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Class / Refinement / Sophistication / Style — Continued

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We ended off last time with “What has this got to do with us?”

Leonardo da Vinci once said, “Anyone who conducts an argument by appealing to authority is not using his intelligence; he is just using his memory.”  While I will appeal below to a few “experts”, we will first appeal to logic, to rational thought, to critical thinking.

Pride in appearance and speech begets pride in other aspects of your life.  What you feel when you wear “dressy” clothes.  The attitude you have.  Some people claim they feel stifled when wearing a suit or nice dress. I’m not so sure that is truly the case.  You undoubtedly feel less comfortable than you do in your favorite pair of sweats – especially since most aren’t used to wearing quality clothing on a regular basis in this day-in-age.  On the other hand, there is a sense of quality.  There is a sense of status if you will.  You feel like people are going to have a higher opinion of you than is the case when you are wearing shorts and a t-shirt [and they DO by-the-way].  However you might feel in a pair of sweats – comfortable, relaxed…  I’ll guarantee you don’t feel respected when you are out and about in flip-flops and shorts and a t-shirt.  In fact, there may have been a time when you witnessed, either personally or someone else, someone “of quality” looking down with distain upon the manner of dress.  You’ve seen all kind of writings about people who look down with derision upon those not acting properly, those who do not speak properly, those who do not dress properly.  I believe that if we would be honest with ourselves we would admit that when we are “dressed up”, for lack of a better term, – at least what we would call it now days – it makes us feel good.  It does make us feel there is a quality about us – a quality that is not there when we are in a shorts and t-shirt and flip-flops or sweats or pajamas on our way to Walmart.  So keeping in mind those feelings, we should acknowledge our relationship with other people, how we treat other people, how we act toward other people, how we act with other people, is also of higher quality.  It changes us for the better.

This goes for speech as well.  There have been many times throughout history, and I would dare say even today, when you hear people refer to how those from the lower class speak – anywhere from Old Town London where people on the “lower side” (working-class Londoners) are speaking in a Cockney accent to what we would claim now about Hillbillies or those of the “lower class” in the South.  When you are speaking in such a manner you are not relating on an equal level with those that take pride in the way they speak.  The phraseology that they use…  The grammar they ensure is correct…  On the other hand, I’ve heard many a time, “he understood me, the message got across, what difference does it make how I speak?”

As you will see below, this doesn’t necessarily work as well out there in the real world, the business world as an example, where people look with derision on those who just don’t take the time to put forth a good foot, either in the they dress or speak.  It shows laziness, it shows sloth, it shows you just don’t care about the way you look, the way you speak, about the way you carry yourself. About the way you relate to other people.  And, like it or not, business owners or those in the HR department or hiring managers for an organization, want to hire and keep people that aren’t lazy – people that present themselves in all manner of care.  They want people that are going to take the time and make the effort to present themselves in a manner that is befitting the company – or people of quality period.  When you do not present yourself in that manner you are losing out on opportunities you may otherwise have – opportunities for which you may have educated and trained yourself over many years.  But more importantly, you are demonstrating to the rest of society that they are not worth the effort.  Not that you are of less value.  But that you are not worth the time.

Aside from the aforementioned (previous post) “supporting, ill-mannered, gracious less, disrespectful society” affecting the rest of us, numerous studies have been done that demonstrate the detrimental effect of ignoring proper dress and speech on relationships, work and culture. This part of what has changed is not good for humanity as a whole – which then, directly and indirectly, does affect all of us on an individual level.  How we dress and the manner in which we address each other and our speech in general translates to our attitude toward life and the effort we put into our society. As well, people that are given an inch will take a mile (not my saying but a great one).  The “old ways” may not be the best in all regard, but they are far better than the Dark Ages – for which, I would suggest, we are again heading.  We do though seem willing to accept that civility in general is lacking and we are ok with that.  It confuses me though that while people don’t object on a societal level, they certainly object on a personal one.  Well, societies are made up of individuals…

One type of example [and there are far too many to address in a single post] is the numerous studies done on dressing for work-at-home jobs (and elsewhere).  All these studies conclude that how a person dresses affects work performance (even though nobody else can see you).  The suggestion that having a home based business allows you to “go to work” in your pajamas or sweats is true.  However, the studies show that your neighbor, being in the same business working from his home but dressing as if he were heading to an office in the city, would run rings around your productivity.  Dress affects attitude.  Dress affects alertness.  Dress affects performance.  Dress affects the bottom line.  You don’t believe me?  How about a few examples?

