Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Root of All Evil

People wearing jeans. It's a problem. A major policy problem.

According to George Will.

I know, I know, the economy stinks, people are out of work, North Korea continues to be an issue and China and Russia has their back, East Africa is a mess and everyone seems to think that Mexico is on the brink, Canada has a conservative government, and Obama is talking to the leaders of the New World where Cuba will be issue #1.

Oh yeah, and there is still Iraq and Afghanistan.

But George Will is sick and tired of people wearing blue jeans. So I welcome George Will to the Policy Zone.

On any American street, or in any airport or mall, you see the same sad tableau: A 10-year-old boy is walking with his father, whose development was evidently arrested when he was that age, judging by his clothes. Father and son are dressed identically -- running shoes, T-shirts. And jeans, always jeans.

Oh, no, he's going to talk about race. This is not going to end well.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, he (Akst) has denounced denim, summoning Americans to soul-searching and repentance about the plague of that ubiquitous fabric, which is symptomatic of deep disorders in the national psyche.

Huh? Jeans? Really? Blue jeans? Not credit cards? Not the 'smarter than no one' Wall Street yahoos? Blue jeans are the problem?

Denim on the bourgeoisie is, Akst says, the wardrobe equivalent of driving a Hummer to a Whole Foods store -- discordant.

I'm speechless. I don't know about you, but what is so bad about jeans? And why is dressing 'better' than the 'working class' so awesome?

Long ago, when James Dean and Marlon Brando wore it, denim was, Akst says, "a symbol of youthful defiance." Today, Silicon Valley billionaires are rebels without causes beyond poses, wearing jeans when introducing new products.

Those effing Silicon Valley geniuses! Wearing comfortable clothing and not looking like squares! Don't they know the George Will lives in Washington, D.C. where wearing comfortable cloths is no-no! Don't they know that in DC only navy or black suits may be worn?!?! Don't they know that when it's 95 degrees with 93% humidity suits are the only way to go! This was a nation founded on being a square! How dare they even think about not wearing the national uniform!

Denim is the infantile uniform of a nation in which entertainment frequently features childlike adults ("Seinfeld," "Two and a Half Men") and cartoons for adults ("King of the Hill"). Seventy-five percent of American "gamers" -- people who play video games -- are older than 18 and nevertheless are allowed to vote.

So what? If I were handing out suffrage cards, every white male over the age of 30 in DC would not be allowed to vote. Because guess who's more out of touch with America... that's right! The square in the black suit sweating his ass off!

In their undifferentiated dress, children and their childish parents become undifferentiated audiences for juvenilized movies (the six -- so far -- "Batman" adventures and "Indiana Jones and the Credit-Default Swaps," coming soon to a cineplex near you).


Denim is the clerical vestment for the priesthood of all believers in democracy's catechism of leveling -- thou shalt not dress better than society's most slovenly. To do so would be to commit the sin of lookism -- of believing that appearance matters.

You know who does dress well. The Jehovah Witnesses. They dress well. So do those whack-job Mormons who walk around really poor areas in a dress shirt and drank pants and look totally out of place (and pardon my French because I really have nothing against Mormons, but those guys are reason I cross to the other side of the street when I'm out walking about).

I'm not saying that anyone should look like a bum, and if one is going on a job interview, then by all means wear a suit. But I'll be honest. I think we should wear jeans to 90% of all events in life. If I'm sitting in an office all day, why should I be in a suit (or nice pants)? Give me one reason.

Denim is the carefully calculated costume of people eager to communicate indifference to appearances. But the appearances that people choose to present in public are cues from which we make inferences about their maturity and respect for those to whom they are presenting themselves.

Frankly isn't listening to an iPod in public (like shopping, ordering coffee) or doing anything that may require human interaction five hundred times more insulting and disrespectful? If I'm sitting at the airport and I see some guy in a suit, I'm thinking one thing and one thing only: Loser who thinks he's more important than everyone else (this guy will also bitch if he has to check his bag, and the odds that he is white is 99%). If I see someone with an iPod while in line at a coffee shop I'm thinking one thing: Disrespectful jagoff.

This is not complicated. For men, sartorial good taste can be reduced to one rule: If Fred Astaire would not have worn it, don't wear it. For women, substitute Grace Kelly.

Ah, George longs for the 1940s! The truth comes out! The 1940s and 1950s, when few people owned cars, people held low paying manufacturing jobs, universal suffrage was something the Canadians did, and black men were finally allowed to play baseball in the major leagues! The good old days when war was cold and women didn't work!

(A confession: The author owns one pair of jeans. Wore them once. Had to. Such was the dress code for former senator Jack Danforth's 70th birthday party, where Jerry Jeff Walker sang his classic "Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother." Music for a jeans-wearing crowd.)

What did Mr. Bojangles wear? I think we can settle it right then and there.

Well thank YOU Mr. George Will for finally realizing that America needs to go back to the 1950s and that if we only didn't wear jeans, Medicare wouldn't be an issue any more. Because in a time like this, were the people who you identify with politically are organizing anti-tax rallies against nothing, you write a column about blue jeans. And how they're ruining America. Only, D.C. and the squares who think they're really important... they're the ones ruining America.


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