ANTOSZYK: Suits and egos

A lot of attention is paid to how people dress at Yale. While most of us realize that people have different styles and standards of dress, there’s still a vocal group claiming that wearing sweatpants and T-shirts disrespects our institution and that we ought to be dressing up for just about everything.

But why? We all know we go to Yale, and what does that do? It makes us pompous, self-righteous and elitist, and those of us who escape that fate have to watch while the rest continually embarrass our name by confirming every stereotype that, by God, we just wish weren’t true. And we want to remind ourselves again of our own importance by waltzing around in clothes we picked so that everyone would notice exactly how professional we are?

Surely the opposite is true. Wouldn’t it help to deflate the air of pretentiousness on campus if no one dressed up? What Yale needs is a ban on all attire fancier than a sports coat. Such a ban would make Yalies more modest and Yale a more amiable place.

I would except from this ban large, Yale-hosted events — for instance, the welcome speech to freshmen or events during senior week — because these are times when we want specifically to come together and feel important or accomplished. I would except all women from this ban, in part because I think men have stronger negative reactions to fancy clothes, but mostly because, as a male, I feel unqualified to speak for women on this issue. These two cases aside, I think a ban on dressing up would, on the whole, positively influence Yale culture.

Let’s look first the Yale Political Union. It is no secret that the YPU drives away Yalies who find the members imperious. I know a number of members of the YPU and consider them among my most charming and affable friends. Yet when they put on their suits and step up to any podium, I cannot deny that their manner becomes a little (or a lot) less palatable.

Now, I understand that part of giving a speech of this sort is orating with confidence; however, I am forced to wonder how much of this confidence derives from an assurance in their words and how much comes from the fact that they just look so polished. And yes, I will be the first to admit that men look great in suits. The problem is that men know that we look great in suits, and from this knowledge springs forth a complex of superiority over the unkempt.

That is why I would be more impressed by a YPU speaker who could maintain his confidence while speaking in sweatpants. To keep one’s poise while looking like a slob would demonstrate confidence indeed. Though I’ve never been to any debates with the Yale Debate Association, I imagine they are in the same boat, along with Model UN and anyone else who likes to engage in serious arguing. They should all start wearing tattered shirts and sweatpants while they speak, instead of using fancy clothes as a crutch to bolster their machismo.

Or consider Yale’s a cappella groups. Why do they wear suits and tuxedos? Are they funny costumes? No. Are they relevant or conducive to singing? Nope. Think of what they sacrifice by adopting fancy clothes as their uniforms. They come across as stuffier than I think they would like, since a cappella is about looseness and energy and not at all about looking like some British magistrate taking tea at his club or a slave laborer of Wall Street.

I have only singled out a cappella groups and the YPU because they are the most noticeable and organized offenders of overdressing. If groups and individuals alike took a conscious effort to underdress, it would go a long way towards increasing modesty on campus. In the meantime, before the ban is realized, ask yourself before you dress up, am I really as great as I feel right now? Great-looking, maybe. Intelligent and infallible, probably not.

Matt Antoszyk is a sophomore in Calhoun College. Contact him at matthew.antoszyk@yale.edu.

Comments

  • The Anti-Yale

    *step up to any podium*

    One would step “on” a podium and “up to” a lectern.

    My pet-peeve for forty years has been the incorrect interchange-ability of “podium” with “lectern”.

    Even a recent ad by President Obama’s cronies incorrectly places an empty lectern at the center of a scene and describes it as a “podium”. A podium is a “raised platform” (“Pod” =”foot” in Greek). A “lectern” is a device for holding the text of a speech at chest-level, so that it can be read without holding it in trembling hands.

    The {wonderful?) thing about the English language is its fluidity. I predict that all attempts to reverse this incorrect usage will fail (or have already failed) and that podium will come to mean “lectern”.

    Soon.

  • Standards

    And who cares?

    Wow, the conventions of the English language no longer fit your preferences.

