Social Question


How come most people don't make an effort to dress neatly when in public anymore?

Asked by MRSHINYSHOES (13956points) May 23rd, 2010

In the 1950s and early 1960s, most people who went out in public, even for ordinary tasks like shopping or going to a movie, used to make an effort to dress well and neatly, groom themselves properly, so as to maintain a degree of respectability. Most men were clean-shaven and groomed, most women were dressed nicely and had their hair done, and even most children were well-groomed with neat haircuts and clean clothes. Nowadays, all you see are people in sweats or dirty ripped jeans, with uncut messy hair and baseball caps, and an overall ungroomed appearance. What happened to basic grooming habits and self-dignity? Don’t blame it on the economy——even back then people were not rich yet still strived to look “respectable” in public. I don’t mean dressing up with expensive clothes, just dressing well and neatly.

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

39 Answers

gemiwing's avatar

Apathy became cool. Think of James Dean, then punk, new wave then urban wear. It’s not new and it’s been going on for quite a while in this direction. There is also a difference now in what’s considered ‘dressed up’. A matching track set, pristine sneakers is now considered dressed-up for a large segment of the population.


@gemiwing I like how you put it “A matching track set, pristine sneakers is now considered “dressed-up” for a large segment of the population.” Lol. How true! Thanks.

Haleth's avatar

There’s a negative side to that. My grandmother owned some amazing clothes in the 50s and 60s and spent a lot of time on her appearance. She talks about how she and her sister would drop an entire paycheck on just one dress when they were my age (early 20s.) They worked in the kitchen at a hospital in Pittsburgh. My grandmother would wear these amazing dresses, perfect hair and makeup and then walk across half of Pittsburgh in heels to work at this job.

But it really sounds like you had to dress up in order to fit in, even if you were poor. Imagine if you had to wear suits and ties or dresses, heels, gloves and makeup every time you went out in public, or people would judge you. I bet that would get old really fast. It’s nice that we’ve relaxed the standards.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

Actually, in the 50s, it was really common for women to go to the grocery store with curlers still in their hair.

erichw1504's avatar

I don’t know, but I’m glad I get to laugh at this site: Peopl of Wal-Mart.

Jude's avatar

Sometimes, I go out dressed like Rod. I wear it well.

I kid. Nothing worse than going out in public with your pajama bottoms and slippers.

rangerr's avatar

I’m a lazy teenager.
Pajamas are comfortable.
My jeans are ripped from work and getting caught on fences. They are comfortable, so I don’t see the need to get rid of them.
My hair… I just don’t feel like spending an hour on just so someone thinks I’m “presentable”.
My baseball hats keep the sun out of my eyes, and keeps my hair from falling in my face.
I’m always covered up that’s more than most girls around here can say, so I just don’t see why it matters… I’m not trying to impress anyone here.

tinyfaery's avatar

What you think is messy and disrespectful could have cost someone thousands of dollars. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean that people aren’t hygienic or well-groomed. Pfft.


@Haleth True, but I think people nowadays have “relaxed” a little too much!! Too much comfort at the price of self-respect and dignity. Lol.

@rangerr Thanks for your honesty!

@tinyfaery What “looks” messy and disrespectful “looks” dirty, unhygienic, and ill-groomed. Even if it costs thousands of dollars! Lol.

@erichw1504 Love it, just love it! Thanks!

MacBean's avatar

I don’t make much of an effort because I don’t live in Stepford.

People who make TOO much of an effort annoy me. My mother, for example. Last summer I needed to be taken to the emergency room because I was experiencing such extreme pain in what I estimated to be my kidney area that I couldn’t breathe. And I really needed to breathe because it hurt so much that I was crying hysterically. I couldn’t catch my breath and I thought I was dying but my mother made me wait until she had showered and done her hair and makeup before she would take me to the hospital. Your appearance is not that fucking important. Nobody is looking at you as closely as you apparently think.

kenmc's avatar

Why should everyone conform to a set standard instead of doing what they feel is right?

jackm's avatar

Just because you don’t respect them doesn’t mean they don’t have dignity.

