From The Op-Ed Pages: Fogey Rant At UCONN

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Yesterday an amusing message landed in my inbox. A Danish student at the University of Connecticut had seen our piece on school dress codes and said he had recently written something similar. The student, Simon Jønler, had been asked to write a piece for the school paper about his impressions of the college from a Danish perspective. What they got was a caustic rant against political correctness and a fogeyish take on slumming sartorial standards.

Jønler gave Ivy Style enthusiastic consent to publish relevant excerpts from his piece. In his email, he wrote, “Somehow [the newspaper editors] had gotten the idea (probably from Bernie Sanders) that Danes are ‘progressive’ and edgy in the accepted Jacobinian fashion, so one can sympathize with their disappointment in the outcome.” Jønler said that while the paper published the piece, it did not upload it to its website, which is customary.

First, the passage that rants against PC, setting the reader up for the sartorial sermon to follow:

Common to most American universities is some kind of political correctness policy. This is not unique to UCONN, and therefore in itself deserves little treatment. The obvious and inherent stupidity of such policies aside, one thing strikes the foreigner as particularly confusing. It seems that the UConn campus decorum guarantees that you can be as rude as you want, but as long as you are not offensive. That means you can use all the profanity you can muster, as long as you don’t use it to say anything about sensitive political topics. Bury your face in your phone during a conversation? Go ahead. Interrupt the person speaking? Sure. Raise your voice if you are being contradicted? By all means. But go ahead and call a cold October day “Eskimo-Monday” and there’s a good chance an innocent bystander will faint with indignation. Ironically, the idea of political correctness is the sign of a country with well-exercised freedom of speech; because only in that environment could such a revolting idea persist.

Now the sartorial passage, in which Jønler uses the term “dinner suit” unironically. His fellow students must’ve thought it was a Danish thing:

Different clothes are made for different purposes. In the arts, this is known as sartorial teleology. If I were to go to a black tie gala, I would make sure to show up in a dinner suit. Conversely, if I were to go mountaineering I would acquire the necessary hiking and hoisting gear for such an expedition. This much is obvious to anyone. It is therefore beyond the realm of my imagination, why yoga pants, sweat pants, running shoes, baseball caps etc. should not be regulated by this most exacting standard of common sense. Chances are that if what you are wearing has an activity specified in its name, it should be designated to that specific activity. Otherwise, everyone would be wearing raincoats in the sun and shades in the rain, and that is exactly the kind of nihilistic anarchy civilization was built to avoid.

A common response to this infallible argument is that people just wish to be “comfortable.” I ask first, is it worth being comfortable yourself if it makes everyone else uncomfortable? The worst of these crimes against humanity is the calamity of combining socks and sandals. For the love of God, when you dress, decide if you think it will be warm or cold, and then stick to one cohesive footwear strategy. Secondly, when people say they wish to be comfortable they usually intend to mean some kind of physical comfort, feeling snugged, soft and cosy, but if this is the highest standard of clothing why don’t we all buy a cashmere-lined onesie and wear it as we bury and burn centuries of art, culture and tradition. The argument is often advanced, that if everyone dresses carelessly it forgives the transgression. The reply is obvious. A sin is not made less sinful by being popular.

Jønler concludes:

The only comfort one should be concerned with is the comfort others. Dress to respect other individuals, knowing that by putting something on in the morning you are forcing the world to endure it for the rest of the day. The fact that some fraternities have realized this insight ought to demonstrate that it is not that difficult to grasp indeed.

As with the Yale op-ed, it warms the heart of us older guys to read these quixotic fogey rants, even if they’re accompanied by heartburn at the deplorable slide in standards of dress. But as I stated recently in a comment thread, I find the notion of dressing for others in this day and age to be insincere, and I’d suggest that others drop this line of argument. You can’t use an archaism like “dinner suit,” invoke concepts such as “nihilistic anarchy” and the burning of centuries of culture and tradition, and then claim that your lofty sartorial standards do not stem from pride and defiance but in fact are some kind of begrudging duty to your fellow man, even as he does not show you the same respect. There’s a line in Edith Wharton’s “The House Of Mirth” that goes something like, “It’s foolish of you to be disingenuous, and it’s not like you to be foolish.”

Finally, to those who think that Jønler’s opening rant against PC is just more much-ado-about-nothing, there is this from his email to me: “It might also entertain you that upon receiving the final edit I was asked whether I was sure I wanted the phrase about yoga pants to be kept in. I of course asked why that specific sentence was objectionable, and I was asked in a voice of sincere incredulity if I wasn’t worried people would interpret it as supporting rape culture.”

