My freshman year of college held a plethora of changes, many of which were expected and a few of which were not.
I had anticipated the change in work load, with more free time but also more homework. I had not anticipated feeling like ninety percent of the classes were easier than those in high school.
I had predicted that I would have fewer close friends but not that my closest friendships would still be formed over studying.
However, the most obvious alteration was the change in the standard of dress.
At first, I wore slacks and my regular dress code Ridgeview attire because it seemed most proper for class. As fall came, I reveled in the freedom of wearing jeans. One day, I spotted a nineteen year-old woman (presumably on the way to class) wearing Hello Kitty “footie” pajamas. I quickly realized that knowing how to dress oneself was as much a privilege as much as a Ridgeview education.
I was not unaware that my school attire was more professional and demure than many others’ (I went to Ridgeview, but I did not live under a rock). I had never come into conflict with the dress code or taken issue with it. I felt the dress code furthered my expression of individuality, allowing more emphasis of my thoughts and ideas.
Indeed, as Albert Einstein points out, clothing in itself is not the object: “If most of us are ashamed of shabby clothes and shoddy furniture, let us be more ashamed of shabby ideas and shoddy philosophies.”*
Moreover, what stunned me in college was that others did not seem to possess a way of gauging appropriate styles. Other students did not understand that there ought to be a different standard of dress for having a night out, hanging out with friends, going out with your grandparents, going to class or even sleeping. It seems trivial, but knowing how to dress for an occupation or occasion is certainly a virtue.
Machiavelli writes: “When evening comes, I return to my home, and I go into my study; and on the threshold, I take off my everyday clothes, which are covered with mud and mire, and I put on regal and curial robes; and dressed in a more appropriate manner I enter into the ancient courts of ancient men and am welcomed by them kindly.”**
Thus, how we dress reflects not only what we think of ourselves, but how we view the task at hand. It is only fitting that we dress more formally in class than we do hanging out with friends because the task itself demands a graver demeanor.
*Treasury of the Christian Faith: An Encyclopedic Handbook of the Range and Witness of Christianity, ed. Stanley I. Stuber and Thomas Curtis Clark, Association Press (New York: 1949), 415.
**Niccolò Machiavelli, The Portable Machiavelli, ed. Peter E. Bondanella and Mark Musa, The Viking Portable Library (Hammondsworth, Eng.: Penguin Books, 1979), 1.