On Dressing Well

Make that, “On Dressing Not So Well.” Here is a picture from a mall in Santa Monica, first appearing in the Los Angeles Times.

Tis always the season for looking poorly.
Tis always the season for looking poorly.

The article which surrounded this picture is titled “The season of excess begins”, and the caption of the photo aptly begins “Black Friday shoppers are seen…”

Truly it was a black day, and not just because of the fights, riots, and nauseating avarice displayed by many shoppers. No. It was the visual assault that cast dark shadows.

Let’s engage in some amateur photo reconnaissance. The location? A mall with top-end stores, meaning that to shop in them one has to have piles of the green stuff at arm’s reach. These are not poor people. Further proof: nobody looks like they’re going hungry. There are no beggars. The accoutrement of the mall—the tree, the giant present—are of superior quality. The buildings themselves are clean, sharp.

So money isn’t a problem. What is?

What first struck me were the two gentleman in the center. One is wearing what looks like a modified logo of an oil company and a hat advertising his preference in sports, which is evidently something he wished others to know about, the depth of his ardency so strong that he put it where everyone must see it. His neighbor wears a hipster hat and blue rumpled t-shirt on which is imprinted a message thankfully too small for us to read, but one which this man thought of such important that he should emblazon it on his chest.

Both men are wearing jeans, which is no story. Therefore, that they look sloppy is a given. The jeans are too long and gather in folds around their feet, which are shod with tennis shoes the shape of which would have been familiar to Frankenstein’s monster. We can bet that, if asked, both would say they are “comfortable.”

Next are the two older women leading them on either side. Both are wearing jeans. The pair of the leftmost lady’s are faded, as if she could not afford a newer pair. The rightmost lady has done herself no favor and has chosen a pair which are about as unflattering as is possible. But then jeans only flatter bodies which don’t need praise. Otherwise, they are ugly and make the wearers ugly. Yes, that means you, too. (Yes, even you, who thought the “you” of the previous sentence wasn’t really you. It was.)

The blouse of the rightmost lady resembles one of those hidden art pictures which if stared at reveal a rocketship or a man riding a horse. The blouse of the other lady looks to be a smock, such as one might wear while casting pottery.

There is no need to continue. Every person, without exception, looks terrible. No one picked something which fit his or her body. Everybody’s clothes are ugly, sad, unkempt. Everybody did their damnedest to appear like an unthinking high school sophomore. In this and only this did they succeed.

The clothes are the visual equivalent of popular, which is to say, bad music. There is no pleasure to be had in looking at anybody.


  1. Sheri

    I notice here is a woman to the far right that seems fairly well dressed. The younger woman behind her is also dressed fashionably (which means not to your taste?). There’s the child with the hideous pink tennis shoes, at least two people in shorts, both of whom are wearing jackets (that’s a common look here in Wyoming, actually). I would note that only one person can be seen chatting on a cell phone, which is encouraging. This crowd is actually better dressed than what I see at the mall where I live. While these people are shopping at high end stores, it may be that they are just gifting to impress relatives rather than actually being the type to shop there all year round.

    Does talking to the girl at the landfill window when you take your trash in count at spending time with some people? 🙂

  2. Briggs


    The far-right woman’s jeans look about to tear at the knee. A good test is to put your thumb over the face, so that the prettiness or ugliness of the person doesn’t influence you. The guy in all black is wearing clothes at least one size too large.

    And yes to your question! Yes, yes, yes.

  3. Joey H

    I was going to make a (bad) joke about how one of the men was me, but the jeans are too baggy, even for myself.

  4. Jim S

    “You kids get off my lawn!…mumble mumble I’ll show you mumble mumble mumble…”

  5. GoneWithTheWind

    Exactly. Your goal may be to be noticed, mine is to not be noticed and to be comfortable. You passed me the other day but you didn’t notice. I noticed you and if I had been a mugger you would have been a target. keep dressing like you’re rich…

  6. Briggs


    But if I dressed like I were rich, instead of dressing well, then I’d look like the people in the picture.

