The Richmond Register

January 13, 2014

Men are treated differently when they dress well

By Dick Ham

RICHMOND — I was just thinking the other day about a column I did several months ago regarding the way men dress today.

I’m sure many of you remember it. In the nearly 14 years I’ve been doing this column, it brought out far more response than any other.

I received a letter about it from Frank Kourt, a frequent contributor to this newspaper.

Frank is an excellent writer and I like his letter so much, I secured his permission to use it in this column.

Here’s what Frank had to say:

Dear Dick, If you can stand one more comment on your column regarding the sad state of “dressed down men,” here’s my take.

I have found that dressing well can result in a phenomenon I refer to as “Instant Respect.”

I often shop various stores in what might be politely termed “casual.” For me, in the summertime, this means shorts and a T-shirt, sometimes with a silkscreen of a slavering wolf on the front.

On these occasions, I pass through most retail establishments as one of  “The Great Unnoticed.” If I need help in finding something, I approach  an ‘associate’ and politely ask, and they cordially enough point me in the right direction.

On the rare occasion when I’m dressed for business — nicely pressed slacks, button down shirt, a tie, pocket square, and a jacket — it’s a whole different story.

I recently had occasion to meet with a business associate in a coffee shop located in a large grocery store in my “dressed up” mode. I was early, so, carrying my faux leather note pad, I started browsing the store.

I was immediately accosted by an associate who greeted me with, “Good morning sir! Are you looking for something special? Can I help you with anything?”

Eyeing the outfit and the notebook, one could see that he was probably pegging me for a corporate “suit,” and acted as if I held his livelihood in my hands.

As I proceeded through the store, I attracted similar attention from the staff. When I mentioned an item I was interested in, the associate didn’t point me in the right direction but took me there herself.

Much to my amusement, I got more “sirs” than a general on a military base. I was suddenly transformed from a routine shopper into a VIP!

This experience indicated two things to me.

ONE: People, (especially men) dress well so rarely that when they do it merits an inordinate amount of attention.

TWO: In the eyes of many people, the fact that one is wearing a silly piece of cloth around his neck somehow elevates him in esteem and importance.

The lesson here is twofold. If you want attention, dress well and the world will beat a path to our door. On the other hand, people need to consider the old adage about not judging a book by its cover.

Honestly, someone should do a sociological study involving the difference in how one is treated by society when “dressed down” and how that same person is viewed when  sporting a more upscale wardrobe.

These are my thoughts, and for the record, I agree we would as a society be a more genteel group if men took more care in how they dress.


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