I have always tried my best to look my best when attending large public events where it is expected men show up dressed appropriately. In days of yore a black tie meant a real black bow tie, not a clip on. Most men these days wouldn’t even know how to properly tie one. At one time, a well-dressed man might have been described as a Pip, a Dapper Dan, a Beau Brummel or at the very least a Dandy. Well, times have changed and so has fashion.
The first two people who influenced me in the importance of looking presentable were my father and my grandmother. My father had three pairs of footwear, work boots (he was a carpenter), a pair of slippers for around the house (they were more of an old timey style that were more shoe than slipper) and a pair of dress shoes. He would never walk to the corner store without putting on a pair of dress slacks, a clean shirt and dress shoes.
I remember being about six or seven years old when I heard my grandmother say, “You can always tell a man by his shoes.” I was likely six or seven when I think I finally had some idea of what she meant. My father taught me how to properly shine a pair of shoes, something I had to learn and do when I started Cubs. A few years later it was mandatory in Navy League and Sea Cadets. Spit and polish as it were.
Back then every man knew he wore black shoes with a dark suit or blazer and brown shoes with any suit or sport jacket with most any other colour. Not now. Brown shoes can be worn with any colour you choose, especially every shade in the blue spectrum. Our Prime Minister is a perfect example. Am I starting to sound like an old codger yet?
I own two tuxedos, both of which are old enough to vote. I’m certain it’s just a matter of time before either one or both come back in style. I also have a white dinner jacket which I am sure I will never wear unless I happen to go on a cruise, which I won’t. The good news is it’s now considered de rigueur to wear a regular plain black tie with either instead of a bow tie. Still looks classy and besides, I’ve forgotten how to tie the damn thing.
As we begin seeing more fundraising dinners and other charitable or special events returning after the lengthy Covid recess, I wonder if some folks might have forgotten how to get all gussied up in their best bib and tucker after wearing pajamas for three years. I hope not. In the end, remember, you’re never fully dressed without a smile. It’s still one of the few things in life that’s free.
Jim was a writer-broadcaster and producer on television and radio for 40 years. He is also a podcast host on Lifestyles 55 Digital Radio. Find Radio Redux, Mid-Century Memories and many others at www.whatsupwinnipeg.ca/lifestyles-55digital-radio/