For your own amusement and incredulity, go back and read the passage above. Jønler doesn’t say a single thing about yoga pants, simply mentions them in a list of clothing items that also includes baseball caps. Apparently on today’s sartorially lax but verbally uptight campus women are allowed to wear yoga pants but men are not allowed to even say the word. Honi soit qui mal y pense. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD

36 Comments on "From The Op-Ed Pages: Fogey Rant At UCONN"

  1. Does anybody know where the valley at the end of Atlas Shrugged is located? I will just be content for now to try and set an example and hope things revert to higher standards.

  2. I sympathize with this young man. Students largely looked like garbage when I went to college and I work in IT, where most people look like college students. I understand where he’s coming from.

    However, in his youth, he has missed the irony of complaining about people (more or less) “not dressing properly” while complaining about the restrictions placed upon speech by political correctness. I am not supporter of any kind of restrictive language, but to complain about a lack of proper procedure for dressing and the same excess of procedure for speaking, is a bit contradictory.

    I would advocate a stronger balance of the two: the freedom to dress as you will, with respect to the occasion with the freedom to speak as you wish, while remaining sensibly considerate of others.

  3. Marc Chevalier | February 18, 2016 at 12:54 pm |

    Ah yes, the slide. It began when gentlemen in town chose to wear trousers instead of breeches. 😉

  4. Could you please post a link to the full article Simon Joenier wrote? I would be interested to read the entire piece.

    Thank you!

  5. Chewco L.P. (Offshore) | February 18, 2016 at 1:13 pm |

    Very entertaining. His point on PC is spot on.

    That’s just the way people are. I, personally, don’t understand it. Call a man’s mother a c*nt, then prepare to be verbally reprimanded. Call a man a liar, then prepare to have your nose broken.

    Speaking of incredulity, I had to google “rape culture.” I’ve heard this term used before but I needed to make sure it wasn’t actually used as a meronym of campus culture.

  6. I’m still chuckling at what passes for logic on campus today.

    Man + op-ed + “yoga pants” = rape culture

  7. The Benedict Option looks more appealing every day.

  8. Marc Chevalier | February 18, 2016 at 4:37 pm |

    Yes, but without carnal chastity.

  9. All right, all right. Lets not have any more disparaging remarks about yoga pants please.

  10. @ Christian: It’s unfortunate that logic isn’t a mandatory class. Wait, that would be quite oppressive if it were. Nevermind. An archaic thing really.

  11. Interesting as the dad of a daughter who attends UCONN and an Allum I have on more than one occasion been witness to the causes of his rant. I also find it interesting that the Greek organizations that make an attempt to maintain some sense of sartorial decorum seem to be under attack from the PC crowd almost constantly

  12. I’m usually not one for get-off-my-lawn rants about These Kids Today, but one thing in this piece really gets my back up — the invocation of the word “comfortable”.

    There are occasional circumstances where a bit of irritation is unavoidable, such as breaking in a new pair of shoes. But for the most part, if clothing is uncomfortable YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG. Most likely you’re wearing something that’s the wrong size. Wear clothes that fit, and they’ll be comfortable.

  13. Ward Wickers | February 18, 2016 at 7:30 pm |

    We’re missing the point here. Think about what’s coming. These kids will be flooding the offices, communities, and clubs in 10 years or so. They’ll be wearing yoga pants (no cuffs) and hoodies and watching us with a leering eye, just waiting to pounce on a micro aggression or a rape-culture comment. We’re screwed, boys!

  14. @JDD

    Odd coincidence, DCG just explained that to me the other day. Maybe someone needs to write a trad Benedict option manifesto and explain what it would entail…

  15. Chewco L.P. (Cayman) | February 18, 2016 at 10:37 pm |

    Could someone explain the Benedict Option to me?

    Is it a financial derivative or hedging instrument? Or would it be found on a brunch menu?

    I’m reading stuff about same-sex marriage and I’m trying to connect it to yoga pants and I’m a little confused.

  16. The Benedict Option was coined by writers such as Rod Dreher, it describes the disengagement from mainstream culture that Christian traditionalists can engage in as mainstream culture grows more hostile to traditional Christianity, guided by the rule of St. Benedict.

    It certainly could and does apply to clothing traditionalists as well, disengaging from an increasingly hostile mainstream to found islands of tradition. An interesting idea!

    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/benedict-option-faq/

  17. Great article… The opening PC part is magnificent! No offense to the author, but it’s pretty sad that it took a foreign student to slap the proverbial American college student up side the head… Well done and well said…

    As for dressing for others – I dress for myself, and others tend to respect me more for doing so. I’m not sure if that’s dressing for them, or for me? Or maybe everyone is better off!

  18. Precisely why I asked if anyone knows the location of the valley at the end of Atlas Shrugged!!!

  19. @ Chewco: Really now? Interesting you ask what the Benedictine Option is (hello google), then admit that you’re trying to draw parallels between same-sex “marriage” and yoga pants, when Simon Jønler speaks about certain clothing having certain purposes.

