Friday, January 28, 2005

Dress Codes

Dick Cheney was our representative in the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, one of the most infamous Nazi concentration camps. You can see that he was given a seat in the front row as is appropriate.

You can also see that Dick was dressed to hit the slopes, or, as Washington Post says:

At yesterday's gathering of world leaders in southern Poland to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the United States was represented by Vice President Cheney. The ceremony at the Nazi death camp was outdoors, so those in attendance, such as French President Jacques Chirac and Russian President Vladimir Putin, were wearing dark, formal overcoats and dress shoes or boots. Because it was cold and snowing, they were also wearing gentlemen's hats. In short, they were dressed for the inclement weather as well as the sobriety and dignity of the event.

The vice president, however, was dressed in the kind of attire one typically wears to operate a snow blower.

Dick knows how to dress for such events. He wasn't wearing a parka and a beanie for George Bush's coronation last week, and it was pretty cold in Washington, D.C., too.

This is an example of implicit dress codes and how they can be broken. The idea is not very different from how one might dress to a funeral, say: with respect and so that one doesn't stand out in the crowd. Or with respect and so that one doesn't remind other participants of their last experiences on the skislopes or the need to shovel their front yards. The exceptions to such codes apply to people who are too poor to have several outer garments to choose from, but Dick is pretty well stocked in comparison to most of the participants, and they all managed to find something dark and unnoticeable.

Is this all quite trivial and unworthy of comments here? Perhaps, but I felt like commenting on it, and it's not trivial that many Europeans will interpret Cheney's outfit as yet another example of American exceptionality or of American obliviousness. Though the Washington Post writer is wrong in arguing that Cheney would have been cold in proper clothing. Long underwear was invented for a very good reason.