  7. GoneWithTheWind

    Perhaps. I am not argueing with your point that they aren’t dressing well. I lived in Europe for awhile many years ago and dressing well was important to them. So important that they wanted everyone to dress well and would insult those who failed to live up to their standards. So I see this differently. That is, what I am seeing in this picture is freedom. They are free to dress as they like and can still go almost anywhere they want to in this country in T-shirts and Jeans.

  8. Sheri

    Briggs: These people look much better than any of those featured in the “Walmart Shoppers” emails that go around. I guess it’s a matter of comparison–to the well-dressed person, the people in the picture are dressed down. When compared to “Walmart shoppers”, they are very muchly over dressed.

  9. MattS


    Unless you can afford full service custom tailoring, finding clothes that fit to your apparent standard is all but impossible for most people. Off the rack clothes are only going to fit a very small percentage of the population that well without at lease some alterations.

    If you can afford that, you probably wouldn’t be shopping at a mall, not even an up-scale mall.

  10. Briggs


    This is not so. I also cannot afford the best. And it’s not off-the-rack or ill fits per se that is ugly. But in the choice of clothes.

    Take a look at the store Kitson (pictured at left). Here is what they sell, all ridiculously expensive. http://www.shopkitson.com/index.php?page=group&id=195

  11. Sheri

    I cannot fathom what motivates someone to spend $68 on an ugly ball cap. Ridiculously overpriced is an understatement.

    As my husband often asks, “Is that ugly or is it fashion”?

  12. Carl-Edward

    Most people to-day look like unmade beds. It is evidence of the egalitarian poison of a degenerate culture. Too, for decades, now the wrong people have been having children (look at the physiognomies of the people you see in the street: do you expect such vile examples of humanity to have taste?). No matter where one goes now, one feels as if one had died and gone to hell.

  13. DAV

    Ooops, didn’t intend to embed the video

  14. Fodderwing

    Thank you, Mr. Briggs, for your post. I have always been comfortable when dressed well and looking sharp, and I wonder if the discomfort so many feel when not allowed to wear jeans and a t-shirt everywhere they go is actually a discomfort with the way better clothing would give definition to their lives. It will take many years of deep psychotherapy to help at least a couple of generations part ways with their tastelessness, and to regain some pride in appearance.

  15. DAV

    The way Briggs has been seen in photos and videos was in attire once deemed appropriate for strutting about the Indian colonies but not something one would even consider wearing to a formal social affair,

    We have progressed to the point where such casual dress is now seen as well dressed — perhaps even overdressed.

  16. Sheri

    DAV-Let’s not be so hard on Briggs. He’s at least dressed for the late 50’s. 🙂

    I do think this started in the 60’s and now “casual” is considered normal. In Wyoming, you often see bank tellers in jeans. Of course, you also see women in Carhart overalls driving a 4WD pickup in snow, get out carrying a dress and high heels. This casual certainly does detract from looking like an adult–I have often said my high school class was the last one that looked like adults in their senior pictures.

    In the photo, the guy in the blue t-shirt has tattoos down both arms. This is now mainstream–so mainstream in fact that it was reported that Pink (rock singer) said she would tell her daughter to skip the tattoos if she wanted to stand out from the crowd. Eventually, “casual” will be replaced by formal and we’ll look like adults again, with a large population of unemployed tattoo artists.

  17. Briggs


    “We have progressed to the point where such casual dress is now seen as well dressed…”

    Rather, we have regressed to the point where wearing anything clean and covering the shins or forearms is “formal.” People show up to funerals in shorts and t-shirts. As in art, architecture, music, literature we take our notes from the bottom and not the top. And we are all ugly.

    What’s worse is that people are frightened of dressing well. They don’t want to be see as claiming any kind of “superiority.” Even though it is not the well-dressed people who are superior, but that beauty is.

  18. La Longue Carabine

    I believe in the future costumes will be the normal dress: pirates, queens, chainsaw serial killers, etc. Then someone dressed like Ward or June Cleaver will not stand out so much. (I’d dress as Gene Autry, lariat and real guns and spurs.)

    Is that good or bad? Hopefully no worse than today.

    I’m sorry, but I usually wear the abomination of a button-down collar shirt and relax-fit jeans to the mall. Sorry, I’m still a kid at heart.

