July 11, 2017

"The men were the worst, in flip flops, unsightly shorts or ill-fitting jeans, and untucked shirts (usually hanging over big bellies)."

"I couldn’t believe I had to spend the evening staring at their hairy, ugly feet. Some of the women tried harder, but only a little. Most of them looked about as decent as they would for a trip to the grocery store.... I realize we’re in Wisconsin, which is not exactly the glamour capital of the world. But Madison has pretensions of being a cosmopolitan city. And we actually could be one, given our political, intellectual, and economic firepower. So why do we have such little interest in looking the part?"

A letter to the advice column at Isthmus (the Madison alternative newspaper). The answer is to defend the down-dressing Madisonians as "natural and unpretentious"? Dressing for comfort counts as "natural." The question-asker warned about "judging":
We don’t judge you for dressing to impress, even though we’d be within our rights to consider it vain and conformist. So why judge us for refusing to be cowed by an event’s self-proclaimed formality? You’re in Madison now, where it’s live-and-let-live. If you don’t see the sense in that humane outlook, you probably moved to the wrong place.
"Judge not, that ye be not judged" — that's what Jesus said. "For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?"

Why beholdest thou the flip flop on they brother's hairy foot, but considerest not the Jimmy Choo that is on thine own foot?

81 comments:

rehajm said...

I couldn’t believe I had to spend the evening staring at their hairy, ugly feet

Hey! I'm up here!!!

whitney said...

Judgement is a tool. It allows you to separate the good from the bad. We should have more of it not less

glenn said...

Give it a rest guys. I saw a guy in baggy cargo shorts, dirty t-shirt and sandals going on tour at the State Department. Slobs are everywhere.

TosaGuy said...

"But Madison has pretensions of being a cosmopolitan city. And we actually could be one, given our political, intellectual, and economic firepower. So why do we have such little interest in looking the part?"

Madison is a boutique city, not a cosmopolitan one.

MadisonMan said...

Poorly dressed people give my wife and me something to talk about at events. Win win!

Fernandinande said...

"I couldn’t believe I had to spend the evening staring at their hairy, ugly feet. Some of the women tried harder, but only a little."

They tried harder to stare at hairy feet?

"Judge not, that ye be not judged"

"Tell it to the judge", as they say.

Fernandinande said...

MadisonMan said...
Poorly dressed people give my wife and me something to talk about at events.


We enjoy gawking at people.

traditionalguy said...

It must have been one of those a Western Civilization Symphonies being done for commoners out in the boondocks. Titus warned us about Madison, especially about the overhanging fat belly gay guys.

Lyle Smith said...

Madison is also the capital of Wisconsin. Can't look too different than the rest of the state. Milwaukee might.

People should dress themselves how they want and not judge. It doesn't need to be a group thing.

traditionalguy said...

Seriously, the paper hints that one mark of wealth status can how common ugly you dress. I loved those $500 pre mud stained jeans.

Ann Althouse said...

The question-answerer says the questioner "nailed" the shorts and sandals problem. And the words used to describe the men in shorts are basically what I've been saying all along. It's not shorts per se, but big baggy shorts worn with an overhanging big t-shirt, on a man with a big belly. The enlarged child silhouette. It's not the casualness, but the infantilism.

Paddy O said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Henry said...

My unpretentious friend Andrew talked about working in Manhattan as fashion Darwinism. He tired of it and moved to Canada.

Paddy O said...


It's shocking to me how often I go to parties, or other events, often classy, where people are talking about the most uninteresting topics. This often happens in big cities, supposed centers of sophistication! Rather than talking about art or philosophy or history, they go on and on about the most mundane, inconsequential issues. Either say something interesting or be quiet! Adults should talk like they're older than particularly flighty 13 year olds. Quit indulging in flabby, pointless debates about pop culture or whatever other shallow issues come to mind. It's very unbecoming!

Paddy O said...

People will go on and on and on about what they're putting on their feet, talking about their feet and how they look and what colors they can make them into. What are we toddlers, walking for the first time and excited about putting on big boy shoes?

Toddler conversations everywhere. Mine, mine! Look at what I have, daddy! I want that!