    Might as post a comment unrelated to an oped piece about it, right?

  • JohnnyE

    Let’s also ban makeup and shaving. Hell, how about shampoo and deodorant, too? That’ll get’em. No more ego problems for anyone.

    You, along with the guy who wrote the exact same article last year (some crusade against collars or something) and the unwashed boy who went to the career fair sweating his ass off, should go have a pow-wow on the Green after the Occupiers are gone. You could stick it to the man once and for all, and you might enjoy each others’ company while you’re at it.

    It seems to me from these articles that the people here who lambast clothing actually care about it far more than the people they criticize. Maybe it’s a hipster thing. I don’t know.

  • River_Tam

    Someone posted “admissions mistake” in reference to Mr. Stern’s piece earlier this week. I contend that it’s far more apropos here. Everything in the piece, from the thesis to the prose, is laughable. (More proof that Calhoun is the lamest college? [Branford is the worst, but at least it excels in that respect])

    Also:

    > or a slave laborer of Wall Street.

    Offensive to Wall Street and actual slaves alike. And also incredibly ignorant.

  • penny_lane

    I really hope this is satire. It is written comically, so maybe?

  • The Anti-Yale

    Well lectern melding into podium is note EXACTLY my usual off-topic contribution, since blazers, oxfords and penny loafers melding into T-shirts,sweat pants and running shoes is the same evolution: from stuffy and precise to sloppy and generic.

    PS: I’ll bet those sweat pants and runnning shoes serve also as walking bilboards for products: YALE; ADIDAS, etc.

  • River_Tam

    Upon reading this again more carefully, I am forced to conclude that it is satire. I apologize that I missed this earlier.

    But now I am torn. On the one hand, this piece is written to convincingly mirror the sort of empty, vacuous arguments I encountered often in my Yale courses. It does this stunningly well and is humorous at the same time. Bravo to the author, and I rescind my earlier comments.

    On the other hand, great satire should go *further* in argument than the typical argument made by Yalies. As difficult as this has become in recent years given the sorts of statements made by Yalies with a straight face, it nevertheless falls to the aspiring torchbearerer of the Swiftian tradition to step further than the conventional claims made by one’s peers. If someone can make the same case you make with a straight face, then the writing is no longer satire and parody but instead simple mockery.

  • penny_lane

    Yes, if this is satire, it is not good satire. The point of satire should never be to have your readers guessing if you’re serious or not. (Though one of the awesome things about satire is when stupid people can’t tell, even when it’s obvious!)

  • Inigo_Montoya

    > If someone can make the same case you
    > make with a straight face, then the
    > writing is no longer satire and parody
    > but instead simple mockery.

    …or trolling.

  • deb113

    There was a time in this country when simple farmers would dress in suits to attend a county fair. Churches expected people to attend wearing their “Sunday Best.”
    Satire or not, the question of whether putting on certain clothes impacts our character, or how we are perceived, is a compelling one.
    I have some experience in this area. Having researched our socielty’s use of color symbolism- i.e. black for evil, white for purity, yellow for cowardice, and etc. I discovered that not only do athletes wearing black report feeling more agressive, but it also results in a marked increase in a person’s perception of those athlete’s plays as being more agressive.
    It is not difficult to imagine the same could be true of patterns of dress. The “suit,” is perceived as more pretensious, and perhaps feels a certain pride that is translated into an attitude of pretention.
    Should that attitude be cured by wearing “comfort clothes”? Would outsiders think better of Yale if it dropped its emphasis on standards?
    Ironically it is an ill placed self pride and self absorbancy that leads students to argue for lowering standards and breaking traditions. Having attained the prestige of attending Yale, the students’ behavior devalues that prestige by refusing to conform to the traditions that and standards that give it meaning.
    Still, I have to agree. If I speaker can effectively deliver a speech, having handicapped herself by appearing underdressed, that would be a significant acheivement. Yet, I doubt it would be worth disrespecting the audience in the attempt.