mood Work Clothes

by Daryl Lease

Published in Issue No. 15 ~ August, 1998

I’ve never cared much for ties.

I’m not sure why, exactly. Somewhere in the back of my mind I guess I’ve always figured that I’m liable to do something at work that’s a hanging offense and I’d rather not be the one who supplies my boss with the rope.

On the rare occasions when I do wear a tie these days, I prefer to run down to Rental Depot and pick out something affordable, yet tasteful, that I can return first thing the next morning.

In other words, I’m a casual sort of guy.

So I was delighted a few years ago when many American workplaces instituted “casual Fridays” and began encouraging their employees to dress down for the day. The idea was to improve morale, break people out of a rut and get them to think a little more freely.

This was good news for me. I figured this meant I’d be employable just about anywhere, for at least one day a week.

I’m sad to report, however, that this casualness has gotten out of hand.

Recently, The New York Times carried a disturbing story from China about a new trend in casual living that, I fear, could pose a far greater threat to our country’s stability than communism ever did.

It seems that people are beginning to show up on the streets of Shanghai in broad daylight wearing their pajamas.

They shop in their pj’s, they ride bikes in their pj’s, they go for afternoon walks in their pj’s. Some of them even show up to work in their pj’s.

“It’s not so much convenience as feeling relaxed,” said one lady, who was interviewed while out shopping for groceries in her pj’s. “My whole attitude is different when I’m dressed like this.”

A mailman said that, judging from what he’s seen on his route, about 2 percent of Shanghai’s residents spend the day wearing the same thing they wore to bed the night before. In a city of 14 million, 2 percent would be about 280,000 people.

The trend is apparently catching on elsewhere, too. Pj’s have been spotted on the streets in other Chinese cities.

Now, I have to admit it might be kind of fun, at least for a while, if this fad were to spread to the United States.

A pajama party certainly would be a break from the routine.

But I’m afraid that the pj parade – and casual Fridays, for that matter – isn’t as innocent as it seems.

In fact, I’ve begun to believe that such foolishness undermines our nation’s work ethic and sets a poor example for young people. Is this really the message we want to send? That it’s OK to sleep until noon, eat cold pizza for breakfast and schlepp around the rest of the day in bathrobes and fuzzy slippers?

I think not.

Sadly, there are signs that this casual fever has already escalated past pj’s and ventured into much more dangerous territory.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that there is now a church in Nottingham, New Hampshire, that offers “clothing-optional services.”

No, these churchgoers aren’t showing up in pj’s.

They’re not showing up in anything.

Here is how The Journal described the scene: “The one-room church with its lace curtains could be any other small-town church in American until the lay preacher, Harry Westcott, steps out from behind the pulpit – naked except for white sneakers and a black watch.”

The congregation is similarly attired.

“I think the act of worship, of coming to the Lord as he made us, frees us from irrelevant worries,” says the minister, who is 72. “If you believe that the human body is a creation of God in his own image, there is nothing shameful or harmful about being nude.”

The church is part of Cedar Waters Village, which touts itself as the first Christian nudist resort in the nation.

As I said before, I’m a casual guy. I also try to be open-minded. This is a free country, after all, and people are entitled to wear pretty much whatever they want to wear, whether to work, church or while lounging around the house.

But if I ever find myself in Nottingham, N.H., at 11 o’clock on a Sunday morning, I think I’ll stay indoors.

In fact, I might even wear a tie.

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Daryl Lease is a columnist for The Free Lance-Star newspaper in Fredericksburg, Virginia.