Suiting up

I feel uncomfortable when people call me "sir" or "mister." I was in line at a drive thru the other day. I did not feel any different than any other day; however, the girl helping me kept calling me sir. "Here is your order sir." "Is that all sir?" "Have a nice day, sir." I felt really old and really odd. I could not believe someone would call me that, I felt the girl was mistaken. I started thinking, what makes one qualified to be called by a title of respect?

As far as I can tell, appearance is the only qualification we can base judgments of honor upon. How else is one supposed to identify a member of the upper crust of society? That day I was in the drive-thru; I was wearing my work clothes, button-down collared shirt and slacks. For men, the appearance of authority and respect derive from button-up collared shirts, slacks, tie, and suit jacket. For those of you who watch How I Met Your Mother, Barney Stinson is a prime example of how a suit impresses others. In this television show, Barney maintains a flawless surface of professional attractiveness. He maintains this professional appearance because he has no inner quality. Barney is completely selfish. The only relationships Barney maintains are those that benefit himself. While we can only base titles of respect on appearance, surfaces cannot tell us the reality of inner substance.

In the pursuit of a teaching career, I have volunteered time two years ago at North Medford's Opportunity High School. Teachers there told me to dress "above" the students so all the teachers at the school would be able to tell me apart from the students. I wore black slacks, tie, white-collar shirt, and a black jacket. I guess I did not dress up enough, because one student pulled me aside in class and asked if it really worked. I had no idea what he was talking about so I asked him to clarify his question. He then asked me, "Can you get cigarettes with that outfit on?" This student had assumed I was an underage teen trying to circumvent the age limit of purchasing tobacco products. I told him I could buy cigarettes for three years now and that I was a teacher assistant. The concept of ties and suits was incomprehensible to this young man. For our culture, formal wear is an archaic dress code.

Our culture tells us not to wear ties because they are uncomfortable. We are supposed to wear the most informal choice allowed because formal wear often intimidates others. Thus, we reason, those who wear formal clothes must be important because they have no other choice. They must be a businessman or an important person. In the prescence of such a person, one feels they must put aside their individuality as well in order to operate on that higher plane of professionalism. Our culture is unfamiliar with formal wear because it is uncomfortable to wear and see.

I love dressing up but I also hate being treated different. Even though I have survived college, committed to a relationship, and proved to be a responsible person I do not believe I am worthy of a "Sir" or "Mister" title. Why would being treated better bother me? Every year it is harder to retain my individualistic youth. Soon, I can give up any thought of getting a mohawk, piercing my ears, starting a noise rock band, or becoming an indie film director. Pretty soon, I will forever be an adult and I will long to relive my youth.

is a graduate of Southern Oregon University with a degree in English. He lives in Ashland with his fianc&


Share This Story