  19. Teri Pittman

    The problem is that most clothes are made from knit cotton fabric. There is no way you can make tee shirt material look tailored. At you would think at some point, people would tire of wearing jeans. I have.

    The most radical thing a woman can do in this culture is wear a long skirt, preferably with a petticoat.

  20. Katie

    Even if you cannot afford the *best* you can polish your shoes (if they aren’t tennis shoes) and press your shirt or blouse. You can shop sales (there is a rhythm to sales) and you can shop at thrift stores. Thrifting takes a tremendous amount of patience, but if you wait it out, you will find some terrific bargains. Maintenance is the key to sustaining one’s wardrobe. It doesn’t take a lot of skill to sew on buttons or put up a hem. If you are unsure or not confident, there is a youtube video for that.

  21. Yawrate

    I find myself being amazed at what people will wear in public. It isn’t difficult to look better dressed than about 90% of people you might see while out on errands. I dress well relative to people around me but only occasionally truly dress well. The main drawback, as I see it, to always looking well dressed is that wool slacks must be cleaned and pressed. That requires the expense and time of a dry cleaning service.

  22. GoneWithTheWind

    I polish my shoes with olive oil. It feeds and protects the leather. Of course they are a work/hiking kind of shoe/boot not a suit or chino kind of shoe. But they do go quite well with jeans.

  23. Sheri

    Even if we could get people to dress like adults, how do we get them to speak like adults? This is from a meteorologist at Weather bug:
    Not to be outdone, the snow will slide east into the Dakotas…..
    This latest winter storm is due to a cold front plowing southeast through British Columbia, on a beeline to the Northwest.
    At the same time, the Pacific moisture is being squeezed out as a messy mixture of snow, sleet, and freezing rain…..
    I wasn’t sure if I was reading a weather report or a novel. Dressing isn’t the only place society has reverted to adolescence or further back.

  24. Some years ago I worked as a Rehabilitation Counselor for the State of Nevada. One day, after a disagreement with my supervisor, I prayed for an answer. The message: “Wear a tie.” I did. I was kidded about it for 2 weeks but then continued. Within 2 months I received an EXCELLENT rating as an employee. I continued. I became the director of a state program. I continued. I noticed that most everyone, even in a 7-11 treated me well. I continued, and I continue.

  25. SouthCoaast

    “The most radical thing a woman can do in this culture is wear a long skirt, preferably with a petticoat.” When you’ve closed that skirt in your car door a time or two, caught it under the gate wheel entering or leaving your property, or had it drag on muddy floorboards in wet weather, jeans begin to look pretty good. (And yes, I know how to wear long skirts: 10 weekends per year I’m dressed in full-on Elizabethan skirts, petticoats, chemise, partlet, and bodice. Love wearing that, and love getting out of it every evening!)

  26. Fodderwing

    Fr Bill, same thing happens wherever I go. Need fast, courteous service renting a car at the airport? Dress well and include a tie. Matter of fact, want to find favor anywhere at any time? Dress well and include a tie. The clothes make the man. The clothes do make the man.

  27. JH

    This post reminds me of the tell-a-story-with-a-photo activity in two different photography classes I took. A photo, even if it is a bad one, could conjure up all types of thoughts in the viewers. It became really interesting when the teachers asked us “why do you think so?”

    Having just taken a walk on campus, I see the weather in the picture was nice enough to generously allow people to wear shirts, shorts, skirts, long sleeves, and leather jackets. I think this world is big enough for all kinds of people dressed in various ways, even if our heart is not.

  28. ACM

    Who are we to criticize why people are wearing what? Maybe this Advent would be a good time to take up that still-relevant-even-if-old-fashioned practice of custody of the eyes and implement in into our lives hereafter. I’d like to be so busy thinking about other, more uplifting things that I wouldn’t really notice the attire of people around me.

  29. Briggs


    You must bump into things a lot.

  30. ACM

    Oh, no, I still keep my eyes open…LOL!!! Sorry about my comment which obviously doesn’t belong here…

  31. Briggs


    All comments belong here. We are a menagerie.

  32. ACM

    Thanks, Briggs! LOL! In that case, I’ll hang around!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *