midsized, average build of the teens modeling the perfect fit of their name-brand jeans, chances are there will be slim pickings as you head to the shelves. And that’s just for everyday attire; should you be on the hunt for a pair of slacks or a nice dress shirt, you’d be lucky to make it past the first shelf of obscure sizes before wondering if it might be better to just order online. It may be time to consider whether putting ourselves through this agony of clothes shopping is worth the inevitable headache.
However, I do understand the social call to dress up. There are certain situations where dress clothes are more than just a suggestion: job interviews and weddings, to name a couple. Maybe it’s just my reluctance to acknowledge that these occasions will become a lot more common in my life, and perhaps sooner than I may want. Maybe it’s just that I am too nostalgic in principle to fully embrace change. Maybe it’s just my reluctance to grow up and face the responsibilities of being professional, dressing up, and blending in.
I think the ultimate message of dressing up is to show to others that you are willing to become the person that they want to see. That may not be the person you want to be, but these are small concessions to make in exchange for creating a lasting impression on others. So as much as it irritates me to go through the hunt and retrieval of an ephemeral appearance, I will do it because I recognize what it means to my family, friends, and peers. Perhaps one day I too will become invested in styling myself to the eye of society; but until then, I will always be the kid who loved his sweatshirts and comfy pants just a bit too much, and never forgot what it meant to bask in the carelessness of youth.