  20. *Benedict Option

  21. Bags' Groove | February 19, 2016 at 3:17 am |

    So this Option has nothing whatsoever to do with Cumberbatch. Well that’s a relief.

  22. Ward Wickers | February 19, 2016 at 7:17 am |

    Benedict option – sounds like the ol’ sticking the head in the sand routine. Why not just call it the Ostrich Retreat? Where do you go to do this, anyway? Idaho?

  23. Bags' Groove | February 19, 2016 at 7:30 am |

    Sorry to disillusion you Anglophile T, but I was thinking more along the lines of his distasteful post “Hamlet” diatribe.

  24. I’m a British doctor. We, as a profession, are now forbidden to wear a tie at work, to have sleeves down and fastened by cufflinks, to wear leather-strapped watches or indeed anything “below the elbow”. No more medical school ties. No more college cufflinks. No more JLC on the wrist. No more pub lunch. No more telling a nurse she looks lovely today. No more joking with patients. No more golf or whatever sport on Wednesday afternoons. In short, all of the fun has been extracted from said profession. This is replicated across the board. Drudgery, plain and simple. One only hopes us Brits vote en masse to leave the EU and cause the collapse of this insidious evil empire of PC. We might get back to the old ways then, and start enjoying ourselves.

  25. Bags' Groove | February 19, 2016 at 8:57 am |

    @DrJJ
    I’m not sure I should be taking this seriously. Anyways, you’d best get hold of that consultancy and swing into the private sector.
    Talking of, I’ve been seeing a lot of doctors of late (how specialised is your game becoming) and noticed my consultant had a very lovely Swiss timepiece peeping from under the cufflinked sleeve of his crisp striped shirt (with equally crisp tie).
    As for the ending of PC with the ending of your EE, I don’t think that will happen under the entrenched progressivism that pervades our once great country. I could say so much more, but I’ve been told not to get myself stressed. All I’ll say is that disengaging ourselves from the grip of Brussels will be a bloody good start.
    Lastly, how come you’ve time to comment here? I though you blokes were always rushed off your feet!

  26. The sartorial Benedict Option isn’t so narrow as to only include my preferred styles within the Ivy-League look. On the contrary, if one wants to wear saddle shoes, pinstripe suits, and fedoras – they are free to do so. The basic premise is that inhabitants agree to dress their best using the basics that are affordable and available to us all.

    I would instate a three strike rule:
    Strike 1: sagging pants.
    Strike 2: cargo shorts.
    Strike 3: wearing open toed shoes to church.

    This is not an exhaustive list, but it illustrates how a properly ordered society might discriminate between matters of subject and objective taste. I think it goes without saying that anyone willing to abide by the principles of this society probably never cared for political correctness. The PC problem solves itself.

  27. I found the backhanded compliment of fraternity “style” at the end particularly fun.

  28. Chewco L.P. (Offshore) | February 19, 2016 at 1:01 pm |

    GRA,

    I used google but after reading up on the (sic) “Benedictine” Option, I still found myself slightly confused and asked for a gentleman here to summarize it for me. DCG’s summation was very helpful – thank you, sir.

    Next time someone asks what I want (to eat), I’ll say the Benedict Option to see whether I get an Adam and Eve on a Log or a philosophical debate.

    I also seem to be confused because people here will stand-up and proclaim “I dress for myself and nobody else!” That is clearly a lie. We all, to some extent, dress to impress. We all care about the way we are perceived. It’s only that most people on ivy-style (yes, the irony is painful) who claim not to care about what people think about what they wear only care about what other Trad gentlemen think. A small but not negligible subset of the population.

    Now that I have called one of you a liar, I stand fast ready to be punched in the nose.

  29. John Bracken | February 19, 2016 at 3:10 pm |

    I would just appreciate it if you didn’t assume what my motivations are and how I feel. For the record, I am extremely independent and only need a good doctor once in a while!

  30. Henry Contestwinner | February 19, 2016 at 5:19 pm |

    Ward, perhaps reading DCG’s link (reproduced here for your convenience) would help you see that the Benedict Option does not necessarily entail the creation of a new community. Perhaps the easiest way to think of it is like this: we must live in the world, but we are not required to be of it.

  31. NaturalShoulder | February 20, 2016 at 3:11 pm |

    I never thought of applying the Benedict Option to sartorial matters, but like the idea. Dreher’s work is fantastic.

  32. @Chewco: “Now that I have called one of you a liar, I stand fast ready to be punched in the nose.”

    I see nothing in your post that calls either DCG or me a liar.

    @Wellcorn: If the Benedict Option had people who dressed like that then it can’t be all bad.

  33. toomuchlaundry | February 21, 2016 at 9:13 am |

    Whatever. They still dress and look like common crap.

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