Forbes recently had an article entitled Casual Summer Work Environment Kills Productivity and Profits.  The article claims that, too the employees, Casual Work Environment Means “You don’t have to work”.  A business owner providing a “casual summer” [or casual Friday] work schedule is setting the company up for failure. Subtle statements may result in:

• Employees don’t have to work at their normal level of quality,

• The company does not value the overall impression given to the customer,

• Customer service is not important,

• Profits are secondary to pleasing the employees, and

• The business is not intended as a long term venture.

The article goes on to say “People use the heat as an excuse for dressing casual. Unfortunately, many employees don’t know what is ‘too casual’ for the office. The dramatic difference in employee appearance taints the company’s image. This can confuse consumers.”  And finally, in the article’s “Tips For Building A Culture Of Success During Summer” (since that is often when companies institute the more casual dress policy) it states “avoid casual Friday. This policy insinuates that Friday is a ‘non-work’ day.”

In the instruction to her paper The Effect of Casual Dress on Performance in the Workplace, Sarah Maloney Hughes of The Master’s College states in the Undergraduate Research Journal for the Human Sciences:

“The way you look directly affects the way you think, feel, and act . . . . When you dress down, you sit down—the couch potato trend. Manners break down, you begin to feel down, and you’re not as effective” (Kaplan-Leiserson, 2000, p. 39). Stephen Goode (2000, p. 4) states the findings of research psychologist, Jeffery L. Magee, that “Continually relaxed dress leads to relaxed manners, relaxed morals and relaxed productivity” and “leads to a decrease in company loyalty and increase in tardiness.”        Dolbow suggests that the accepted casual dress in the office workplace is causing “casual attitudes and a lack of office decorum” (2000, p. 10).

Other examples…  in these cases, effects of dress code on students.

1) LPSRoyalTimes.com (Leadership Public Schools, Oakland, CA)

Fri, Mar 2nd, 2012 | By Livia Looby

19 Schools in Chicago did a study on student’s behavior by making one day a dress code day, one was a dress down day, and the other one was a regular day.  There were 211 referrals given out on dress code days, 233 on regular days, and 322 on dress-down days. The study done in these 19 schools showed that by having a dress code it did decrease the bad behavior in school.

2) Recent research at Sam Houston State University offers some evidence:

The research was conducted by Jimmy Creel and Angela Stallings, while completing work on their doctorates in education in SHSU.  Creel studied the impact of dress codes on black students in a Houston area suburban school district, while Stallings concentrated on Hispanic students.  “It is possible, based on our findings, that the benefits of a standardized dress code implemented and maintained over time may very well have a positive effect on student achievement,” she said. Creel said their study showed a number of positive benefits, including “improved campus morale and reduced discipline violations, increased school pride, improved collaboration and teamwork among students…”  Also, “enhanced image of students and the school in the community, minimization of the effects of economic variations among students, and reduction in the overall cost of student wardrobes.”

Considering speech in society and/or workplace:

In the book How To Turn Your Abilities To Cash, “master salesman and successful author” Earl Prevette devoted Chapter IX to How To Improve Your Speech, Voice And Manner.  He said –

There are three definite reasons why one should endeavor to speak correctly. Namely:

(1) People never judge you by what you don’t say. They judge you by what you say, and if you can do this well, it will influence people to have confidence in you. Therefore, form the habit of pronouncing each word correctly, and to speak with care and dignity.

(2) Speech is the only means to make yourself understood. By not pronouncing your words correctly and by not speaking with the proper care, your listener may get the wrong meaning out of what you say.

(3) The correct pronunciation of each word, enunciating each syllable, will not only improve your speech, but will also enable you to spell correctly more easily.

He goes on to say, “Speech, Voice and Manner are all fundamental parts of our living. The use one makes of these reflects how he lives. The study of Speech, Voice and Manner develops social poise and a more desirable and pleasant personality. The three personal attributes of character enumerated are all dependent to a large degree upon each other. The improvement and development of one means the improvement and development of all.”

In Appropriate Language by Stacie Heaps:  “One of the most important things you can do as an employee and colleague is to use appropriate language in the workplace. In the business world, making a good impression and projecting yourself as mature, intelligent, confident, and professional is critical to long-term success. Inappropriate language, whether spoken or written, can negatively affect your credibility and put off or even offend those you work with. Both in speech and in writing, take the time and make the effort to use appropriate language.”  Her 8 rules for appropriate language begin with “Use standard English and follow established rules of grammar”.

