Monday, August 31, 2015

Monday at the Bar: The Op Ed in the Wyoming Lawyer on the UBE

When we were approaching the UBE I wrote an Op Ed piece for the Casper Star Tribune.  Obviously, my opinion didn't succeed in doing much to stop it.

Since that time we've endured the UBE as the bar exam for Wyoming and started to live with the sour fruits of that adoption.  In this month's issue of the Wyoming Lawyer, the magazine that members of the Wyoming State Bar all receive, an excellent op ed appears regarding how Wyoming lawyers are carrying the freight for the massive increase in out of state lawyers admitted to practice here.

Monday at the bar: New York Times: Too Many Law Students, Too Few Legal Jobs

Too Many Law Students, Too Few Legal Jobs.

The Big Picture: Holscher's Hub: Whittier Harbor, Alaska

Holscher's Hub: Whittier Harbor, Alaska

Monday at the Bar: Courthouses of the West: Town of Jackson, Wyoming Municipal Bulding

Courthouses of the West: Town of Jackson, Wyoming Municipal Building:

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Lex Anteinternet: Lex Anteinternet: Lex Anteinternet: And the band p...

Lex Anteinternet: Lex Anteinternet: Lex Anteinternet: And the band p...: Today the price of oil actually declined below $40/bbl.  This is probably temporary, but how amazing.
And indeed it did prove to be temporary, but perhaps signalling how down in the dumps and perhaps permanent these price depressions may be (as in economic permanent, that is long term), a jump in the price to $45-$47/bbl was due to Saudi Arabia sending troops into northern Yemen in order to keep rebels there from consolidating their forces.  So it's regional instability in the Middle East, with a major oil producer, i.e., the one keeping the price low, that's caused the price to jump.

On the other hand, it turns out that Ecuador has been producing  oil below its cost.  It's oil has been selling for $30/bbl, and they only break even at $39/bbl.  Its crazy for them to sell it at that cost, but there must be some internal economic reason for them to keep selling it at a lost.  In most real free markets, they'd shut their wells in.  Perhaps they will, and indeed, they'll have to, resulting in taking that oil off the market for a time.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

G.K. Chesterton: "He believes in himself"

G.K. Chesterton: "He believes in himself": "THOROUGHLY worldly people never understand even the world; they rely altogether on a few cynical maxims which are not true. Once I rem...

WHEELS THAT WON THE WEST®: Giant Western Freight Wagon Built By M.P. Henderso...

WHEELS THAT WON THE WEST®: Giant Western Freight Wagon Built By M.P. Henderso...: Some things are hard to forget.  To that point, almost twenty years ago, I purchased a book by Don Berkebile entitled, Horse-Drawn Commerci...

 That is one freakin' huge wagon.

Fickle fame

Some recent news items have interestingly portrayed the fickle nature of American fame, and how shallow and vapid it is.  Interesting to watch in progress.

One aspect of American fame is that the same things and personages that raise somebody to fame stand eager to rip them to shreds when they get there.  It'd be easy to say, and potentially correct as well, that having participated in the creation of their image, they are set up for a fall if they don't meet that expectation, but it's a little more than that in my view.

A recent example of that would involve the entire Josh Duggar saga. Now, readers of this blog, and there are darned few, know that I'm not a fan of the Duggars and never have been.  I always thought them a bit odd, or perhaps more than a bit odd, and I've chaffed at the occasional comments that they represent "conservative Christianity".  No they don't, if "conservative" Christianity is meant to include the millions of conservative Christians in the Catholic and Orthodox churches (the majority, fwiw, of Christians on earth), or those conservative Christians in numerous other denominations. No, the Duggars were interesting because they clearly belonged to something akin to a tiny sect, given their dress and lifestyle, and that provided part, but only part, of the fascination.  The remainder of the fascination was based on their just having a big family, something that wasn't unusual in the world until very recently.

Now, the Duggars traded on that fascination and turned it into a television career.  I have a problem with that, although I guess I can't fully blame them. But then, they were perfectly set up to be ripped apart when things went bad, and they did, in a bizarre fashion, mostly due to the icky behavior of Josh Duggar, who turns out to have lived a fairly hypocritical life.

The point isn't to defend him. Registering on a cheaters website is downright icky, in my view (and says a lot about how bizarrely dependant on technology we've become. . . do we need to register to cheat on spouses. . . seriously?).  No, it's just that the same media that made such a big deal out of them, is now ripping them down, and for conduct that it pretty much celebrates in other people (the cheating that is, not the other stuff).

Indeed, it's weird how fickle fame is.  If a public figure of the Duggars type, or a politician, cheats on his spouse, he's pretty much doomed.  Hollywood stars, on the other hand, get a pass and it'll just be passed off as some sort of tragedy for everyone, including the cheater.  Very fickle.

In contrast to this, we  have people who seemingly trade on their good public images for ongoing fame, as they convert their prior lives into one of trouble.  Fame is not only fickle, it's apparently addictive.

We've been given a potential example of that in the story of Bruce Jenner.  Jenner was originally famous for being an Olympic athlete.  Even at that time, fwiw, it seems to me that people speculated on him having same gender attractions, but that's another story.  Later, long after most athletes would be a thing of distant memory, he became famous again for being the second spouse of a family that's become seemingly fasmous for its female members being famous.  Or perhaps appearing on the cover of magazines with very little clothing on.  Now, he has announced as have a gender issue and he's becoming a woman, if a person can changed genders, which our DNA says we may not.

That's been celebrated and he's been announced as some species of hero.  In the meantime, he was involved with a fatal car wreck and will be charged with manslaughter, apparently.  That gets less press.  Odd.

It's particularly odd if we recall that Tiger Woods had a car accident that resulted in endless press attention, in part because he was . . . cheating on his spouse.  

Now, both are athletes, so why does Woods get the negative attention and Jenner does not.  I guess there's the cheating angle again, but Woods never set himself up as a public paragon of virtue (nor did he do the opposite).  Indeed, Woods is a Buddhist and therefore he certainly isn't a Duggaresque figure, although I'll confess I have no idea what the Buddhist position on monogamy is.

For another example, we have the weird story of the constant "look at me" displays by a certain female singer that rose up in the Disney child star factory.  I have problems with that entity in and of itself, but the displays, rather than the bold acts of individualism they're proclaimed to be, are more in the nature of childish spoiled brat displays.  Yet they are both fascinated and gawked at.  A similar meltdown, much less spectacular, has been given to at least one other female actress who ended up in constant trouble with the law, and while on a break from court displayed what she had in the Ossified Freak's journal.  Not so celebrated.  Yet another is just regarded as a pathetic meltdown.  Why is one celebrated and the other pitied?  Who knows.  Perhaps the difference is the degree to which the meltdown is genuine.

Speaking of the Ossified Freak, a young woman who rose to some level of fame as being one of the "girlfriends" of that fellow, which presumably entails certain conduct and to which other titles would have attached in a prior era, went on to marry some sort of athlete and convert that marriage into a television show. Why anyone would care about this sufficiently to watch it is hard to explain.  Following that, that fellow fell into some sort of scandal and now the same female figure is a character on a "boot camp" for troubled marriages.  I'd think that a television camera following you around in these circumstances would be troublesome in and of itself, but there you have it.  But here too, why do we care about this, and why does this sort of weirdness lend itself to a televised following? 

Indeed, that sort of public voyeurism may have been at least partially pioneered when it turned out that a really boring married couple, but one that included a former actress known for her portrayal of a girl in a California upper class high school, took that turn when it turned out that the husband was cheating on her.  He didn't get the Duggar treatment, as after all, he's an actor.  But from there on out there were endless episodes of the wife blubbering.  Heck, they both were cheating on other spouses when they started their relationship, so, D'oh!  But apparently not.  Anyhow, why would a person attempt to trade on that misery for fame?

Perhaps the most famous celebrity meltdown of recent years was the sad tale of Michael Jackson, who rose to fame on his music (which I never liked) but who spent his later years sort of freakishly altering himself.  Very odd and sad, but while the press noted his sad decline, the fame had clearly precipitated it.  So, he essentially was on display as a circus star the entire time. Very odd indeed.

Mid Week at Work: Making Army Cooks

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The lonliness of the Pentax user. . . not even a "dummies" book.

The cold time

Fall has started here.

At night, temperatures are dropping way down.  It's in the 40s in the morning, which means its probably creeping into the 30s up here at night.

I used to love Fall and Spring temperatures, although I have some bad fall allergies.  But now I dread them.  It's not because I dread cold weather, I like it. Rather, it's because my wife is always hot.

I hate air conditioning and I never turn on the swamp cooler in our own house.  But this time of year, I absolutely freeze.  My wife believes it's hot, and throws open all the windows in the house at night.  I can hardly stand the arctic temperatures that result, but there's no explaining to a hot person that your cold. They just won't believe it.

Sunday Morning Scene: Churches of the West: St. Peter's Episcopal Church, Sheridan Wyoming

Churches of the West: St. Peter's Episcopal Church, Sheridan Wyoming:

This is St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Sheridan Wyoming.

I don't know anything about the history of this Church, although I would note that it has a very English appearance. At one time, there was a substantial English expatriate population in Sheridan, which may have influenced the design of this attractive church somewhat.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Recalling the WC-56/57

The World War Two vintage Dodge WC 56/57 series of vehicles are among my all time favorites.

I've certainly never owned one, and I haven't even seen one for sale. And outside of World War Two, they weren't around long.  They're just neat.  Based on the WC truck frame, they were bigger than the Jeep, but not too big. Almost the ideal size.

Which is what make this Jeep concept car so neat.

It's obviously a shout out to the WC 56.

I know that they're not going to make it. But I wish they would.


Friday, August 21, 2015

Lex Anteinternet: Lex Anteinternet: And the band played on. . .well ...

Today the price of oil actually declined below $40/bbl.  This is probably temporary, but how amazing.

Vehicle comparison and contrast

Model A, downtown Casper, which somebody has recently been using as a daily driver.

 SUV belonging to Jackson Hole, which notes that it runs on vegetable (I hate the diminutive "veggie") oil.  This vehicle must be a diesel. Why, exactly, burning vegetable oil is more "green" than diesel fuel, as both are oils, somewhat escapes me.  It must be because you don't drill for vegetable oil, or that its recycled vegetable oil.  Well, unless it was carrying a bunch of vegetable oil with it, or it gets really good mileage, it must be able to burn diesel too.

Some days when you read the news. . .

and things seem so uniformly grim, all bad news, and everything you are and like to do being pointed at in some negative way. . . it serves to remember that, at anyone time, the news is always bad.  But only prospectively.  Some bad news gets worse, but most doesn't, and most grim things never happen.

Random Snippets: Chesterton on nature

The main point of Christianity was this: that Nature is not our mother: Nature is our sister.

G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

Friday Farming: Lex Anteinternet: Lex Anteinternet: UW Foundation intent on cashing-...

The marketing brochure for the Y Cross Range:  Y Cross.

Pretty, ain't it?

And at $25,000,000, that's a pretty penny.  I'll bet that went to somebody serious about raising cattle for a living, eh?

We recently ran this item on the University of Wyoming and Colorado State University, football rivals but land sale allies:
Lex Anteinternet: Lex Anteinternet: UW Foundation intent on cashing-...: This past week the respective Wyoming and Colorado university benefactors (or actually the Colorado one, in what I read) of this substantial...
Following up on this, we now read the following on the on line Oil City News that the sale has been made. the News reports:

(Cheyenne, Wyo.) – The University of Wyoming Foundation and Colorado State University Research Foundation have completed the sale of the Y Cross Ranch, setting the stage for significant long-term funding of scholarships and internships for agriculture students.
This sale is explained in the following fashion:
“This is a very exciting development for students and faculty in agriculture and the related natural resources at UW,” says Frank Galey, dean of UW’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “The proceeds will provide them with tremendous opportunities and experiences in an industry of utmost importance to Wyoming and its people.”
UW will apparently make $10,000,000 on the sale, which will yield, it is claimed, $400,000 in annual returns.  CSU probably comes out about the same, of course.  Some real estate agent has a fair payday too, of course.

It should also be a warning to anyone who donates a specific item without a specific instruction on how it is to be used restricting the use of, or burdening if you will, the gift.  This problem is a fairly common one for donations, and it's common for the donor to assume that the recipient will keep and maintain the gift, when often the recipient has no obligation to.  In this case, the example is both spectacular, and very sad.  While the universities were found to have a legal right to do this, shame on them.  And for anyone thinking of giving either of them funds for anything, in any department, this ought to be recalled.

Of interest is this quote from former Wyoming Jim Geringer:
If the two universities could have been more effective with the money than the ranch, the donor would have sold the ranch herself, at a much better price, and given the cash directly to the universities. She saw higher value in what the ranch and its operations could pass along to students for many generations. Instead, the boards of trustees envisioned a bank account without a soul. Neither university should be run as a profit center. Rather, they should endow the passing of the heritage and values of what makes our two states unique. For us I say. Wyoming is what America was – and what America ought to be. So – trustees: you violated your very title. Trust is never taken. Only you can give it away. And you did. In biblical terms, you sold it for a mess of pottage.
Also of interest is this recent, pre sale, quote by one of trustees of one of the two universities' foundations:
We have always taken our commitment to stewardship very seriously, and we will continue to do so by marketing the ranch for sale in a deliberative and transparent process open to all potential buyers for an outcome that will be a tremendous benefit to students at both institutions"
I can't say that the sale hasn't been transparent, but according to the news reports the universities were not disclosing the identify of the purchaser. According to an informal organization opposing the sale, the purchaser is a Press L III, LLC.  A net search doesn't reveal a "Press L III, LLC" as having a net presence, and it isn't a registered Wyoming entity with the Wyoming Secretary of State. It'll be interesting to see what this outfit intends to do with this large block of Wyoming ranch land and if that squares with their role as a "steward".  I have grave concerns about this, but we will see.

Donors, beware.  UW, shame on you.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Slaves and Objects

I've run a series of items recently that have been probably somewhat calculated to offend. Well, as some say, if you aren't offending somebody with your commentary, you are probably doing no good.

The first of these would be the one that dealt with the decline in the standard of dress.  The second one had to do with how women are increasingly treated like objects.  Whether these topics offend or not, they apparently do interest people, as the the dress story, for example, had way more hits in a day than most of my entries here every have, ever.  It isn't in the top ten list yet, but if the trend continues, it might make it.

The reason that some might find these offensive is that people don't like to be told what to wear, they don't like being told how to behave, they don't like being told that something they're doing may be having a negative impact on others, and people generally don't like bad news if they're somehow participating in it.  I haven't received any negative comments so far, but most people don't comment anyhow.

Okay, so that's how I probably offered offense.

Now, I'll increase the offense, going back specifically to my comments on viewing women as objects, and how marketing and magazines have caused us to do that.  I'm going to relate that behavior as being in the same category as what ISIL is doing to women in Iraq and Syria.

And what is that?

Well, mass assault and the most primitive horrific slavery imaginable.  Field hands in the Old South were subjected to horrors no less unimaginable to what is happening to non Muslim women in those suffering lands.

Now, no doubt, up in arms, people are saying "are you saying that's the same thing as my buying Old Ossified Freak's Rag?

No, I'm not, but I'm saying that those rags swim in the same pool.  Maybe in the shallow end, but in the same pool nonetheless.

Hugh Ossified Freak's genius in taking what was clearly trash and marketing it as something that should be a male dominated norm managed basically to enormously expand the over the tracks part of the mental city, so that all girls ended up living there to some extent.  Prior to the publication, there were women in the occupation of vending their services, but over time, Hugh put them all there, except even the market place aspect of that exchange disappeared, and it became an expectation, wanted or not.  When that occurs, the value indeed is gone, and we've seen the results.  Women not only have been personally objectified in this fashion, but now their image is everywhere, offering the same, in support of the sale of everything.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his adherents share that view, except that their view of their right of expectation is modified to include only non Muslim women.  They're acting physically on their view, over thousands of non Muslim women in the region, and as we now know al-Baghdadi himself did so with American Kayla Mueller. The Mueller story is tragic in the extreme, but it's shared by numerous nameless women and girls who have been reduced to slavery by their ISIL masters.

The common thread here is how these women are viewed.  In spite of its claims to later be in the forefront of "liberation" of women, Hugh's rag held them out, and still holds them out, as toys for men.  Any man who bought the magazines was entitled to view the women featured in them in the same physical fashion that ISIL's combatants view non Muslim women.  Indeed, the secular Hugh was offering a paper variant of what the religious ISIL combatants feel that they will gain in the next world, and endless supply of exactly what's portrayed in the magazines.  Indeed, a critical element of those magazines is that their portrayal, at least at first, did not portray the subjects as fallen, as prior magazines had, but rather the opposite. Special, in more ways than one, just for you.  

The sole real distinction, therefore, is that the creepy ossified purveyor of the print version of this view in the United States, and now around the globe, takes a violently secular view of things.  He's hedonistic and in it for right now, and his justification for the objectification is accordingly not only thin, but darned near non existent.  It's the most primitive justification imaginable, "I'm a man and I get what I want."  Al-Baghdadi and his adherents, however, justify their violence in this area upon the Koran, which, no matter what its apologist may claim, specifically allows the campaigning Islamic fighter to do just what they're doing, take slaves and do what you will with them.

Now, I'm not claiming, anywhere, that the majority of people who have shoved cash at Hugh all these years have done something intentionally to enslave women. But I am saying that the impact of it is wrong and it serves to reduce them to objects.  I'm also not saying that the majority of Muslims now, or at any time, have held this view about assault. Indeed, I'm confident that even in the periodic episodes of violent Islamic expansion, most don't.  But I am saying that this stuff is going on right now, and that its symptomatic of a view of women that's simply intolerable in this or any other age.  And, by extension, if this sort of conduct bothers a person, they ought to act up on that, whatever that means for them personally.

Lex Anteinternet: And the band played on. . .well maybe not so much

Earlier this week we ran this:
Lex Anteinternet: And the band played on: In Saturday's Tribune an article appeared noting, again, the loss of over 3,000 oil industry jobs in Wyoming, and a 50% reduction i...
Yesterday, however, Governor Mead sang a different tune, and one that wasn't nearly so rosy.  We have to given him credit for that.

Mead, in a press conference flaty stated that Wyoming is entering a "difficult period" and that the State may need to consider tapping into its "rainy day" funds. For those who might not be aware of what those are, they're funds that the state specifically puts aside for stressed times.

Governors do not, to my recollection, ever suggest this. That's truly a dramatic statement for a sitting Governor, indicating just how dire the state's condition may be.  That Mead would suggest considering it speaks very much in his favor, as this has tended to be something that simply isn't discussed.  Reactions to the Governor's speech have been generally favorable, although there's no present support for actually tapping into the funds.  Mead, of course, wasn't requesting to do so right now, only indicating that it might become necessary.

Today In Wyoming's History: August 18. You can take the chicken out of the town. . .

Today In Wyoming's History: August 18:

1813         Battle of the Medina River at which Royalist forces defeat Mexican-American Republican Guetierrez-Magee Expedition south of Sa...


2015  Casper's city counsel votes to allow chickens to be kept in the city, by a vote of seven to one.

Random Snippets: Red sky in the morning

Red sky in the morning, sailor take warning.
Red sky at night, sailor's delight.

Seafarer's adage.

Like a red morn that ever yet betokened, Wreck to the seaman, tempest to the field, Sorrow to the shepherds, woe unto the birds, Gusts and foul flaws to herdmen and to herds.

Shakespeare,  Venus and Adonis

The Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to put him to the test they asked if he would show them a sign from heaven.  He replied, 'In the evening you say, "It will be fine; there's a red sky," and in the morning, "Stormy weather today; the sky is red and overcast." You know how to read the face of the sky, but you cannot read the signs of the times.

Matthew, Chapter 16, Versus 2 through 3.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Big Careers. Monetary Nomads

I went to a deposition the other day at which, upon its conclusion, the other lawyer, whom I really don't know, told me about what all of his adult children were doing career wise.  He was obviously very proud, and had reason to be. They all had advanced degrees or were working on them, and they were all in high paying careers. Even the one who was working on an advanced degree still was presently in a high paying career, and no doubt set for an even higher paying one.

Now, this deposition took place in a law office in a Wyoming city, the largest of which is still only a mid sized, at best, Mid Western city.  I note this as its an interesting feature of Wyoming life, and perhaps of American life in general, that people are from somewhere, but of nowhere. And in the West and Midwest, it seems a common progression is from lower middle class, to professional class, to "you have got to get out of here and make a big career" class.  That strikes me as odd.

Perhaps it strikes me as odd as I'm one of that collection of Wyoming natives, not uncommon  here, who has that attitude expressed in the film variant of Doctor Zhivago, in response to the comment by Komarovsky to Laura when Zhivago is late leaving for the train out that "He'll never leave Russia".  Zhivago, we're made to understand, is so Russian, and loves Russia so deeply, indeed is so much apart of Russia, that he can't leave it.  A section of Wyomingites are like that, and I'd put myself in that category.  When I was young and contemplating careers, although I did ponder a career in the Army, I never really considered anything that would have separated me from Wyoming permanently or at least, given economic realities (which I was more realistic about back then, than I am now), which would have separated me from the greater Rocky Mountain Region.  I would not have even considered moving to Denver, which is a big city in the Rocky Mountain Region.  I guess that's just a pronounced part of my character.