Maybe our generation cares less about looking “respectable” and more about being comfortable. Maybe we realize that dressing up to impress random people just to boost our ego is a little sad. Or maybe we are lazy.

who knows, and who cares.


@boots I don’t see conformity as a problem. These days, “conformity” is a bad word. That’s unfortunate.

shego's avatar

I really do like watching the older movies where everybody was well groomed. But I personally would rather be comfortable, and I don’t think I could handle shin splints. My grandmother told me stories about my great grandmother walking everywhere in the 40’s in the heels, that after a while, it got to the point where she had to have heels on all the time becasue it hurt her so bad to wear flats.
The only time that I really do dress up is when I go to formal dinners, dances, and the theatre (Broadway). To me, it is a form of respect.

kenmc's avatar

@MRSHINYSHOES Judging those outside of an arbitrary norm sounds like a bad thing to me.

Casting the first stone isn’t my style.


@jackm True, the generation of today cares a lot less about looking respectable. It’s all about comfort now. Slobbish comfort. Who cares right? And I think some people here are missing the point——It’s not about trying to “impress people” or “dressing up”. It’s about dressing neatly and respectfully. Kids with jeans that droop down to show their butt-cracks while you’re trying to eat your lunch, people who show up in court in dirty jeans and a t-shirt, teachers who teach wearing sweats, etc. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to dress neatly and still be comfortable and unique! Come on people! I’m not advocating fashion-consciousness or snobbery here. I think appearance is very important. It is how you present yourself to other people. And dressing for comfort often equates to being lazy! Just slap on a baseball cap because a guy’s too lazy to comb or wash his hair. Or just slip into sweats because it’s convenient. We’ve become a generation of lazy dressers, aftermaths of the ugly 1970s. That’s my opinion. And those people who advocate rebelliousness and uncomformity are often the very people who like to flaunt “how different” they are from others, like “Look at me, look at me!” I think THAT is wrong, not the people who are trying to conform. Lol.

kenmc's avatar

@MRSHINYSHOES Outward appearance has what to do with self-esteem?

Why do you let yourself feel disrespected by people you don’t even interact with?

Ass-cracks hanging out =/= dressing comfortably.

You seem to be very judgmental.


@boots I never said “self-esteem”, but self-dignity. People who dress like slobs are looked upon as slobs. No dignity there.

kenmc's avatar

@MRSHINYSHOES Just because you judge them to be slobs doesn’t mean that everyone else judges a book by it’s cover.

shego's avatar

Personally @MRSHINYSHOES out where I live, there isn’t very much of that. And just for being part of the younger generation doesn’t mean I let my ass hang out. I am assuming that you are getting your information from the people around you, and it isn’t right for you to automatically assume that all of us are like that.

SmoothEmeraldOasis's avatar

Well, well, well some of you are very sensitive and not actually looking to see the best of the initial question. I get that hygiene is number 1 on my list and courtesy is 2 so when I encounter people young and older, I first look to see if maybe they are in a situation, like maybe they are homeless and or have a limited wardrobe to make themselves presentable. If they offend me directly I will actually say something the them about their display. Other than that I just read them as lazy and that they have low self esteem. I can not fix them they have ato want to be better for themselves first.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

I have a set amount of energy. I’d rather use it up ACTUALLY treating myself and others with respect and dignity than doing things that make one “proper” – such as dressing up more – and then treating people poorly. The point of all etiquette is to help people figure out how to treat each other decently and live civilly. Sometimes, you just have to realize that the trees have been mistaken for the forest and start over.

SmoothEmeraldOasis's avatar

I totally agree with you on respect and civility. But if and when those that are clearly not practicing personal hygiene and stand not even two feet away from me and I can smell their sweat and funk from who know how long ago. I have to say to them to not invade my space or I excuse myself from the vicinity. The clothes well much has changed in the American Culture that I am saddened that the decent dress code is slowly dying out.