According to Science for All Americans by F. James Rutherford and Andrew Ahlgren, “The class into which people are born affects what language, diet, tastes, and interests they will have as children, and therefore influences how they will perceive the social world. Moreover, class affects what pressures and opportunities people will experience and therefore affects what paths their lives are likely to take—including schooling, occupation, marriage, and standard of living. Still, many people live lives very different from the norm for their class.”

A final note from George Washington, the 1st President of the United States – from his The Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation

-Wear not your clothes foul, or ripped, or dusty, but see they be brushed once every day at least and take heed that you approach not to any uncleanness.

-Think before you speak; pronounce not imperfectly, nor bring out your words too hastily, but orderly and distinctly.

There is so much more but I promised my wife to keep my posts under 2000 words on Sunday – although I seem to be breaking that promise of late.  All of this translates to our dress and speech being a factor in how we view and treat each other.  We have “dumbed down” society through both.  Since most have lost this sense of style, class, refinement – how might we get it back?  We will look at possible solutions at a later date.  Until then, what are you going to do?!

>>> The day is at a close, the night is drawing in and my cigar awaits – ’til next time…

Class / Refinement / Sophistication / Style

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This is a “passionate” subject for me and I admit I will not do it justice.  But I must say something if for no other reason than my having a clear conscience.  It won’t help but…

I wish to discuss two things today – dress and speech.  Two subjects, each having volumes of books devoted to them.  I am going to concern myself primarily with our lower and middle class.  For the most part, the upper class of society has kept up with tradition and it is of limited concern the minimal amount they may have “fallen”.  And for any wishing to “run in those circles”, they will as well.  This will of course set those of the “politically correct” persuasion on edge.  I am singling out those “less fortunate”.  Yet another nail in the coffin of the “99%”.  It is not due to a dislike for them.  I myself am a member of the middle class.   However, it is what it is.  And as the old saying goes, “what you are is your parents’ fault, if you stay that way it is your own.”  As well, for those familiar with this blog you will realize I do not now, nor will I in the future, care.  The politically correct have been, and continue to be, significant contributors to this problem so their thoughts on the subject are irrelevant.

I have an “app” on my phone called BeSpeak.  For those that do not have a wardrobe consultant (I do), it helps the “style impaired” with what clothing is best suited to them and how to dress properly.   There is another called SnapDress.  It allows one to actually take a picture of clothing to determine if it is appropriate for your “profile”.  The 21st Century does have some amazing technology (if used appropriately).  However, technology or not, many just don’t care.  They do the minimum necessary to fit into the minimum, current dress for which their “industry” calls.  There is no doubt in my mind that the current state of dress and speech are not only demonstrative of the degradation of our society and culture as a whole, but contributed to their downfall.  I spoke before about civility in cyberspace.  This, of course, is only a small piece of the overall issue.  Civility in general is lacking.  Call it how you want – it is virtually lost in society as whole.  How we treat each other – opening doors for females, thank you notes, RSVP, saying please.  Our music, our television shows, our movies.  Our dress in public (even in private…).  What little civility exists is quite limited these days and is primarily found in the upper echelons of the financially well off.

From the time of the Renaissance to mid-20th Century the world operated in a more formal and dignified manner.  The elegance and grace with which they conducted themselves was astonishing.  While everything was certainly not perfect, they, for the most part, represented themselves in dress and speech in a civilized way in their everyday lives.  This translated to a cultured and urbane society at every level.

As an example – Downton Abbey.  My wife has gotten me hooked on this television show about a late 19th Century – early 20th Century English earl (the Earl of Grantham), his family (the Crawley family) and the servants that work for them.

I am really not that excited about the actual story.  It is interesting to an extent but I am far more interested in the portrayal of the times and methods of interaction – the clothing, language and manner of speaking with and treating each other.  While they are certainly not always “nice” to each other, they are formal, even polite, and proper in their relations and dress.  It is a dignified and refined manner of interaction and presentation.

And this is not limited to the “upstairs”.  It is not limited to the earl’s family and his circle of friends.  The “downstairs” staff also functions in this manner.  They address each other at all times in a formal manner.  Mr. Carson (the butler), Mr. Bates (Lord Grantham’s valet), Mrs. Hughes (the head housekeeper), Mrs. Patmore (the head cook).  You have to be as “lowly” as a mere footman or scullery maid (pretty much the bottom of the chain and quite young anyway) to be addressed by your first name.  But at the time you are promoted to a higher level, you immediately are referred to in the formal manner.  In the U.S. we came to be somewhat less formal even before that timeframe.  But the extent of that limited informality came in such situations as the Southern Plantations (or cities for that matter) where females were still addressed as “Miss” and first name (even those married) while men were still always addressed as “Mister” and last name or just plain “Sir”.  Within families or with very close, longtime friends (and normally in more private affairs) these rules were usually relaxed.

