It has long befuddled me what is so amusing about a person who takes pride in their dress sense. Especially if that dress sense is slightly eccentric or reflective of fashionable code of a long gone era which embodies upstanding attitudes.
I certainly enjoy dressing up, particularly in winter where I can pull out all my coats, hats and scarves (the only items of clothing I feel I can effortlessly pull off. Mind you, some of these clothes are not exactly in alignment with modern dress standards. My favourite winter outfit, consisting of a tailored gray double breasted waistcoat, black fitted coat, and rabbit fur topper, I would go so far as to say is downright fanciful by current standards. Add to that the wooden coat lapel pin proudly proclaiming “contains traces of nuts” and it’s amazing that I have yet to be lynched by self aggrandising Sydney pedestrians.
Or is it?
The thing which typically attracts the most attention here is the bold, black topper. Although a common piece of headgear among the upper class male citizens of Europe and America settlements in the 18th century, it is certainly not a hat seen outside of fancy dress in our current self obsessed society. You would expect such a flagrant anachronism would cause me to be the target of sidewalk ridicule, if not outright verbal or, god forbid, physical abuse. You would wrong.
I have ventured out in my waterproof, personal head heater, of a hat on the Sydney buses, in the CBD, in Parramatta, in the Shire, and around the universities, and not once have any negative comments passed my way. There have been a few stares and giggles, but that’s to be expected when such an antiquated fashion is reencountered today. I have been addressed as “miss” and “madam” when spoken to by strangers – honestly, the level of politeness genuinely given when wearing this item is extraordinary. Complete strangers have struck up conversations, asked me for assistance, and even checked that other people aren’t being negative towards my debonair demeanour.
I have noticed this same effect when the traditional cut, double breasted waistcoat, complete with an Alfred chain fob watch, has been taken for a walk. Formalities abound, people say please and thank you, not an elbow to the ribcage or rough sidewalk shoving have I encountered. People who would usually stare the stare of death, “how dare you impose on my time and space when I am clearly not interested in your existence”, suddenly remember their manners.
I think the effect this, and many of my other eccentric outfits, have is that it’s not only what is being worn but also the attitude the clothing embodies. It screams “I am proud of who I am”. It also sends the message that I mean business. Polite, sociable, respectable business. And the flow on effect is that others step up to that mark, engage with an attitude which I feel is sorely lacking in current society.
Why do we feel the need to block out the world with our phones? The need to punish those around us with a glare if our space is intruded upon? The need to be antisocial and generally unpleasant to our fellow man?
Why, oh why, do we need to be confronted with a visual representation of a polite, respectful attitude to remember the age old adage “treat others as you would like to be treated”.
Considering the main reason I wear my topper is to have a lovely bubble of warm air directly over my skull on a freezing winter day, I think the side effect of reminding people to connect and respect each other is a nice added bonus. No?