June 2, 2006

"Is it petty and mean for a dear friend to pull such a woman aside and explain that today, at this moment, she is a blight on the scenery?"

Robin Givhan thinks you're fat. Don't be wearing those leggings, that shrug, or those low-rise pants. And you can lose all that disgusting weight and you still shouldn't wear flip-flops. I don't care how young you are or how cute your feet are. No one gets to wear flip-flops. Thwackety-thwack, thwackety-thwack, thwackety-thwack, thwackety-thwack, thwackety-thwack, thwackety-thwack. Robin does not want you walking anywhere near her in those filthy things.

And what's this thing of men carrying around towels? "The subtext of the sweat rag seems to be that vigorous perspiring is a sign of manliness. Thus a fellow who carries thick, absorbent terry cloth to mop up his sweat must be drowning in testosterone." They are so, so, so very wrong, and Robin's had enough. Get your act together, guys. It's summer. Deal with it. Discreetly.


Doug Sundseth said...

"It's summer. Deal with it. Discreetly."

Absolutely. Wear shorts.


tiggeril said...

Robin can bite me.

Except about the leggings thing. I hate leggings.

Balfegor said...

And what's this thing of men carrying around towels?

Douglas Adams.

Ann Althouse said...

Shorts aren't discreet. They're flagrant. Do you have a full-length mirror? Do you understand what Robin means by "tough self-love"? I think not.

tiggeril said...

Do people still carry handkerchiefs? My dad does, but that's all I know of.

I keep one of those minipacks of kleenex handy, personally- much better if you wear makeup as you don't have to worry about staining the handkerchief.

Handkerchief handkerchief handkerchief.

shake-and-bake said...

What the hell is a shrug?

HalfCentTriChic said...

A shrug is a short sweater, generally worn to hit just under the chest.


shake-and-bake said...

Ah. Thanks.

Balfegor said...

Do people still carry handkerchiefs? My dad does, but that's all I know of.

I do. Most of the time.

RogerA said...

Is the low rise, bare midriff a thing of the past (he asks hopefully?). I never understood why some percentage of the women in this country preferred to look like the michelin man in public. And I second the point about flip flops in the workplace. (I guess old fa*tdom has finally come to me)

shake-and-bake said...

Do you understand what Robin means by "tough self-love"?

I know "tough self-love". "Tough self-love" is a friend of mine. Appraising myself in the mirror is no "tough self-love".

Coco said...

RogerA - I'm young (relatively) and I've been railing against flip-flops for years. Actually, all open-toed shoes... I simply don't want to see any of my co-workers' toes.

Richard Dolan said...

Alas, this thread is for the 20-something (OK, perhaps also for the 30-something) set.

Flip flops at the White House (as some team from Northwestern did last year, according to Ms. Givhan)? A towel on one's head? In public?

Oh, please. On some matters, it seems that that entire generation is just a hopelessly lost cause.

Troy said...

Many of us have way too much self-confidence. The amount of jiggle in low-rise pants and high rise t-shirts is epidemic out here in SoCal. The phrase "She looks like 10 lbs. of sugar in a 5 lb. bag" always comes to mind.

I agree with flip-flops not being acceptable in the workplace, but then I'm tough on my own feet and my fish-belly white legs and try not to tyrranize my neighbors with reflection. (My legs have a certain amount of heiligenschein in the mornings).

Joan said...

Robin can be irritating some times, but she was dead-on in this column. She's not against flip-flops for everything, she's against flip-flops for the office, and she's right. And the whole leggings-under-skirts fad must be killed before it can come to anything. It's too hideous.

My kids wear shorts all the time. I don't. I somehow got out of the habit of it over the past few years. I'd much rather wear a skirt.

reader_iam said...

So often women embrace a trend that is by all measures unflattering on them -- low-rise trousers, shrugs, miniskirts -- and yet they still strut proudly along the street, head held high, shoulders back.

Well, the NERVE!!

Is it petty and mean for a dear friend to pull such a woman aside and explain that today, at this moment, she is a blight on the scenery?