In additional to how they address each other and the formal manner in which they speak, is the way the dress.  Regardless of your position, you dressed “properly”.  Even the “lowly” footman wore white tie and tails to serve dinner and what we would consider black tie at other times on duty.  When they are not on duty they still were appropriate slacks and “sport” coats or more casual suits.  When the men went hunting it was in suit and tie (casual, but a suit none the less).  When outside they virtually always wore a formal hat (vice baseball cap).  When on a picnic the women wore dresses.  Not a formal gown of course.  That was reserved for the evening meal or other such formal occasion (where the men wore white tie with double-cuff sleeves (aka – French Cuff)).  During one episode one of the female relatives (Isobel Crawley) showed up at the manor in quite appropriate daytime dress to speak with the family.  When invited to dinner she politely refused because she was not wearing proper dinner attire (although what she WAS wearing was far nicer than what people these days wear to an evening out).  While many may suggest that this is the household of a noble and so appearances must be kept up, scenes from elsewhere in the show prove otherwise.  Scenes from the town showed that EVERYBODY dressed and acted as formally as their station in life would allow.  Shopkeepers wore suits.  Even mechanics working on machinery wore suits.  Gentlemen farmers and their farmhands wore suits.  Females were always in dresses.  I cross “the pond” to the US and look at old time photos of the Wright brothers in their bicycle shop (lest you believe this is just on TV – see original photo below), men panhandling for gold in rivers, ladies of all walks and stations of life.  They ALL were in suits and ties or long dresses often with lace.  East Coast or West, North or South.  “White Collar” or “Blue Collar”…  People cared about their appearance.  People cared about how they presented themselves to others and it made for a far more well-mannered, gracious, respectful society.

OW in shop

Orville Wright in his shop (the one working in the suit)

And now we are in the present…  I’ve actually seen people in upscale hotel (not motel) lobbies, stores, parks and other place of public dressed in pajamas.  People wear sweats and “flip flops” out to a sit down restaurant – sometimes formal (fast food restaurants are bad enough).  Places that used to have dress codes (including a rack of jackets and ties for the gentlemen that “forgot” to wear his) now have people in jeans and t-shirts.  Grown men at church in shorts, a t-shirt and athletic shoes (or even flip flops again).  Boys out in public or going to school with pants hanging off their derrière, underwear showing and continually having to pull them up so they can walk without tripping.  Other than just looking ridiculous, it has got to be problematic.  Why would one add to the problems they already face?  Girls think it absurd as well by the way.  While I will not go so far as to advocate the complete formality of the past, I certainly would be ok with not even considering going outside without a casual suit or sport coat (and maybe even tie).

Concerning speech…  I am led to understand, by actual high school English teachers, that what has been considered “informal speech” in the past is now acceptable in virtually any manner of our lives.  Miss Manners be damned.  While we have always had “formal” and “informal” (slang?) grammar, “acceptable” grammar at all levels has been reduced to the lowest common denominator.  Using a preposition to end a sentence with?  No problem.  Using “can” in place of “may” (can I go to the restroom)?  That’s fine.  Listing a group of names with that of the speaker first?  Perfectly acceptable.  It is just an informal way of speaking and we are to accept it in polite society.  Why teach correct English when we can just modify the standards to what the average 3th grade student of the past used.  “Can I go to the restroom?” from a High School student.  How ridiculous.  And their English teachers allow it!  What they fail to realize is in fact polite society does NOT accept it.  You will be looked down upon and treated with distain.  And then wonder why you can’t advance your station in life.  We are leading our lower and middle class children into believing they can work their way up the corporate and societal ladder without regard to how polite society speaks and acts.  They are being held back without even knowing it.  Then they blame “the man” for “keeping them down”.  It is not the man.  It is their own acceptance of what our society, at its lower levels, now accepts as the norm and teaches (or at very least, accepts) in its schools. As an aside – don’t get me wrong.  Our schools are doing much better than that for which many give them credit.  In some regards though we are not having our students live up to a high enough standard.  We are accepting lowered societal standards.  We are dumbing down society.  More on schools in a future post.

