The connection between how you dress and respect

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By Carolyn Ten Broeck, Editor

 I was brought up in a era where women wore dresses, gloves and hats to church and men wore jackets, ties and sometimes hats too.

The phrase “Sunday best” generated from that time. If you didn’t have the finer duds, you at least wore a white shirt under your clean, pressed bibbed overalls.

It was all about respecting God and His church, I was told back then. You give God your best.

I always adhered to that and even as churches became less casual in an effort to reach people where they are, I was still bound by what had been drummed into my head all those years ago. It took me decades before I would even wear slacks to an informal prayer service.

Two weeks ago, I got a jury summons. Like most, I felt inconvenienced mainly due to my job, but I am all about civic duty and never once tried to get excused.

In addition to telling you when and where to appear, the instructions on how to dress are also printed on that summons. It clearly states that everyone should dress nice–my words, not the court’s. No jeans.

Monday morning, I searched through my closet for the appropriate outfit–something comfortable, something business casual, something that showed not only my respect for the court, but my respect for me.

The courtroom was packed with potential jurors Monday. Senior Judge Joe Smith said he didn’t think he had seen that many people in the courtroom during his 18 years on the bench–perhaps 350-400.

During the qualifying process, I was aghast at how many folks didn’t bother to show up. Dozens. Name after name was called with no response.

The woman beside me and I simultaneously raised our eyebrows at the lack of respect those people have for our courts and our judicial system.

And then I started observing those who did come. Most had read the summons or either were brought up with the same standard I was because they were dressed in their Sunday best.

But then there were those who not only weren’t dressed in their best, they weren’t dressed in their cleanest.

Some looked like they were ready for a morning at bowling alley, some came dressed in their work uniforms–sure they would be dismissed and could return to the job and then there were some who looked like they just rolled out of bed–uncombed hair, T-shirts and jeans–not freshly washed and pressed.

Now I know that not everyone has a lot of “nice” clothes, but really, can’t everyone comb his/her hair? Can’t everyone wipe off his shoes so they aren’t covered in mud? Can’t everyone pull up the slacks and tuck in a shirt tail that’s hanging almost to the knees? And seriously, a mini dress  with a gold lame overlay and four inch heels is a club outfit not a court frock.

It struck me that people don’t have respect for court. Say what you will about the judicial system in this country, but you have to admit it’s a lot better than most places on the planet.

It reminded me of the two young people who came into our office asking for work.

One was a college student looking for a summer internship. She wore short shorts and a spaghetti strap camisole as she asked if she could work at the newspaper.

A journalism student, she wanted to hone her skills. But I couldn’t get past how she had come dressed to ask for a job. It didn’t help when I told her the most important thing in our busniess was meeting deadline no matter what.

“Oh,” she said. “I’m not good at being anywhere on time.”

The result? No summer intern.

The same story about a young man who came in looking for a sumemr job. We never made it past the formalities because, like the young journalism student,  he wore gym shorts, a T shirt and socks and slides.

What is it with these people? They can’t bother to look like they belong in the workplace rather than on the beach or in a gym?

And don’t get me started on wearing the outer shorts with the waist band at the bottom of your buttocks while your boxers stick out.

At Publix the other week, I saw a man’s shorts fall completely to the ground when he tried to catch his child who was climbing on one of those machines in the lobby. He’d been holding the shorts up with one hand about mid-hip and when the toddler started to tumble, he let go and so did his pants.

People who do that want attention, I’m theorizing, and most, I wager, do it because of low self esteem and respect.

Is respect something taught? Is it innate? Is it something earned?

But furthermore is it something that is falling by the wayside? And if it is, what can we do to change it before it truly becomes a dying art?