When you put it that way, the answer is "absolutely yes."

I myself won't wear leggings because, in fact, they do not work on me. But that's my choice.

I think people should mind their own business. With rare exceptions, they have necks that swivel: Just look the other way, if it bothers you so much.

reader_iam said...

I guess part of my irritation here (apart from disliking Robin Givhan's whole brand of snark-smarm journalism) is that, if you think about it, leggings are ALSO very unattractive on very skinny, or, at least, skinny-legged women. But of course she doesn't mention that. And wouldn't.

That's our Robin for you.

Eli Blake said...

Why do people make such a big deal about what other people are doing? I just never understood that. Sure, everyone has their preferences, but if you aren't married to or otherwise directly interested in what someone else looks like, then why complain about it? As for the towel thing, I've never done that but again, so what? If a woman thinks its a turn off, then guess what-- she won't go out with that guy! And if he keeps getting turned down, maybe he will figure it out for himself, or else he won't add his genes to the next generation. Novel concept, I know.

As for the flip flops, hey, at least they are shoes. I've always wondered about people who walk around in public places barefoot, where they give and get various types of foot fungus to each other. I remember once being in a supermarket looking for fruit, and after noticing that one of the other shoppers was barefoot I thought maybe I'd go down the street to the farmer's market because just in case some of it had fallen on the floor, and gotten athlete's foot on it, I just lost my appetite for it. So, there are far worse things than flip flops.

Mark the Pundit said...

Last winter in DC I observed a woman on the Metro wearing flip-flops. It was in the evening after it had snowed a couple of inches throughout the day.

If her feet fell off frozen later that night, she would have deserved it!

hat said...

Since when do people not have the right to walk around being ugly? Whatever you may think of shorts or sandals, I find them comfortable and easy to wear, and you can go fuck yourselves. I'm not going to pretend that my hairy legs are visions of beauty, but I'm also never going to pretend that I care.

Marghlar said...

I agree with Eli that looking like a ridiculous troll is absolutely a choice for an individual to make.

But mocking them for looking like a dipsh!t is absolutely my choice to make.

Flipflops are a blight on human civilization. I have no respect for a sandal that doesn't hold to the heel. Especially at work.

And the towel thing is just disturbing. Why advertise the fact that you are a sweaty buffoon? It's gross.

But then, I live in the North, where summer heat can be irritating, but much less of a plague than is faced by those down South. If I had to live in, say, Houston, I'd probably forego both flipflops and towels, and just go ahead and shoot myself to end it all.

MadisonMan said...

Is it petty and mean for a dear friend to pull such a woman aside and explain that today, at this moment, she is a blight on journalism?

Jonathan said...

I think people should mind their own business.

This is the answer to many questions.

Balfegor said...

Why do people make such a big deal about what other people are doing? I just never understood that.

Because what other people do in public spaces defines the nature of our public spaces -- the look of them, how we feel, when we inhabit them, the smell of them, etc.

We are, of course, free to retreat from public spaces when they grow intolerable -- we don't have to look -- and this is something many people do: they retreat into planned communities and the like where they can have civilised quasi-public spaces after their own heart. Spaces where sartorial and sumptuary codes can be policed, for example.

But even if the law prevents people from enforcing standards in public spaces, they can still use social pressure (mockery, ostracisation, humiliation, snubs, etc.) to prod the character of public spaces in a direction more congenial to their sensibilities.

And that's what this woman here is trying to do. Evidently, she finds the sight of fat women and men in towels to be a visual blight, one that depresses the hedonic value of the public spaces she passes through, so she's doing the only thing she can to try and push those values back up. In this case, since she's got a media pulpit to harangue from, she is somewhat better positioned than other people (e.g. the objects of her derision), which is not, perhaps, fair, but one might respond: neither is it really fair that the lowest common denominator gets to set the tone of the public space.

Anonymous said...

Believe me, my suderium is the discreet way for me to manage summer sweat issues.

Craig Ranapia said...

