This weekend I visited a local mall for the first time in my life. I’ve been a West-Sider all of my life until I moved downtown. Being territorial, as many people are, we don’t often go too far from home to do things like “shop”. And when we do, it’s often because we know of a mall or stores that have really great deals, like Great Lakes Crossing; which for many years was the “day trip” for me and my son at least twice a year. Once for school clothes and once for Christmas Shopping. So in almost 37 years of living I had never stepped foot into this one particular mall. So I had absolutely no idea what I was in for when I arrived at Eastland Mall.
Eastland Mall has all the major stores I have grown to love of the years. They even had some stores I had never heard of before. But it wasn’t the shopping that got my attention. It wasn’t the sales, it wasn’t the customer service, it wasn’t anything that you would immediately think a fabulous female with a shoe fetish would notice. What I noticed most was the people…and their horrible public appearances. There were many young women who had decided to leave the house with head scarves on, and what appeared to be the same clothes they had worn to bed. There were several young men that literally had their pants sagging so low their underwear was fully exposed, with house shoes on. One young man literally was wearing his pajamas. I’m not kidding. I’m not exaggerating. I have a witness if you need one.
I was actually shocked. I had never see so many people in one place at one time look such a hot mess. It’s almost as if it were the newest trend captured in one central location. As I looked down at my own sundress and comfortable sandals, I began to wonder if I had missed the memo. Did someone forget to tell me that looking like I had just gotten out of bed was the new style? The only time I’ve ever worn a head scarf in public was after getting my hair done to keep it nice for later that day or evening. And even then, it’s not the scarf I wore to bed. Usually I cover that scarf with a fabulous, fashionable one, add a pair of sunglasses, earrings and put on a cute outfit. Everything coordinates and everyone who sees me doesn’t think I’m a lazy slob of a woman.
When it comes to the way young men wear their underwear exposed, I blame Lil Wayne. I’m kidding. He’s not at fault. Everyone has a mind of their own whether they choose to use it or not. There are a lot of young men that will not wear their pants around their thighs or knees regardless of what’s fashionable. There were in fact a handful of young men at the mall that didn’t have their pants “sagging”. However, one of them was in desperate need of a re-braid to his cornrows. But I could overlook that a lot easier than if I was walking behind him and could see the imprint of his butt crack. I know, I know – I don’t have to look. But in this case, this is being forced in my face against my will because it is so prevalent that it’s completely unavoidable. It’s kind of like a pigeon flying into your closed window and dying. It’s not your fault the pigeon did it, but you’re stuck with the clean up anyway.
What I’d like to see happen is that parents and schools start making more of a demand that our young people dress more appropriately at a younger age regardless of where they are. If we give them an alternative from following “the crowd” or “the trend” and encourage them to be more individual while remaining appropriate, we’d see more “trendsetters” instead of followers. We’d see more leaders, we’d see more scholars, we’d see more young people prepared to go into any environment and make a more presentable public appearance. Young women need to have improved self esteem. They need to be made aware that wearing your bed clothes and head scarves in public is not cute. My grandmother always told me to look my best when I leave the house because I never know who I might meet. I’ve lived by that my entire life and I’ve met some very influential people who wouldn’t have spoken a single word to me if I had been wearing my pajamas. Some of these same young men and women may have spent a lot of money on their clothes and shoes. However, it’s not about how much your clothes cost or the designer label inside them. It’s more about if you wear those clothes well, or not. Can you go from the boardroom to the after work networking event? Or are you always dressed to go to the nightclub? Are your only “good clothes” worn to church on Sundays? Or can you dress up with a few minutes notice so you can shake the hand of the President?
I commend young people who know how to wear their clothes so that they can be taken seriously and not viewed as thugs all the time. I’m also glad that some colleges and universities have a dress code, including many HBCUs. The dress code implemented by colleges and universities often isn’t strict. Instead they clearly prohibit wearing pajamas, house shoes, head scarves and pants sagging, including during campus visits prior to enrollment. The truth is a dress code wouldn’t be necessary on college campuses if we as a society gave our children guidance and taught them that they aren’t extras in someone else’s rap video or a sharecropper’s wife when they leave the house. A dress code wouldn’t be necessary if we taught our children that the only time wearing your pajamas in public is acceptable is if your house was on fire when you awoke that morning.
Eventually, as parents, we hope our children will transition into the workplace. If they continue to maintain the public appearances they currently have, many will not ever surpass the first interview. It may have just been a mall on a Saturday afternoon, but those same young people left that mall and went somewhere else, or came from somewhere else to that mall. For many of them, that is how they dress the majority of the time. They believe it to be common practice because they don’t know better. They believe that they are representative of society as a whole because they don’t know better. They believe they will be able to transition into collegiate life and the workforce without any problems because they don’t know better.
Of course there are some young people that will argue they don’t need to be concerned about how they dress because they have plans of becoming a professional athlete. Reality check: the NBA has a dress code. So does the NFL. Therefore, attire and how it is worn isn’t just a concern in corporate America or on college campuses anymore. So I can’t be completely wrong when I say that young men and women need to present a much better public appearance than they currently do.
When you know better, you do better.