Digital Slob

Curt Brandao

Sunday, September 5, 2004

Casual Friday is
every day of the week

Whenever Digital Slobs and Respectable People play pick-up basketball, we don't side up as shirts and skins -- it's more like sweats and french cuffs.

But never mind who might win, the scene itself symbolizes a much higher-stakes game. Deciding who rules the 21st century will be measured by what passes for socially acceptable clothing -- or, put another way, by how sloppy we can be outside the house while leading a life upstanding enough that landlords have to let us back in the house.

So far, it's been a series of nip-and-untucked battles. When the economy took its latest dive, Respectable employers tapped into our job-security fears and tried to re-button down the workplace.

Many thought Casual Fridays' days were numbered, myself included -- especially after the belt to my bathrobe got caught in the fax machine.

But now, aside from a few pockets of entrenched resistance, such as Wall Street and the National Funeral Directors and Morticians Association, Slobs are again making widespread inroads with Operation Unkempt.

The New York Times reports the "shirttail out" look is all the rage -- not only in trailer parks and on Cops reruns, but also in GQ and on the catwalks of Milan.

You'd think Slobs would be flocking to Italy as soon as our portfolios were ready. But even in a world where the disheveled are equal, we know some are more equal than others.

If Ashton Kutcher's shirttail is showing, it's just a famous, cute, cool guy getting more famous by looking more cute and more cool; if Roger Ebert does it, someone should call him a taxi because there must have been an open bar at the "Resident Evil II" premiere.

Regardless, all this chafes Respectable People, because they suspect Slobs want formal attire completely abolished. But some of us can be reasoned with. I could get many of my brethren to agree to dress up for, say, weddings -- OK, royal weddings.

It's a fight over principle, but also practicality. Respectable People may believe it's morally bankrupt to wear flip-flops to a christening, but it could be just regular, run-of-the-mill bankrupt. When money is tight, Slobs fill our bellies before our wardrobes, which eventually makes everything in our closet too tight. It's not that we want to walk around in our birthday suits -- it's just one of the few things that still fits.

Slobs hate dress-up clothes, but we can be doggedly loyal to our regular rotation. When we finally have to put a piece of trusted apparel out of its hole-riddled, condiment-stained misery, we quiver over the garbage can like Travis trying to steady the shotgun he pointed at Old Yeller.

With emotions blurring reason on both sides, the textile industry is trying to use technology to end Operation Unkempt with a truce. Many shirts and slacks are now wrinkle-resistant (which is more than most of us can say about our birthday suits).

But even more promising, news services report, is the development of clothes that wash themselves. Dr. Walid Daoud and John Xin of Hong Kong Polytechnic University have successfully coated cotton with titanium dioxide, which breaks down dirt when exposed to sunlight (Slobs are not fans of sunlight, but I'm sure computer monitors could eventually be rigged to emit an effective level of ultraviolet rays).

Once Sears starts selling don't-wash-and-wear Dockers, Slobs might be lured into a peace accord. Otherwise, someone better start working on a bathrobe-belt-resistant fax machine.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.
Also see www.digitalslob.com

Curt Brandao is the Star-Bulletin's production editor. Reach him at: cbrandao@starbulletin.com



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