We really need to learn to talk better in public. It's sad!

Known Unknown said...

I hate wearing shorts, but my wife sometimes buys them for me. Granted, she buys nice-fitting ones that aren't quite infantile.

William said...

Who has hairy feet? Is Madison suffering from an influx of undocumented hobbits?.........If you've got a huge belly, you're going to look like a slob no matter what you wear. If I were Chris Christie, I would have worn a speedo to the beach. Fuck them.

Otto said...

But Ann you just did what the verse admonishes.

tommyesq said...

I believe the way you dress for an event is (or at least will be taken as) a measure of how much respect you have for the event itself. If one hosts a black-tie affair and you show up in jeans, it will be taken as a big "f**k you" by almost every host, and by most of the guests.

tcrosse said...

It's not the casualness, but the infantilism.

One day a Big Shot at the huge corporation where I worked was called in on his day off. He showed up in baggy cargo shorts, untucked Tshirt, flip-flops, and backwards ball cap. All I could think of was Spanky McFarland in Our Gang (not wishing to sound like Joan Rivers on the Red Carpet).

Steve said...

He has given us a sign:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ka9mfZbTFbk&feature=youtu.be&t=14

Paco Wové said...

"We don’t judge you for dressing to impress, even though we’d be within our rights to consider it vain and conformist."

"We are so wonderful that we won't judge you, despite your obvious inferiority".

Clyde said...

Those baseballs certainly got Judged last night in Miami.

Ralph L said...

I can no longer see what's left of the hair on my feet. Oh, the trauma of growing old.

Steven said...

Jesus also had pretty strong feelings about wearing proper attire:

"But when the king came in to look at the company, he saw a man there who had no wedding-garment on. My friend, he said, how didst thou come to be here without a wedding-garment? And he made no reply. Whereupon the king said to his servants, Bind him hand and foot, and cast him out into the darkness, where there shall be weeping, and gnashing of teeth." (Matthew 22)

Unknown said...

Once upon a time you were supposed to hold your thoughts to yourself if they didn't create a physical impact. Tacit disproval OK, looking askance OK, disapproving body language, OK. Now everything warrants verbal approval or negative comment. And somehow that's progressive, that's liberal.

LEAVE ME ALONE.

buwaya said...

Working clothes for tropical weather tends to the minimal.

Asian daily wear for the peasantry would not have passed muster with Althouse, tending to knee-breeches (or sarongs, loin cloths, g-strings, etc as the local fashions dictated) and, indeed, untucked shirts were the rule. Flip-flops were actually a step up, as the mass of the people went barefoot most of the time.

As for infantilization, children under 5 were usually naked. Older ones wore adult clothing.

Obesity, big bellies, were pretty rare though.

People who dressed better than the mass tended to be of the higher social classes, and suffered through the summer heat for the sake of their superior status.

I suggest that the Wisconsin problem is that the mass of the people have finally adopted clothing suitable to the weather, finally throwing off the cultural constraint imposed by the ancestral European climate.

I predict that G-strings or loin cloths are the next big thing in male summer wear. They are much more dignified than shorts, or rather, one has to adopt a much more dignified attitude when wearing them.

SDaly said...

Ann is judging them aesthetically, not morally.

Fernandinande said...

Ann Althouse said...
It's not shorts per se, but big baggy shorts worn with an overhanging big t-shirt, on a man with a big belly.


Well sure, everybody thinks fat people are disgusting, but there's no reason to pretend it has anything to do with looking like a kid since kids are usually not as fat as adults.

Sebastian said...

It's all about context. Slobs at "high-end" events break conventional rules; just as they judge the rules and the expectations of fellow attendees irrelevant, so may the others judge their slobbishness. Not that it makes any difference: the judgmental shall be judged judgmental by their superior nonjudgmental betters.

Now, if Althouse started a campaign to ban flip-flops, I'd volunteer to be a foot soldier.

dreams said...

And then there is stuff like this.

"To feel at home in opportunity-rich areas, you’ve got to understand the right barre techniques, sport the right baby carrier, have the right podcast, food truck, tea, wine and Pilates tastes, not to mention possess the right attitudes about David Foster Wallace, child-rearing, gender norms and intersectionality."

