Polish Cheers And Pajamas

Statistics show—and as we know by now, these cannot be wrong—that Saturday is the least likely day that people like to ponder statistics. Traffic on this blog is at its lowest ebb on this day. (Wednesday is the most likely.)

Downriver fashionStill, a millennium of poor souls stop by to say hi. For this most loyal group, I offer what we used to call the “Polish Cheer” (our town had a high proportion of people, like your author in fractional part, of Polish descent):

Hit ’em in the head
With a big kielbasa
Milk ’em!

This was sung by members of the high school pep band when the instruments went silent. I was in this band. (“What? This math-computer-logic geek was in the band? Who would have guessed?”)

You might laugh at this seemingly fangless cheer, but I put it to you: how would you like to be milked? Our cry surely struck fear into the hearts of our rivals.

I’d give the stats on wins, and thus the effectiveness of our fight song, but I was so busy blowing my bass sax and giggling at witty ditties like these, that I can’t remember whether our team won any games.

What I can recall with clarity is that we had to wear uniforms, just as the sporting fellows did. This separated us and announced our purpose. Uniforms were merely an extension of the school’s policy on dress. No jeans, shirts had to have collars, etc. Those in violation were sent home, parents were informed. As a consequence, the hallways, classrooms, and bleachers were pleasant, cheerful places to be.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the latest (de)trend in fashion is for teens to wear pajamas everywhere.

Greedy businesses, like Abercrombie & Fitch, giving no thought to their responsibilities, are encouraging this behavior by manufacturing sloppy-on-purpose clothes (for sale at high price). “A wide neck is key, says Jennifer Foyle, chief merchandising officer, because ‘girls are wanting to show their bra straps.'” Charming, charming. How nice to see what fathers have become. Yes, fathers.

The paper continues:

As with a lot of teen behavior, some adults are annoyed. In Louisiana’s Caddo Parish, which encompasses Shreveport, Commissioner Michael Williams is getting national attention for taking a stand. He plans to propose an ordinance outlawing the wearing of pajamas in public.

“The moral fiber in America is dwindling away,” Mr. Williams says. “It’s pajamas today; what is it going to be tomorrow? Walking around in your underwear?”

“Stay off my lawn! What an old man. Parents have been saying this kind of thing about their kids forever. Even the Sumerians complained about teens slacking off.” (I have a quote from an ancient Sumerian text that I can’t lay my hands on at the moment, which proves that, yes, this ancient society did in fact complain about their offspring. Once I find it, I’ll revisit this topic.)

To which I answer: where are these Sumerians? Where are the Romans? O tempora o mores! Where are all the other civilizations who complained about encroaching decadence? They are no more, that’s where. They each and every one of them failed to heed their prophets. They succumbed.

It is no counter-argument to say that because your parents complained, just as their parents before them complained, that the state of dress1 is therefore not declining. It could be, and obviously is, growing worse with every generation.

There are some areas of this fine country where all that is worn is shorts, a sloppy t-shirt, and some sort of plastic, funky foot gear. Men augment this ensemble with baseball caps. Women, depending on state of their journey toward senescence, either cinch the t-shirt tight or let it billow like a tent. The only reason this style has not triumphed completely is that winter forces extra layers.

Meaning jeans. Here is the truth of jeans. After eighteen, you look ugly in them. You might assume you cut a certain je nais se quois. You do not. You look sloppy. Even the most expensive jeans—which are designed to look as close to non-jeans as jeans can be, so why bother—-do not look nearly as good on you as you think they do.

People have forgotten one purpose of dress: to please others. You are not wearing clothing solely for yourself. You are doing it for your neighbor. Be kind to your neighbor and wear something nice.


1Or music, architecture, art, literature, movies, public discourse, etc., etc., etc.


  1. Bob Ludwick


    So close. But, as you know, close only counts with hand grenades. And nukes, of course.

    “People have forgotten one purpose of dress: to please others. You are not wearing clothing solely for yourself. You are doing it for your neighbor.”

    Those wearing pajamas, torn jeans, pants with 42″ inseams on 30″ legs and worn low enough to show butt cracks and pubic hair, sneakers with laces long enough for hip boots, untied and dragging behind, baseball caps on backwards, or at a carefully calibrated angles off center, and all the other revolting fashion accouterments proliferating like topsy through the world of 12-24 year olds are acutely aware that the primary purpose of dress is to please others.

    Where you went wrong is in identifying the others who comprise the group to be pleased, and neither you nor I nor the neighbors are elements or subsets of it.

    Nope, the target pleasees are other 12-24 year olds and within THAT group the ‘please others’ mission is being executed very efficiently, if to us mysteriously. That is the dating pool in which they are trolling and their fashion statements comprise their primary bait. You, I, and the neighbors will just have to suck it up. Or, as a solution with growing attractiveness as fashion advances, put opaque bags over our heads and acquire white canes and seeing-eye dogs.

  2. liamascorcaigh

    That’s “Je ne sais quoi” ain’t it?

  3. The decay of civilization is indeed perpetual. It’s a wonder we humans aren’t naked cannibals grunting at the moon.

    What keeps us afloat? Certainly not mindless group behavior, which leads to jumping off cliffs enmass, under-over wear, gutter-dwelling, apocalyptism, worldwide hemoclysms, etc.

