Sitting in two airports last week, in Paris and Riga, it suddenly occurred to me that I had not seen a single person who was smartly, let alone elegantly, dressed (I do not exclude myself from this stricture; I have never been elegant in my life). Indeed, if there is one thing that unites mankind today it is casual slobbery in dress.
This is rather odd, considering that so many people seem to spend a lot of their spare time shopping for clothes. The fact is, though, that however much time they spend on shopping, they will always look just as much a mess as ever. They choose, but they do not discriminate.
Our unwillingness, and increasing inability, to dress elegantly represents the triumph of self-esteem over self-respect. We dress to please ourselves, not others, and not looking like a slob takes effort, especially keeping it up through the day. Convenience is all, and it is easier to throw on a few casual clothes than to dress well. Again, I do not exclude myself from these strictures: When I wake in the morning, my heart sinks at the prospect of having to get ready for the day. Even tying my laces, for the n thousandth time in my life, seems a task at once gargantuan and meaningless. I find some slip-on shoes instead.
Watching the people passing by their hundreds or thousands, certain observations more or less forced themselves on my consciousness. Amazon.com $50 Gift Ca... Buy New $50.00 (as of 06:20 EDT - Details)
The first was the way in which enormously fat people tended to squeeze themselves into tight clothes, revealing the semifluid nature of their abdominal apron. I am far from decrying fat people in themselves; they exhibit the same range of human characteristics as any other large group of people, and gluttony seems to me the least of the seven deadly sins, not to be compared to envy or pride, for example. Indeed, it seems to me more of a failing than a sin.
It is not the obesity in itself, then, that offends me, but the egotism and lack of acknowledgment that it requires a way of dressing, and indeed of deportment, different from those of slimmer bodily shape. On the contrary, the way these fat people dress seems to say to the world, “I know that I look grotesque in these clothes, but what has it to do with you? Keep your opinions to yourself—there is no law against fat people wearing lime-green or lemon-yellow shorts that cling to their thighs like lichen to tree trunks.” And, of course, whatever there is no law against is permissible in every other sense, since the law is a complete guide to morality, manners, and etiquette.
I was intrigued also by the T-shirts worn by the obese and the asthenic alike. They seemed to fall into several natural categories. The least interesting were the plain-colored without any words or pictures on them. They were dull and dowdy no matter how appalling or tastelessly luminous their shade.