This leads to a situation today where the crudeness of, the vulgarity in, our speech is beyond the pale.  It is inexcusable and indefensible.  Mainstream songs, movies, even television shows demonstrate crassness never before imagined – often in the name of free speech.  I am in no way desiring to limit free speech by law (except in obvious case of libel, slander, danger (yelling fire in a crowded theater), and such situations).  However, it is a mark of polite society to limit our OWN speech.  We shouldn’t have be have laws or policies against it.  It should be taught and observed from the youngest age that it is just not done.

What strikes me most is how we’ve lost this.  “Things change” we are told.  “Keep up with the times” we are told.  That would be great if the times were improving.  I would submit in many respects our times ARE improving.  Our technology is making the world “smaller” via communication and transportation improvements.  It is improving medical care and therefore our quality (and length)  of life in many respects.  However, I defy anyone to demonstrate how changing to a more informal (for lack of a better word) society in dress and speech is making our culture – our society – a better place in which to live.  We are losing all respect for ourselves and our fellow man.

Now of course you may say, “What has this got to do with us?”  We like the more informal way of life.  It works for us and we are hurting nobody through it.  With which I would disagree.  Your being ok with, and supporting, ill-mannered, gracious less, disrespectful society affects the rest of us.  We will discuss this next time.

>>> The day is at a close, the night is drawing in and my cigar awaits – ’til next time…

Civility in CyberSpace

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I’ve been trying to think of a good way to enlighten some of the younger generation that what they post on social media sites such as Facebook matters.  Not just photos, but the language they use.  Sometimes vulgar.  Sometimes profane. Sometimes just inconsiderate.  I don’t think I could have found a better means than this article.  The crassness of, mostly younger, Americans is bordering on the absurd.  While I understand blurting out in anger or frustration on the rare occasion of something REALLY appalling, I find it completely incomprehensible that people think it appropriate to use such language in everyday, casual “conversation”.  This though is for a later time.

Regarding what one puts on these social media sites, if you are not concerned about what your family and friends think, ok.  Although I’m curious as to why you wouldn’t be.  However, if you don’t think your employer (or potential employers) will find out, think again.  If you don’t think it will impact your career progression, think again.  If you don’t think it will affect your employability, think again.  And keep in mind,  it’s not like a “slip up” in the office or just whatever language you may use in the bar scene – things of  which there is no record and that will be forgotten over time (presuming they don’t impact you immediately).  I don’t want to suggest such things are ok.  Consider civility in all aspects of your life.  But always remember, what you post now will live in cyberspace forever!  Try and chalk it up to youth.  See how far that gets you.  Always think long-term.  Our 21stCentury technology has given us many advantages.  However, if you want to make the most of them, consider how you use that technology.  This is not the first instance and certainly will not be the last…  Consider the following:

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MSN News (22 Nov 12)

Mass. woman loses job after posting photo on Facebook

A Massachusetts woman who posted a controversial photo on Facebook of herself at Arlington National Cemetery with her middle finger raised has lost her job due to controversy over the picture.

A Plymouth, Mass., woman whose “clowning around” photo at Arlington National Cemetery became the focus of online furor after she posted it on Facebook has resigned her job due to the controversy.
Lindsey Stone, a Plymouth, Mass., resident, posted a photo of herself on Facebook with her middle finger raised and pretending to shout next to a sign asking for “silence and respect” near the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. The photo was taken by a co-worker, Jamie Schuh, when the two were on a business trip to Washington, D.C., last month.
The posting ignited an online furor that included a “Fire Lindsey Stone” page on Facebook. Stone apologized through her father, Peter Stone, according to a Washington, D.C., TV station. Her father said she was clowning around and was reacting to the sign and not Arlington Cemetery.
According to the Boston Herald, Stone has resigned from the Cape Cod nonprofit, LIFE Inc., that she worked for and her resignation has been accepted. In a posting on its Facebook page, LIFE Inc., said both Stone and Schuh were no longer employees of the nonprofit.
“We deeply regret any disrespect to members of the military and their families,” the LIFE Inc. post said. “The incident and publicity has been very upsetting to the learning disabled population we serve.”
Both Stone and Schuh had been placed on unpaid leave while LIFE Inc., which helps adults with special needs, investigated.The Boston Herald quoted her father as saying: “She’s not happy at all. She’s just devastated. She had no idea that she was going to hurt anybody. It was never her intention.”
>>> The day is at a close, the night is drawing in and my cigar awaits – ’til next time…