LuckyGuy's avatar

There are actually people dumb enough to think ripped jeans style looks good.

SmoothEmeraldOasis's avatar

Well now it has become a lucrative business to sell those unattrative ripped jeans you don’t like. I remember the ripped becoming sort of cool in the late seventies. Those that are cashing in on the idea must be making a profitable margin.

kenmc's avatar

There are actually people dumb enough to think differently than you.~

jackm's avatar

I totally understand your point, but I dont think you get mine.

What you deem as important is not what everyone deems as important. You need to understand this.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

I agrre with you and wish men wore suits….and hats too :)

Silhouette's avatar

Some people don’t think clothes make the man, like me for instance. When I go out my clothes are clean and pressed my hair is combed, my teeth are brushed but I skip the make up most days and I’m usually in jeans. I think there is more dignity and self respect in being relaxed and comfortable than there is being a slave to your appearance.

Primobabe's avatar

I work out regularly, and I often run errands on my way to or from the health club. My appearance—no makeup, hair pulled back, a roomy t-shirt, stretchy leggings, white socks, and athletic shoes. I stop off at the bank, dry cleaner, grocery market, and other places. My workout is just one of many items on my to-do list, and it saves time, gasoline, and pollution if I combine all of my errands into one trip. Too bad if anyone doesn’t like the way I look.

iphigeneia's avatar

I think that people realised that looks aren’t everything. When you walk down to the shops, usually the only person you are dressing for is yourself. If not doing your hair and wearing jeans with sneakers is considered disrespectful, then society has got bigger problems. Of course, smelling bad is not very nice, but I live with teenage boys and they manage to stink something terrible while putting hours of effort into their appearance.

I say this as someone who doesn’t feel right leaving the house without a coordinated outfit, but just as I appreciate that I am able to express my slightly off-centre fashion tastes, I know that it is only fair to support others with how they choose to present themselves.

Self-dignity is in the eye of the beholder. Some may question whether there is any dignity in conforming to society’s standards of respectability at the cost of individual self-expression and comfort.

Draconess25's avatar

As for sweats, I wear them because they go with some of my outfits. They happen to be the only pants (other than my skinnies) that have purple. As for ripped jeans, I never buy them pre-ripped. I do it myself. And I wear colourful leggings under them. Grooming myself: I refuse to walk my dogs without make-up. My hair involves brushing it, putting it in a ponytail sometimes, & sweeping my bangs to the side. I wear hats because I like the way they look.

Do people call me a slob? Yes.

Do my girlfriends like the way I dress? Yes.

Do I care? Nope.

chels's avatar

Because they just don’t give a fuuuuuuuuuuck.
I do though :)

Neizvestnaya's avatar

The rebellion against respectibility, conformity and recognizable social status did it. People decided to experiment with styles and degrees of laxness in order to feel out something “new”, a way to drop pretense without completely becoming the opposite of everyman. It doesn’t work of course because like others have mentioned, there will always be the expensive track suits and sneakers or high end “grunge” looks. Used to be rich kids wanted to dress like the poor kids to show they were hip and not separate while poor kids wanted to dress as well as possible in order to not call attention to differences in social status. Nowadays rich and poor alike go into debt to dress like celebrities who get most of their clothes for free. How’s that for irony?


Sigh, based on some of the answers here, the point I’m trying to make has gone over a few people’s heads. But I’m glad I was able to stir up the pot and make people think about this. Too many people out there dress and look like slobs these days because they simply don’t care. Plain and simple, that’s all.

iphigeneia's avatar

@MRSHINYSHOES Now the question is, should they care? Personally, I do believe in standards, but if someone has different ones then I’m not about to tell them they’re wrong.

SmoothEmeraldOasis's avatar

Mrshinyshoes. you have a great point. That is where we maybe should first take notice either verbally if you feel safe enough to strike up a conversation. Or maybe just go home and take a shower and rest…

Silhouette's avatar

@MRSHINYSHOES Yeah that’s it, it sailed over our heads, such a complex question. LOL

Answer this question




to answer.
Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther