How to Dress With Respect (Pillars of Modern Civility, Part 5)
Today’s hyper-individualistic culture has pushed many traditions out of vogue. Some of the most important characteristics we can possess are now dismissed and even ridiculed as antiquated or out of touch with modern society. But as we’ve explored modern civility on this blog, we’ve been uncovering the urgent need for more of these so-called old-fashioned qualities: decorum, honor, wisdom, dignity, and now respect.
If we want to demonstrate respect for the occasions, events, and people we encounter, it must be more than just words. Even our attire can demonstrate this quality. But what does it look like to dress with respect in today’s culture?
What Is Respect?
Much like honor and dignity, respect is found most clearly in how we interact with others. Knowing that every person has inherent worth, and that we honor people by giving them the space to stand proudly on their accomplishments, we see the value in dressing in a way that isn’t too bold or ostentatious for the situation.
Respect is another facet of this empathy-driven standard of behavior. In Francis Hawkins’s 110 Rules of Civility, he sets a standard for respect in his third rule:
“Show nothing to your friend that may affright him.” (Rule 3)
Roughly translated into modern language, we should never enter a situation in a way that could cause embarrassment or frustration for those around us. We demonstrate respect by showing an awareness of what a situation requires in terms of etiquette, appearance, and speech.
Respect is acknowledging the purpose and gravity of the situation in every way so that the mutual experience is one of excellence. And when it’s done well, respect extends from actions to attire.
What Does It Mean to Dress With Respect?
When we dress with respect, we’re simply demonstrating that we know the purpose of an occasion and are prepared to meet that purpose appropriately. We can sum it up in a simple question:
Do your choices make the moment more exceptional or more mundane?
The Wrong Look
If you’ve found yourself looking unprepared and out-of-place in a situation, you’ve likely neglected to dress with respect. Or, in contrast, if you’ve encountered another person who has come woefully underdressed for a special event when compared to everyone else in attendance, that individual came without the intent to make the moment truly important.
This is how it looks to not dress with respect. And it affects the atmosphere that was intended in the first place. When you come unprepared for the moment, you keep others from experiencing that moment to its fullest.
This faux pas may seem insignificant with today’s relaxed fashion sensibilities, but for those who are intentional in their attire and demeanor, it can even be offensive when others don’t demonstrate appropriate etiquette.
Elevating the Moment
On the contrary, when someone arrives not only prepared for the occasion but in fact with attire that raises the bar of significance, everyone at the event encounters a better experience. Dressing with respect elevates mundane moments to special occasions. And it can elevate special occasions to extraordinary experiences.
This elevating effect isn’t limited to when we dress with respect for big moments, either. Even in the most casual settings, just a touch of extra formality can demonstrate true respect for those around you.
How to Dress With Respect
Consider this: you come to a Michelin-rated restaurant for an important anniversary with your wife. Many of the tables are dressed in fine suits, elegant dresses, and sophisticated details like quality jewelry and cufflinks.
But the table across from yours is full of men who came in board shorts and flip-flops, leaning listlessly in their chairs and joking loudly with each other. Although these men have every right to eat at any establishment they please, their appearance and demeanor have a direct effect on the experience for others in that restaurant.
It lessens the significance of that moment, tarnishing an otherwise cherished memory because they did not care to act or dress with respect for the moment they had walked into.
Likewise, an unbuttoned collar at an important meeting could indicate one’s lack of respect for the gravity of that meeting. When others come in suits and ties, this more casual appearance stands out as disrespectful.
Again, there may be no written regulations regarding dress codes, but it’s clear that this individual doesn’t see the same importance as others there.
These silent expectations can seem unfair or absurd from an individualistic standpoint, but when we keep in mind that we are not the main character of every situation we walk into, we can see how our choices to neglect conventional expectations suddenly look quite rude.
Keep in mind that modern civility is not about elevating oneself. Modern civility, when adopted and demonstrated to its fullest, is a philosophy and practice rooted in moving out of the spotlight and building up those around you. When you dress with respect, you set that tone from the moment you step into the board room, the dining room, or the celebration.
Creating an Elevated Experience for Every Occasion
With this concept of elevating your attire for the occasion, all it takes is knowing where to start. By defining the expected dress code of a situation, you can then add pieces to make sure you make the moment more exceptional.
Smart casual is a popular attire choice today, but it can become a sloppy look without the right philosophy behind it. When smart casual fits the occasion, elevate your look with one or two more formal elements to dress with respect.
- Replace sneakers with loafers or oxfords for a cleaner, more intentional look.
- Instead of shorts, wear a pair of chinos. Still comfortable, but more formal.
- Add a dress shirt and cufflinks under a denim jacket to balance the casual feel.
Business professional attire has far less room for variation, especially in the direction of casual choices. But it still has room to add elevated touches to give your look a more respectful feel. Well-crafted pieces make a difference in your appearance, from cufflinks to tie bars.
- Choose French cuffs to add cufflinks to your business professional attire. They immediately give your suit a more finished and intentional look.
- Add a well-crafted tie bar to accentuate your favorite business professional ties in a subtle way.
Moments of Celebration
Special events like weddings or commemorative moments deserve special attention. When you dress with respect, you pay that attention properly through your attire, along with your demeanor. Every piece of your wardrobe can play a part in these moments, from your neckwear to your jewelry.
- Stud sets elevate your black-tie look by adding a flash of personality to your shirt.
- Add a lapel pin or stick pin to your jacket for a more distinctive look.
- Invest in a high-quality necktie or bow tie instead of more basic ties.
Let Ox & Bull Help You Dress With Respect
No matter the occasion, you can dress with respect when you know the moment you’re in. And with Ox & Bull’s quality men’s jewelry and accessories, you can be certain that you’ll be making the moment more exceptional with your attire. You’ll find everything you need when you come to us, from well-crafted silk pieces to heirloom-quality cufflinks.