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Kent Bernhardt: A clothes call

A week ago, United Airlines found itself in the middle of a lot of unwanted attention when they refused to board two young girls because of their fashion faux pas – they were wearing leggings.

To be fair to United, they have an official published policy concerning what employees and their descendants can wear when traveling on a pass. Leggings are apparently frowned upon. I’m not sure why United Airlines felt the need to target leggings, but they did. Furthermore, they say the girls should’ve known about the “no-leggings” policy.

Most of the story dealt with United’s poor handling of the situation, and that was fair. They bungled this one. Their skies may be friendly, but some of their employees on the ground are a bit crabby.

I’ve flown quite a bit during the past year, and I’d like to tell United and all airlines that leggings are the least of their worries. No one seems to know how to dress when they go out in public anymore, and it’s not just airline passengers, though they tend to be among the worst offenders.

Gone are the days when your fellow travelers wore their finest to board a plane. In a sense I understand it because in those days, you were treated more like a passenger and less like an overgrown sardine.

There isn’t a lot of motivation to dress up on an airplane, especially when your knees are under your chin and dinner consists of a tiny package of pretzels and a canned soft drink.

But still, I’d like to think when they’re digging me out of the rubble after the crash, someone will look at me and say “Yeah, that guy’s dead – but isn’t that a nice sweater he’s wearing!”

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of attending my first Broadway show. I visualized the evening as a semi-elegant night out, and I dressed accordingly. No, I didn’t wear a tuxedo, but I did deck myself out nicely.

I needn’t have bothered.

My fellow theater-goers were the biggest rag-tagged group of misfits one could imagine. Many of them had been out shopping and had their Christmas packages in tow, which they stuffed under their seats. The closest any of them got to formalwear was the tuxedo t-shirt I spotted on some guy in row three.

To say the least, I felt a bit out of place, and it was a huge wakeup call for me.

I’m a big proponent of casual dress at church, but I’ve seen even that carried to the extreme. As a child, I used to complain about having to wear a coat and tie to a summer service. My parents would remind me that we dress up in church because we want to give God our best. I used to remind them that God won’t like it if I overheat and explode all over his sanctuary.

I remember watching a sports network’s replay of a 1969 World Series game between the Mets and the Orioles, and being surprised to see many men in the crowd sporting white shirts and ties. I’m not sure when that went away, but there was a time when you dressed up a little to attend a sports event, especially a World Series game.

I’m not suggesting we go back to shirts and ties at ball games or formalwear at Broadway shows, but it would be nice if we treated something like a special occasion again.

Or maybe it would at least be comforting if our fashion statement was something above “Hey, I was dressed by roving gypsies this morning – get over it.”

Kent Bernhardt lives in Salisbury.

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