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/11/opinion/how-we-are-ruining-america.html?rref=collection%2Fcolumn%2Fdavid-brooks&action=click&contentCollection=opinion&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=collection&_r=0

Unknown said...

"Wash yourself therefore, and anoint yourself and put on your best clothes..."

“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless. Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Yes, we live in a nation of slobs with no respect for themselves or their neighbors. Thank goodness the House of representatives has a dress code.

Michael said...

It's not about glamour, it's about respect. "Natural and unpretentious" can be a euphemism for self-centered and uncaring. I am amazed at what people sometimes wear to Church. Obviously you can go too far the other way and become obsessed with the superficial, but making some slight effort is simply a sign of concern for something other than yourself. You have made an investment in this event and these people beyond simply paying for your ticket. You are a participant and not merely a consumer.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Feet in flip flops and sandals are just fine, as long as the feet have been groomed, taken care of, clean, nails trimmed etc. People really don't have pretty feet. At least they can be clean.

I once went to a community fund raising event in the summer and there were a lot of people there from professional walks of life, business owners etc. It was hot, at the fairgrounds, and pretty casual.

You know how you can see the feet next to you under the stalls in the women's restroom? Well, being there and doing "my business", I noticed the stall next to me, the woman had to most awful unkempt feet ever. Imagine troll feet...troll toes, long yellow gross nails sticking out and even curling under, dirty under the nails, hairy toes, callouses that could allow you to walk over coals unscathed. Gross!!! Gag!!!!! Then to find out, later recognizing the shoes and the feet..... that those are the feet of a well know realtor lady. OMG! I can never ever look at her again without thinking of her feet and probably the rest of her unsanitary hygiene.

Gah! If you must go barefoot or in sandals, please at least groom yourself. If you can't reach your feet get someone else to do it or wear shoes. Please!!!

rhhardin said...

I never understood clothing stores.

Just get stuff that you can wash in one load without color problems.

rhhardin said...

Oh and crocs. Year round unless you're going off road. They're no good on rough terrain.

The feet are comfortable and you save an enormous amount of time getting into shoes in the morning. Just step into them on your way out the bedroom door.

Howard said...

Blogger William said... If I were Chris Christie, I would have worn a speedo to the beach.
Thanks for that, now I need to wash my eyes in Drano

LarsPorsena said...

AA said "It's not shorts per se, but big baggy shorts worn with an overhanging big t-shirt, on a man with a big belly. The enlarged child silhouette."

It's Big Lebowski Wear.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I can no longer see what's left of the hair on my feet. Oh, the trauma of growing old.

It's ok Ralph. The hair on your toes has migrated to your ears and nostrils.

}:-D

Howard said...

Do not judge judgemental-ism yet you be judged by a blog.

Seeing Red said...

I'm not obsessed with people's feet, so why would I care?

Now, send a cute pair of shoes my way.....

MadisonMan said...

People really don't have pretty feet

My toenails are wretched. Misshapen, plagued with fungus, discolored. (TMI?)

I never wear sandals. For one, my wife would kill me. :)

wildswan said...

"I couldn’t believe I had to spend the evening staring at their hairy, ugly feet."

They are more formal on the East Coast and so there's an easy solution. The Overture Center can simply mark events - East Coast Attire. You see, it can't ban flip flops since then many politicians wouldn't be able to come and they are part of Madison's elite. But by marking events as "East Coast Attire" or perhaps more simply "Don't Come" there could be huge savings on cleaning costs and staff for the events. Moreover with the advent of robots the entire hall could be filled - people could send their personal robot in East Coast Attire to these mysterious events where you spend the evening looking at people's feet. I guess that's new East Coast intersectionality art and as usual I am way behind and not trying to catch up. Anyhow I'd need a curmudgeon robot which would move about stepping on other people's feet and they aren't building them yet.

walter said...

A few years ago, UW sent me a hip glossy mag wherein one of the articles profiled an alumni selling $600 Japanese jeans on the square.
That would buy a lot of shorts.
But if you're gonna look the part of "intellectual firepower", you gotta spend some $$.

Kevin said...

