Why Don’t People Dress Up Anymore?

July 3, 2013  |  


According to Necole Bitchie, Sean Combs, aka Puff Daddy, aka Puffy, aka P. Diddy, aka Diddy, aka Did, fondly recounted via Twitter the quiet and refined dignity of the shiny glittery suit era:

This year, the men’s fashion at the BET Awards seemed more casual than normal as some of the top artists in the game hit the red carpet in styling that seemed more suited for a video shoot than an Awards Show.   And of course, Diddy did not approve.  While watching the pre-show from the comfort of his home, he tweeted:

Is it just me or did all the good stylists go on strike!! If this continues imma have to come down to that #BetAwards! WARNING! @RevoltTV

Dear artist, Dear Human Brands! The world is watching us! #BetAwards This is our Oscars not the hip hop awards! Show em Black Glamour!

Be clear I’m not trying to be negative I just want US to WIN I just want them to know that we as a people understand proper attire!”

Did wasn’t lying about BET being the black folks Oscars, because I swear that program went on forever. By hour three, I had stood up, threw off my shackles and yelled at the screen, “Give Us, Us Free, Give Us, Us Free…”

Seriously though, why were the BET awards that long? But more to his point, because I actually think it’s a worthy one, dressing up has really become a dying art. Yes, I understand the world is changing and so are social norms, but there was something really special about the era in which people took pride in putting on their own personal [fashion] show.

I’m talking about the era where folks used to put on their Sunday best outfits just for a trip to Red Lobster (or Seafood Shanty, Seafood America or all the other seafood chains around the country that Red Lobster beat out). A time when parents would scold their kids to ensure that they would sit up and use their “good manners”; when it was not unheard of to say “yes, please” and “thank you” to the servers; and when restaurants had cloth napkins. But those days are long gone and even the most fancy pants restaurants are serving food on cheap plates and placemats and allowing people to sit in their midst in flip flops and Hawaiian print shorts.

And it is not just the BET Awards or Red Lobster. A couple of years ago, I went to see the traveling Broadway production of The Color Purple. I was super excited because my boyfriend at the time bought us tickets and this had been my first time out to see a major show at one of the major theaters in the city in years. So in anticipation of our big night, I left work early, rushed home, and changed into a black and white spaghetti-strapped free-flowing dress, some silver slingbacks, and a matching silver purse. I looked gorgeous – if I do say so myself. And then I jetted downtown to meet my car-less beau at our planned meeting spot. When I walked up from the underground subway I was immediately stunned by my dude’s appearance. There he was, standing at the top of the entrance to the subway staircase, in some sneakers, a wrinkled button-down and some jeans with a raggedy seam line. “Um…you look really nice. Where are you going?” he said to me bewildered. ‘Obviously not with your bum a**,’ I said to myself. I was so pissed at him and chastised him for not putting on some nice clothes. And then we walked around the corner to the theater, I learned that apparently it was me who didn’t get the memo about the new dress code because everyone going into the theater had on jeans, sneakers and raggedy shirts. “You’re yelling at me and you’re the oddball here,” he smirked. But I got the last laugh because he is not my boyfriend anymore.

At any rate, I wonder if folks don’t dress up anymore because they just don’t feel that the events they go to have value to them anymore. You can certainly make the case that the BET awards, which were honoring performers of such classy songs as “HYFR” and “F**kin Problems,” wouldn’t compel most to pull out the spit-shines. Just like how growing up, my family was po’ (not poor but “po”), so a trip to Red Lobster really was something special. But nowadays, I am in a better financial situation where I can swing by the ole’ Lobster and buy my entire block a Cheddar Bay biscuit (Just one though. Who do you think I am? Diddy?). But when folks aren’t even trying to get dressed up to meet the president of the United States, you really have to wonder what then do we still honor?

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  • maduz


  • Candacey Doris

    Thank you! People don’t seem to get dressed up for anything anymore, not even fancy occasions. I went to a wedding and some people were wearing jeans. No. Just stop, go back in the house and put on some nice clothes! If you don’t have the clothes to go to a fancy restaurant/theater/wedding then don’t go! Borrow something. Buy something and then return it the next day! Do something, anything.

  • Live_in_LDN

    The BET awards is not the black oscars. It is more like the black MTV awards. Musicians no matter what genre are some of the most flamboyant mofos to exists so of course they’re not going to be dressed in penguin suits like it was the 1930s.

