Opinion: Clothed in privilege?


With everything in the human-created social order, our mores shift and flex with fad and fashion like reeds in the wind.  When 100 years ago most men owned a single suit and wore it daily, today many have closets full of clothing and almost never, if ever, wear a suit. In between, blue-collar or agrarian men sported what was colloquially coined the “marrying-and-burying” suit. It would be procured on the occasion of one’s wedding and maintained throughout the years to serve its final purpose in attiring its owner in the coffin. It might be called into use for the odd special occasion or Easter Sunday, but mostly, it was reserved for those times of deepest respect, like seeing a banker or flying on an airplane.

The passing years have led to far greater access for all of us. What may have been once-in-a-lifetime has become significantly more commonplace. When humans, especially men, once sought to conform with a standard uniform, now we communicate our opinions directly on an often graphic, graphic Y-shirt.  Today, standing in the taxi or ride-sharing service line anywhere, one is more likely to encounter folks attired for hiking than for appearing in public. Americans are now significantly more likely be overweight than at the turn of previous century, and it is easy to quip that we look like our last hike was from our table to the buffet. But as our culture dictates screen time over fun time, how do we resist?

Even so, who gets to wear the costume of fitness? Are gym clothes reserved for the gym? Does one have to have muscles to wear a muscle shirt, practice yoga to wear the pants, or labor to wear Carhartt’s? Who gets to don the uniform? All of us, or only those deemed worthy?