It's not shorts per se, but big baggy shorts worn with an overhanging big t-shirt, on a man with a big belly.

Oh, so it's not about shorts but fat people. If your waist is small enough you can wear close-fitting shorts, and your belly is slim enough you can wear a close-fitting top, you can come in shorts, t-shirt and flip-flops.

Otherwise you should dress up for the backyard BBQ, or simply stay home out of sight.

M Jordan said...

Jesus' judging words are so misunderstood. Here he's simply saying, don't judge if you don't want to be judged according to that same standard. In other words, don't be a hypocrite or it'll come back to bite you. When he told the men they could cast the first stone at the adulterous woman, his qualifier was "you who are without sin." Surely he meant this particular sin, adultery, and quite possibly even adultery with that particular woman. Jesus did meet the standard but, rather than exercising his right to judge the woman, he showed compassion ... but with a mild rebuke: go and sin no more.

The fit do have a right to judge the fat but how much better if they show a little compassion. And the kempt have a right to judge the unkempt. Period.

Kevin said...

The question-answerer says the questioner "nailed" the shorts and sandals problem.

Not exactly: "You nailed it with the shorts and flip-flops, no matter the occasion."

Howard said...

MadMan: Try mother of pearl nail polish.

Angel-Dyne said...

Paddy O @9:33 and 9:31:

Perhaps continuing to dress like "flighty 13 year olds" and sloppy toddlers in adulthood is correlated with continuing to talk like them.

In fact, condemning concerns about sartorial decorum as "shallow", oppressive, and trivial is a pretty standard pose for adolescents.

There are quite poor people in this world who somehow manage to show respect for themselves and others by presenting themselves in public in a neat, "correct" way. I think it tells you something non-trivial about a society when dressing like an adolescent slob in public is accepted and defended.

DKWalser said...

Years ago, one of my clients retired after a long career in Phoenix. He said he was going to move back to Dallas because there people knew how to dress for going to a restaurant. He didn't want to go to a nice restaurant and have the guy at the table next to him look like he'd just finished mowing the lawn. I move to Dallas a few years after that. I'm sure my client had been disappointed by his move. Dallas wasn't much more formal than Phoenix.

I blame this on the baby boomers -- those of my generation who are a few years older than I am. I remember my mother "getting dressed" to go to the supermarket. She thought it impolite to not "look her best" for the other people she would meet in the store. That attitude was rejected by the baby boomers. I remember the high school kids, when I was in grade school, rebelling against dress standards. They took pride in destroying the standards of prior generations -- including the standards that applied to dress.

walter said...

M Jordan said...his qualifier was "you who are without sin." Surely he meant this particular sin, adultery
--
That's a jump. Most, nearly all take that to mean all sin..making the stoning impossible to justify.

Michael said...

"vain and conformist" . Check out how they are all dressed. conformist. I am an outlier, speaking truth to the masses and wearing very nice clothes each and every day. Most often a suit and tie. With really good shoes. These people are suiting themselves up as peons, serfs, losers.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

We've seen an awful lot of "But wait, there's more!" ads on TV over the years, but this one was fantastic: a device which allows you to step into your socks without having to bend over and pull them on. With a bonus device for prying shoes off your feet. "And for a limited time only, get a second one for your parents or friend absolutely FREE!!!

Left Bank of the Charles said...

I feel for the two men, that must have been the double date from hell, having to sit through two or three hours of catty snide comments about other nearby people. Do we think the two women are New Yorkers? East Coast sounds like code for, "I'm from New York but I don't want you to reflexively write off what I have to say on that account."

Connie said...

"But Madison has pretensions of being a cosmopolitan city."

Really? I guess the eternal conflict of the bohemian intelligentsia and cultural elitism at the heart of all that is Madison is the only thing holding the city back.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

Flip flops anywhere else than at home or a pool are just disgusting. The Good Professor didn't give her opinion, though I think we can deduce it from prior statements, but part of the enjoyment of going to a "high end" event is dressing up. Or at least it should be.

Etienne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
urbane legend said...

rhhardin said...
Just get stuff that you can wash in one load without color problems.