    No, it is the heavy lifting done by inspired individuals. Such as bass saxophonists and other cultural adepts. One can grouse about the sad state of civilization, or one can make music. Strike up the band.

  4. Another major difference between the coasts……. Out west all the bass saxophonists I know turned out to be used car salespersons. It was the alto sax players who went on to study numbers and amount to something.

  5. Briggs


    Not un-coincidentally, Charles Murray:

    Marriage: In 1960, extremely high proportions of whites in both Belmont and Fishtown were married—94% in Belmont and 84% in Fishtown. In the 1970s, those percentages declined about equally in both places. Then came the great divergence. In Belmont, marriage stabilized during the mid-1980s, standing at 83% in 2010. In Fishtown, however, marriage continued to slide; as of 2010, a minority (just 48%) were married. The gap in marriage between Belmont and Fishtown grew to 35 percentage points, from just 10…

    Religiosity: Whatever your personal religious views, you need to realize that about half of American philanthropy, volunteering and associational memberships is directly church-related, and that religious Americans also account for much more nonreligious social capital than their secular neighbors…

    As I’ve argued in much of my previous work, I think that the reforms of the 1960s jump-started the deterioration. Changes in social policy during the 1960s made it economically more feasible to have a child without having a husband if you were a woman or to get along without a job if you were a man; safer to commit crimes without suffering consequences; and easier to let the government deal with problems in your community that you and your neighbors formerly had to take care of.

    And so on for many other cultural aspects. Follow the link.


    Car salesmanship was avoided because it was an Eb contra-alto clarinet (to which I descended after starting on a Bb) in the regular orchestral band. Biggest bass drum in the marching band. Tenor sax in the jazz band. We had a lot of band. “Band” because we had no strings.

  6. Speed

    Music theorists sometimes use mathematics to understand music. Indeed, mathematics is “the basis of sound” and sound itself “in its musical aspects… exhibits a remarkable array of number properties”, simply because nature itself “is amazingly mathematical”.

    How does one (a school principal for example) determine that one pair of pants (an ancient term likely used today only in vintage clothing stores) is “pajamas” rather than “sweat pants” or “warm-ups?”

    And if one’s career plans are to be a blogger (or other knowledge worker), and we know that bloggers spend the day in front of a computer wearing pajamas, won’t pajamas be their ultimate work clothes? Won’t students soon be attending “school” while sitting in front of a computer, at home, in their pajamas? What’s the big deal?

    The job of students is to test authority. The job of teachers and administrators is to avoid confrontations with parents and stick it out to retirement.

  7. JH

    And the job of parents is to teach our children about right and wrong.

    Wearing pajamas and being able to raise children without a husband indicate the declining of moral fiber? Hmmm, I don’t get it.

  8. Roman

    Perhaps, instead of moral fiber, one should talk about a nearly total collapse of taste.

  9. Sera

    They do not teach etiquette in public schools, and I would be amazed if they offered cotillion.

  10. Rich

    Isn’t it possible that, rather than declining, taste in fashion merely orbits some unseen centre in everlasting cycles? Like Escher’s “Ascending and Descending”, the descent (or ascent) is merely apparent and arises from a short-sighted look over the shoulder?

    “Thou shalt not trim thy side-locks short” – the fashion police have a long history. And no sooner had the kids made cool fig-leaf garments than Dad came along and made them wear leather gear.

    It is a fact universally acknowledged that the only decent pop music was written when we were kids.

  11. Doug M

    As a child of the ’80s. I am not convinced that style among young people is worse now than it was then. I remember sweatpants and high heels. And boxer shorts (with the fly stiched up) for girls.

    Teens always maintain an asthetic designed to irritated their elders.
    Each sub-culture, clique or tribe will have its own asthetic.

    It seems to me that 20 somethings are degenerating into gerneral slobbishness.

  12. (“What? This math-computer-logic geek was in the band? Who would have guessed?”)

    I’d give the stats on wins, and thus the effectiveness of our fight song, but I was so busy blowing my bass sax

    No way! I also played sax. (well, we had only altos in pep/march since our school wasn’t that large, but I got to play tenor in concert)

    People have forgotten one purpose of dress: to please others. You are not wearing clothing solely for yourself. You are doing it for your neighbor. Be kind to your neighbor and wear something nice.

    The other purpose of dress is work: as one who’s helped Dad on the farm and has to work with heavy computer equipment (as well as crawling & climbing into many areas), I usually need strong material that doesn’t rip or tear easily (like jeans). And overalls are popular in some areas of the country.

    Of course, I’m also a bit paranoid so I often choose clothes based upon how they might aid or hinder me in a fight/flight situation. (which is why I’m horrified by a lot of the pajamas – does no one realize how easy of a target it must make you for mugging) A good pair of jeans is good for that (assuming you’re wearing them with a belt at a proper height and they’re not too baggy).

  13. “Then what WILL they wear?” — Morris Bishop in “The Crusty Professor’s Song”

    We’re finding out the next step after “Sweatshirts, dirty jeans” are banished.

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