Well, I've never seen anyone wear flip-flops to the office. I do however feel a delicious tide of schadenfreude when I listen to my female co-workers complain about the discomofrt and and outright physical peril of being on their feet all day in "cute" but ill-fitting and impractical nose-bleed high heels.

Here's some tough-self love: "I am not Carrie Bradshaw going to work in stilettos. I'm a stupid masochist who should be in therepy."

And another bug-bear - I'm not the one who has a problem when I'm nauseated by retail and food service workers who have an iron-mongers shop hanging off their lips, tongues and eyebrows.

Balfegor said...

physical peril of being on their feet all day in "cute" but ill-fitting and impractical nose-bleed high heels.

They are also not particularly attractive, in either their skinny or chunky forms. They look rather silly, actually, especially pointy pumps.

Sean E said...

"Flip-flops should be paired with surf shorts and swimsuits; they should be found on beaches and in public showers. Exceptions can be made for walking the dog, watering the lawn, taking out the trash and ensuring that a fresh pedicure makes it from salon to home without getting smudged."

Sounds like she's at least more tolerant of flip-flops than Ann is of shorts.

Cat said...

I read this and thought of the girl next to me at work. Now, I am fat compared to the extra 20lbs she has. However, I wear shirts and pants that cover my body. There isn't 10lbs of flesh squishing out between my pants and shirt. No one in the office has seen my crack either. It's just so TACKY and gross.

She also likes to show quite a bit of her saggy cleavage (which she has been spoken to by mgmt, but recently it's back!) and has many "tats" on her legs that are tacky too and a skirt with panty hose - never!

I don't mind flip flops or sandles if you have a well manicured foot, but the sight of so many women walking around Manhattan in $500 outfits with $1 flip flops...then there are the dirty manhattan streets...EW!!! Skeeves me as much as the pic of Britney walking bare foot into a gas station restroom. EW!!!!

reader_iam said...

the lowest common denominator gets to set the tone of the public space.

Fascinating how you define LCD, by implication. Would that be just fat people, or everyone with poor fashion sense or are otherwise aesthetically appealing?

All kinds of fun to think of the implications of this one.

Marghlar said...

..."cute" but ill-fitting and impractical nose-bleed high heels...

I find these both weird and visually repulsive. The shoes women adopt these days seem like some sociobiological, Red-Queen race to handicap themselves as much as possible. They make women look bizarre. And by the way, ladies: bad balance isn't sexy.

And another bug-bear - I'm not the one who has a problem when I'm nauseated by retail and food service workers who have an iron-mongers shop hanging off their lips, tongues and eyebrows

I don't find these so bothersome. There's a young lady who works at a really good chocolate shop not far from where I live, who for a while sported a huge gallery of facial piercings. On her, at least, they were kind of cute.

ignacio said...

I like piercings, leggings, stiletto heels, bare midriffs -- whatever. Flipflops? Sure. "Thong" means something different to me.

altoids1306 said...

If elitism in summer fashion helps reduce obesity, I'm all for it.

Ann, the shorts must be a gender gap thing. I don't wear shorts to work or anything, but on the weekends, if it's hot, sure, why not? The shorts I wear might be the baggy ones you abhor, but in anycase, they extend past the knees when standing. There's something slightly emasculating about showing your thighs in public on something other than a beach.

I don't understand sandals outside - I like to wear footwear that gives maximum mobility and protection. You never know when you need to chase down a bus, or walk through puddles. And seriously, anyone who has problems tolerating hot feet probably needs to increase their pain threshold.

Can't say much for women's attire, but in general, I think the amount flesh revealed should be roughly proportional to physical attractiveness. It's like seasoning a steak. The lower the quality, the more seasoning required to cover and compensate. Unfortunately, this lesson has not been well-learned in LA, although things are much better in the Bay Area.

ignacio said...

Saw a fat girl with a bare midriff the other day and it was kind of entertaining in that one couldn't help but wonder what she was thinking. She was soft and white and young, with blond hair. We discussed this while sitting outside. If she would have had a piercing in her navel I guess it would have been proof she was after the discriminating "plumpers" perv.

Balfegor said...

Would that be just fat people, or everyone with poor fashion sense or are otherwise aesthetically appealing?

Haha -- it is all of you! Each and every one! That is why I wear a pith helmet when I go out amongst you savages.

More seriously, though, the term "lowest common denominator" -- as Givhan might use it, were she to use it -- would probably encompass fat people and people with poor fashion sense. At least, to the extent the term is intended to embrace large numbers of people dressing with no care to their appearance. And I suppose one could get huffy about it, but it seems fairly unobjectionable to me.

That is not necessarily my useage, though, as I abhor "fashion," and just want to put men back into their high collars, and get women to stop wearing heels, and exposing their midriffs. Well, only sometimes.

At an even more general level, though, I am one of those who have no problem with retreating from the public square. It has no particular claims over my affections. There are cultures and there are cultures, and because I do not feel "American public culture" to be my culture (that is, I do not identify with it strongly -- in a different sense, of course, it is my culture, as much as any culture is) I don't have much incentive to press for its aesthetic reform. It might be nice if it did, but if it doesn't, well, it's my own fault I'm living here, not theirs. New Yorkers have their distinctive civic culture, as have Angelenos and Houstonians and so on, and they are all of them welcome to it.

reader_iam said...

High collars

Ah! The Truth Will Out!


I loved that paragraph.

But here's the really critical aesthetic question: Do those handkerchiefs of your start out crisply ironed? Or do you stuff just any old wrinkled scrap o' cloth into your pocket.

Inquiring minds ... .

nedludd said...

nrSome people should not wear certain things. If you are sporting a bare midriff and I can not see the waistband of your pants because your belly is overhanging it, you are probably committing a fashion faux pas.

People need to ralize that not all fashions are suited to all people. A peirced belly button may be attractive on a winsome lass who does daily ab exercises, but will probably be less attractive on the mother of four who downs a six pack for lunch.

I say this as a man who has had to accept the fact that there is a permanent pile of laundry on the former washboard abs. Once you have made the decision that the belt goes under the gut instead of around it, certain fashion statement just become silly.

As for flip flops at work, go ahead and wear them, just understand that I will have a harder time taking you seriously than if you were in actual professional attire.

Kev said...

Maybe I'm the oddball here, because I'm a musician and not a businessperson, but it seems like a whole lot of people on this thread are just waaaaay too uptight as far as this subject is concerned. When I'm at the "office" (i.e. a gig), I'll wear what I'm asked to wear, but when I'm on my own time, I'll be as comfortable as suits the situation (maybe this is why I have a pretty strong association with dressing up and getting paid).

Sure, there are some people who should be more discreet about showing off parts of their bodies that shouldn't see the light of day (plumber's crack, elephant legs, etc.), but I can't understand the thought process of someone who says all shorts and flip-flops are bad in any situation.

Oh, and re flip flops: "Free your feet; your mind will follow" (That's an old Teva sandal slogan--and yes, I'm from Texas, and I seem to be lacking the orthopedic problems of many people who imprison themselves in uncomfortable shoes all day.)

Wickedpinto said...

I'm AMAZED! AMAZED! at the cruelty women are willing to lay upon eachother in a public forum. Oh, yeah, guys are cruel, but it's face to face, we don't build up a support system of combined humiliation of the person we supposedly love.

I understand the . . . .concept, but I don't understand the method. "I care about you, cuz REALLY! you make me, and the rest of us look bad?!" THATS CRAP

Did she offer that same criticism to her friend BEFORE the article? I think not.

The only comparisson, in my experience that I can think of, is talking to someone who WAS a friend in my youth, and can easily be a friend again, was a TRULY FAT MAN!

I am tall and relatively slim, and I said to him "'dude' REALLY you have to take care of yourself and lose some weight'"

Standard convo right?

he responded defiantly and angry, cuz I had almost always been tall and slim, his words were something like "WHY so I can look like YOU!? so I can be like YOU!? so I can be like my BROTHER!?!"

and I responded "NO! cuz you're my friend, and I don't wanna carry your coffin, let alone a 500 lb coffin! A@#HOLE!"

paraphrased, and I toned it WAY down on both sides, but VERY VERY VERY TRUE!

I was cruel in the name of health and ALLOWED because of friendship, I don't care how big my friends are, I just don't want my friends to DIE! from it, and if my cruelty of the moment might help them?

I will be the crap throwing monkey from a tree who see's the philosophy they ignore.

Paco Wové said...

Interesting responses. At my place of work (software company, midwestern college town) looking like a slob is de rigeur among the men. T-shirts, shorts, flipflops - one developer showed up at a meeting yesterday barefoot - is pretty much the rule in summer. Generally, if someone is neatly dressed, you can be certain that they're (a) in sales, (b) a visiting exec. from the main office, or (c) an outside vendor. The women, on the other hand, tend to be (slightly) more neatly dressed.

Mom said...

I actually agree with Givhan about the unattractiveness of flip-flops in formal settings, low-rise pants on those not built to wear them, and dirty towels on anybody. But her smug, snarky attitude is so irritating that she makes me want to dress myself in the lowest, tightest, most unflattering pants, the cheapest and loudest flip-flops, and the dirtiest towel I can find, and march back and forth in front of her, chewing gum with my mouth open.

Balfegor said...

Do those handkerchiefs of your start out crisply ironed? Or do you stuff just any old wrinkled scrap o' cloth into your pocket.

Well, they start out crisply ironed. Or ironed at least, since I don't have my hankies starched (does anyone?). Either way, in the summer, that doesn't last too long. Since I keep it in an inner pocket, rather than as a pocket square, this is not too problematic, though. By the end of the day, of course, if I've been out for a walk, it might as well be any old wrinkled scrap of cloth.

Pat Patterson said...

All this time I thought a "shrug" was something students did when explaining poor or nonexistent work. Who knew it was a fairly ugly and useless piece of clothing. But it would be nice if someone could put a good word in for a mini skirt revival.

Filly Pundit said...

As someone who works in the shoe industry, I feel the need to defend the flip flop. Oh sure, it's not right for every office, but I think it's perfectly fine to wear flops on a casual Friday with jeans.

I sincerely hope that all the people railing against open toed shoes at work never win the battle to formalize the workplace again. I can understand not wanting to see cleavage or belly fat. But if you have a problem with toes, don't look down.

Bruce Hayden said...

Paco Wové

Or (d) one of the company's attorneys (ok, maybe we are considered execs).

When I was in Austin, our engineers, esp. the (predominent) male ones would dress just like you suggest - ultra-casual. Indeed, it was almost a class thing - production workers had somewhat of a dress code or something, but the engineers did not. So, you could tell in the lunch room who was who at a distance. Shorts and sandals meant engineers.

And then there were the patent attorneys like me who dealt with the engineers on a routine basis. We did have a dress code, and it at a minimum required a coat and tie, though suits were preferred. I got unmitigate grief from my engineers for my dress because of it. VPs also wore suits, and directors ties.

I should add that part of it where I worked may have been a reslt of an academic influence in the top engineers. The spiritual leader of the group I worked with most closely had spent a decade teaching physics at a major research university (except that he was theoretical, and they look down on experimental physicists) before getting bored and getting into software.

Bruce Hayden said...

How different high school is here. T-shirts, shorts, and flip-flops are expected and routine at the school I know most about. The big question about flip-flops is whether their parents make them put them away for the winter (this is Colorado) or not.

But back in Colorado, as an undergraduate around 1970, I did do one whole year without shoes. First time you walk through the snow it was a bit uncomfortable, but your feet soon toughened up. Worse, I had long hair then, and would wash it every morning. I would routinely walk into class with frozen hair.

The next year, they started enforcing the no shirt/no shoes/no service rule, and had to start wearing both.