This. When I drove a truck I never could understand the guys sorting clothes. I've always been a believer in simplicity. The wife, too. The first thing she checks is the care tag. If it says "dry clean only" she drops it like it is on fire.

Fred Woudstra said...

Ann, when you quote the Bible could you use one of the newer translations (NIV for example) that uses modern English? No one talks like (or understands) that anymore! Using the old King James for Bible references is like using Shakespeare for your headlines: "Forsooth, I sighed, what fools these mortals be, for the apparel makes the man."

Dust Bunny Queen said...

When I drove a truck I never could understand the guys sorting clothes

My husband is a plumber and has a pump/well business. We sort his laundry into work loads of 1. Jeans and work pants that are covered with mud, iron bacteria muck from wells and other yuck. 2. Carhart T shirts and other shirts all basically three colors navy, green, grey. 3. socks and underwear.

Sometimes we hose off his pants and shirt in the yard before even bringing them into the house.

n.n said...

Christ wore flip-flops, a long beard, and he was an active man, a carnivore, a man famously known for his self-moderation, so he probably did not have a big belly.

Rick said...

You’re in Madison now, where it’s live-and-let-live.

Has this been your Madison experience Althouse? Obviously not during the fleebagger time, but was that an outlier?

Ann Althouse said...

"Well sure, everybody thinks fat people are disgusting, but there's no reason to pretend it has anything to do with looking like a kid since kids are usually not as fat as adults."

1. If you're out of shape, it's a good idea to dress in a way that makes you look better. On a man, a suit jacket helps a lot. There are other ideas. But a big T-shirt that hangs out in front like a woman's pregnancy top is very bad.

2. Children have big bellies in proportion to the rest of their body. The younger the child, the more pronounced the belly is. Look at a baby's belly in proportion to its arms and legs. Picture an adult with the same proportions. That's just freaky.

Ann Althouse said...

"You’re in Madison now, where it’s live-and-let-live."

Well, there's that bumper sticker I posted yesterday. "Welcome to Madison/Now stop doing that."

There's a lot of overbearing regulation, like you have to throw out your trash the right way, and you must lean left politically. But as far as your hair and clothing, I think you can do whatever you want.

wildswan said...

I'm packing for an East Coast vacation and my instructions were "blue jeans". But does that still mean "blue" even in the summer or does it mean "jeans of light color, it's summer, dope"? Is the blue in blue jeans an adjective or is it part of word "bluejeans" which means "farmer's market casual" but not "fund-raiser casual?"

buwaya said...

I aspire to dress like the modern edition of "Dennis the Peasant".
In my case, as my wife says, I dress like a Cuban taxi driver.

But regardless, such narrow views of appropriate wear.
Fashion is an evil, mad god.
Defy him.

My traditional proper attire(s), to which I am ethnically licensed (no evil appropriation required), entirely appropriate for all occasions other than attending a Royal Court, are -

This - https://i1.wp.com/www.dansebasque.com/Photos/group1.jpg

Or this - https://maragato.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/algunos-compenentes-de-la-peregrina-en-la-catedral.jpg

or this - https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/2f/Spanish-Filipino_mestizo_costume%2C_1800s.jpg

There was a lot more imagination and less stuffiness in the 19th century.

Kevin said...

On a man, a suit jacket helps a lot.

True. It looks a bit out of place at the beach, however.

As a firm believer in the suit jacket, I wear it when I can. I also realize, however it's not a good look for loading 2x4's or changing the oil in your car. And it's not practical for people doing those tasks to put their suit jacket on when going to Wal-Mart or Home Depot in the course of their day so as to shield the world from their otherwise proper attire.

Kevin said...

Well, there's that bumper sticker I posted yesterday. "Welcome to Madison/Now stop doing that."

I can't believe no one in the thread connected the bumper sticker to Ann and wearing shorts.

#facepalm

buwaya said...

"On a man, a suit jacket helps a lot.

True. It looks a bit out of place at the beach, however. "

In the summer I like wearing a tweed sports coat at Ocean Beach, San Francsico.
For good reasons.

exiledonmainstreet said...