  • appassionata


  • Carol D Briggs

    I like dressing up, at least looking nice, putting my best self forward when I’m out in the world. Not because the event/place has value but becauseI DO! I’ll be the oddball and be lookin good doing it!!!!

  • Guest

    The sense of style and fashion that once existed is done for the most part!! I was telling a younger friend of mine recently, that as a child we would get dressed and put on our furs on to view a show on Broadway. People dressed. It was an event. We dressed for church, theater, dates and other events. Now people look like they’re waiting for their clothes to come back from the laundry!!!!

  • Trisha_B

    My mom always kept me & my sisters dressed when i was younger. Even if we weren’t going anywhere, she would say “you never know who will pop up” lol. & at 23 yrs old i still follow that. Every family gathering, i try to look my best.

    I really don’t think it’s a race thing, more so generation thing. People just lazy lol. Always on the go, want to put on the simplest outfit & be done.

    I was watching the show on TLC ‘Breaking Amish” & they were getting on one of the girls b/c she always dressed up & made sure she looked nice at all time. I was like “wtf” Never thought people would bully someone for dressing nice lol

  • Herm Cain

    It’s a generational thing I think the young people coming up today didn’t have a choice we were forced growing up to be fully suited tie funeral wedding church so when you get older its like f**k this ill dress up but only to a certain extent for the right event I find it corny to be honest and if your in the right area you look like steak

    • Candacey Doris

      Don’t blame the generation, blame the ones who taught them!

  • folamix

    I am from the generation where you didn’t go out looking any kinda way. I just going to dress down only so much and, if you intend to be seen with me, you will not be dressed like a bum

  • FromUR2UB

    When I was in high school, the senior class trip was to Disneyland. There was a catch though: you had to wear dress clothing. I balked at this policy at the time, but I understood it as I grew older. It was a way of ensuring that students would be on their best behavior. People tended to behave better when they were in their best clothes…unless they were drunk. We used to dress up to go concerts when I was young. You dressed up to go out to dinner or any special occasion type of event. . But people’s attitudes are so lax about so many things now, it’s only natural that their attire would follow.

  • Kam

    The other day over dinner at my parents house we talked about the same thing. Looking at pictures of my grandparents they knew how to dress, even if it was just going downtown to pay a bill or two and maybe have some lunch at Joske’s they stayed in dress pants, buttoned down shirts, nice shoes and hats, and for the ladies a nice dress (to this day my grandma doesn’t wear pants outside of her house), shoes, a hat and maybe some gloves. Now you see people’s underwear before you see their face, wearing pajamas to the grocery store, in the airport dang near naked. I don’t know what happened but can someone please hit the reverse on this?!

  • nikki martin

    My husband and I went on a cruise for our anniversary and we both had a blast. This was mainly because without the kids, we got to “dress” for dinner every night. I was surprised at how many people chose to eat at the cheap-y lido deck eating spots just so they didn’t have to dress for dinner. I was living my Diahann Carroll, Dynasty dreams! There is something special about getting dressed up in a classy way.

    If I were a celebrity, I would dress to the nines to check the mail! 🙂

  • Nope

    “At any rate, I wonder if folks don’t dress up anymore because they just don’t feel that the events they go to have value to them anymore.”

    A lot of times I think many Black people fail to combine event with its context. For example IMO we tend to overdress for most of the simple things (church, BBQs, pool parties, concerts, any HBCU event, etc.). Anyone that’s ever been involved in organizing a Black afterwork social event knows the frustration of scheduling it before 6 pm because you know that Black people have to go home first and get fly just to have a beer or glass of wine. smh. And then a lot of us underdress when we’re actually supposed to look fly such as in your example about going to see The Color Purple. As far as your example I think that happens a lot when there’s something that is the “Black/hot event of the week” so it attracts lets say Black people from a certain uncouth demographic.

    • jj

      I honestly do not believe it’s just black people but our culture. The white people I work with are bewildered at ironing your jeans before going out or dressing up for a group gathering or dinner. Our current generation either over dresses or completely under dress for everything.

      • Nope

        I think ironing jeans is hilarious.

  • Suchalady

    I ask this question constantly!

  • Suchalady

    I ask this question constantly!