Oh, and my freshman year (68/69), we were at the tail end of the more formal college traditions. Sunday dinner required a coat and tie. Well, we took that literally. We also added shorts to that. But when half the guys would typically show up without shirts or shoes, they decided to drop the requirement of coat and tie - and we started wearing T-shirts and sandals in trade for that.

TWM said...

As a Southerner I have to say that shorts on hot summer days are acceptable for weekends and days off, but if you want to be a grown-up man you need to put on some long pants otherwise.

I also hate flip-flops, on women or men (especially on men), except at the beach or in the sauna/shower at the gym. They are a must there just for hygiene.

I hate sandals on men, and everything I have ever read style-wise indicates women as a rule hate them too, so why would any single man wear them? And why would any married woman let her man wear them?

Sandals and open-toed shoes are wonderful on women if they take care of their feet. Otherwise, keep the hiking boots on, ladies.

Finally, I was blessed with great legs so when I do wear shorts I don't worry about a little thigh showing. As long as they are not so short that anything else does.

Christy said...

Snark makes for a fun article, but not healthy friendships.

My own stylish pal has trained me by ignoring what doesn't work and complimenting what does. I gauge my success by the effusiveness of the compliment. I'm not a complete puppet; I've stubbornly held on to my sneakers and jeans for casual wear. But for how much longer ....

I never cease to be amazed at the women who didn't get that Carrie Bradshaw's fashion sense was an intention joke.

vw:rmmpbmpi rump bumpie?

Foobarista said...

I'm just glad I don't live somewhere populated by a collection of clothes bigots. I'll keep my shorts and Tevas, thanks.

This is one of the benefits of Silicon Valley - as long as your code works, nobody cares how you dress...

Ann Althouse said...

I must admit that I frequently go barefoot (or stockingfooted) on the 7th floor of the law school. I take my shoes off at the door when I come home too.

Basically, I'm for comfort + beauty. Just do your best, people. Things that look uncomfortable don't seem beautiful to me. But within the scope of what is comfortable, try to make it look good. There's no need to wear shorts when it's not really hot. Unless the temperature is at least in the 80s, you don't need them. And pants aren't uncomfortable! So what the hell do you think you're doing?

Sandals are perfectly fine. But take care of your feet. Get a pedicure. Flip-flops make an ugly noise and they aren't comfortable for walking any distance. Get some better sandals, unless you're abjectly poor and need to rely on $1 shoes.

Finn Alexander Kristiansen said...

I have a young friend back east in NJ who insists on wearing flip flops everywhere, and nearly in any weather, and I keep trying to tell her that when she gets out of her town, and her circle, into the real world, they are gonna pull her flips flops off her feet and beat her with them. The world is not the bario or a trailer park.

Also, when fat people are stuffing themselves into clothing, with bellies and bulges spilling out, it is a sign of a feeble mind. They are essentially saying they so want to be fashionable, that they are willing to look as ridiculous as possible, and they knowingly lie to themselves about it. Sheep.

Why do that? Pick fashions that fit your frame. Don't group think and be the whore of the fashion industry.

As for shorts, if they are long enough, and clean and crisp, they are fine anywhere except the office, formal functions, and cold weather. But again, one should consider how those shorts look on one's frame or legs.

LoafingOaf said...

I didn't realize how much disdain I have for flip-flops (and I'd add sports sandals) until a couple weeks ago when my summer Bar review class began. It's a packed class and I'd say 50% of both genders are wearing flip-flops or sports sandals.

I'm sitting there trying to concentrate on taking notes and I have a row of people in front of me who not only have this type of footwear, but in their boredom they inevitably remove their feet and play with their flip-flops with their toes, and I've gotta look at the nastiness going on on the bottom of their heels. (I'm having to see some ass cracks exposed as people sit in front of me in athletic shorts, too....)

I dislike it much more with men...since they don't tend to take as good care of their feet.

I'm not against flip flops or sandals in general, but I agree they shouldn't be worn everywhere. It's gotten way out of control.

knox said...

shorts and Tevas

as long as you're not female...