"I blame this on the baby boomers -- those of my generation who are a few years older than I am. I remember my mother "getting dressed" to go to the supermarket. She thought it impolite to not "look her best" for the other people she would meet in the store"

Back in the early '70's I went to the wedding of a cousin of mine. This was in a blue collar suburb of Milwaukee and most of the older people present worked in factories. Some woman showed up at the reception in bell bottom jeans and a T-shirt with a rock band logo on it.

My mother and older female relatives talked about it for at least a week. How utterly disrespectful it was, didn't that girl have any pride, she wore something you'd wear to wash to your car to a wedding reception, shame on her, was she born in a barn, these young people today....

I was still a kid and laughed at what I thought was their overreaction. Those older ladies were right.

Ralph L said...

Using the old King James for Bible references is like using Shakespeare for your headlines
You need to smell the martyrs burning when you read it.

Luther's German Bible and Tyndale's English one changed the world more than any other book I can think of.

Saint Croix said...

My leather flip-flops are sweet! Most comfortable shoe I've ever worn, hands down.

The last time somebody attacked my footwear, I told them that Jesus wore sandals. And we got into a theological discussion of whether my leather flip-flops qualify as sandals. Yes they do! At least according to the website.

You may or may not be able to get them for $39 at Amazon.

William Chadwick said...

In the Sun Belt city where I live, flip-flops are part of the summer uniform of the Yuppie clones.

Paddy O said...

"I think it tells you something non-trivial about a society when dressing like an adolescent slob in public is accepted and defended."

It goes both ways. Some of the best dressed people talk like adolescent mental-slobs.

I don't think there's a direct correlation either way.

Some people are slobs externally, and some people are slobs internally. Some people know who they are and dress appropriate to who they are and want they are doing.

My point, mostly, was to say that some people are really bothered by visual cues. I'm much more bothered by aural cues.

And I judge people based on what they're talking about and how they talk, not what they wear. Because clothes hide and clothes pretend. Real value is in a person's heart and how they treat others.

exiledonmainstreet said...

I think there is a distinction between not wanting people to look like slobs and mocking them for not being fashion plates. The blue collar ladies at my cousin's wedding weren't decked out in Yves St. Laurent dresses. They tried to be as attractive and appropriate as possible given the limited money they had to devote to clothes, hair and makeup. Some were more successful and had better taste than others, but all made the effort. They thought the hippie chick was disrespectful because she didn't even try. And they were right.

3rdGradePB_GoodPerson said...

"you have to throw out your trash the right way"

Many years ago I received a warning thing-y in Seattle. Of course I ignored it and continue to break the rules to this day. There was never any other action re my continuing lawlessness.

Also, our libs seem less aggressive than Mad's. I love telling them this garbage anecdote, they fuss a little, I don't budge at all as I state that I like throwing away recycle stuff because it's easier for me. Then, they backdown and everything is cool. I think if I had opened the door to their POV, even a little, they'd keep fussing. But, being completely immobile, they sorta cower and even seem to respect someone who is so free re breaking their rules.

P.S. I've also told lib friends that I enjoy eating whale meat. I do this just for fun, as w/ the garbage anecdote. Here, I also put points on the board re the libs, as they quickly acquiesce.

Anywho, maybe my approach is better than that of Meadhoue. IOW, maybe I could easily win re Mad libs, where the golden-years couple is failing. Or, our libs are better (i.e. less fussy) than yours. Maybe a combo.


I dunno.

3rdGradePB_GoodPerson said...

"There's a lot of overbearing regulation, like ... you must lean left politically."


Liar.

3rdGradePB_GoodPerson said...

If not a liar, where is the Madhouse eviction order?

What does "must" mean, if not a connection to some legal enforcement? W/o that there is no "must."

mockturtle said...

What I don't like is looking at tattoos. Here in the West they are far too common. My grandchildren--even the girls--have them. Ugh! I even offered to pay to have them removed but they weren't interested. :-(

Ralph L said...

I agree, mockturtle. They ruin porn.

As we get older, clear, unblemished skin just gets sexier.

rcocean said...

"Ann, when you quote the Bible could you use one of the newer translations (NIV for example) that uses modern English?"

Just because you're a dumbed-down illiterate, doesn't mean we all are. Many people prefer the KJV for its style and beautiful language.