As I've grown older, and of course as I've worked for what is now a very long time as a lawyer, I've traveled a lot.  That's something I was frankly very much unaware that lawyers did. This year alone I've been to Toronto, Tampa, Santa Fe, Anchorage, Denver and other distant localities.  There's more travel to come.  But in spite of that, my view hasn't really changed.  Indeed, I feel a lot like the guy who runs the Old Picture of the Day blog, where he notes:
I grew up in West Texas, and could not wait to get away. I got away, and went to the University of Texas, and then on to Stanford. I saw the world, and decided what I really wanted was to be in West Texas. So here I am, right back where I started. I had it all, and found it was not that great.
I'm not quite that jaded.  But I never wanted to get away either, and I can't say that I've ever "had it all".  I can say that I haven't gone far from where I started.  My observation here is, however, that I'm not sure why so many do and why that's a measure of success, unless a person measures success only in money, which is a very shallow measuring glass.

Now, I can understand why some do, as some people's passion, vocation, avocation, or at least their interest, mandate that. If a person loves, for example, high finance, they're gong to a location where you can do that sort of thing.  I've known people who loved military life, and indeed as noted I contemplated such a career at one time, and of course that means going where you are sent, and always has.  A person can given any number of such examples.

But the one I really don't quite grasp is the one in which people have followed a dollar sign career, and let them take them wherever.  Indeed, I don't quite understand why some people seemingly undertake no further analysis than that.  It's quite common.  I've met lots of people who move from one large city to another, due to their career, and its quite clear that only the dollar aspect of matters to them.  They form weak attachments to everyone and everything, except their pay.  And I've met more than one person, and this is common with Wyoming ex-pats, who leave to pursue an education, get a job, and then work in big cities, only to return when their career is over and they are old, claiming they missed the state the entire time.  Well, then, why did you leave? And if that thing was so important to you, should you have come back?

The worst examples I find are when people move some place which is nearly incomprehensible to grasp the attraction to.  In some instances, I find some people stating that "I hate this city, but . . . ".  But what?  I love money, and I could live anywhere for that?  I guess.  I fairly recently had a conversation with a very successful, by monetary standards, lawyer who told me about his youth in the Mid West, how he went to our state frequently, but as his career was based in a Gigantic City Elsewhere, which he did not like, he must stay there. Thirty to Forty years of commitment based, apparently, on cash.  He sounded depressed about it.

Some of this must absolutely be me.  And I worry about it. I'm probably a bad example to my kids, as I just don't think some of these worldly achievements mean very much.  In that fashion, I guess, I'm more in tune with the Gen Xers than the Boomers.  But then that's how my father was too.

This isn't, I should note, an argument for poverty.  When I take the depositions of men who came up from Chihuahua to work in the oilfields, I know why they came and understand it.  Rather, however, it's the seeming belief, so common in American life, that upwards mobility means that some generation must live in a series of huge cities and base their value on a paycheck that I don't grasp.  It seems hollow to me.

Hilaire Belloc: Land-Tenure in the Christian Era

Hilaire Belloc: Land-Tenure in the Christian Era: THE way in which land has been held or owned during the nineteen hundred years which have seen in Europe the rise and establishment of the C...

Mid Week At Work: British soldiers gathering oats, 1917

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Returning Women to the 1st Century BC

 A slave girl in holiday attire, Chinatown, San Francisco
 Chinese slave girl, early 20th Century, in San Francisco.  Slavery was long abolished at this point, but cultural slavery is a harder thing to crack.

And no, I don't mean the recent news of the horrors being perpetrated by ISIL, although I should comment on those somewhere in this blog.

Rather, I recently posted an item on standards of dress, and when I did that, I briefly touched on this topic. While I'm sure that there are those who will vehemently disagree with me, after having observed it for some time, I'm fairly convinced of the following. The result of what started off as an effort to "liberate" standards to the benefit of women has, in the Western World, returned them to the status they were in during the 1st Century BC, chattel for men.

Sound radical, I suppose it is, but that's what's happened, to some degree. 

I think in part the reason for that is that it's become, in modern times, and by that I generally mean anything after 1900 or so, a standard accepted theses that the bounds of "liberty" are ever expanding to everyone's benefit. Well, they quit doing that for women during the last 40 years, and that's a bad thing. To add to it, however, the thesis of ever expanding beneficial liberty was flawed to start with.

That thesis essentially is grounded in a relativistic thesis that all standards are bad and are simply negative social constructs.  In the case of women, the the assault on them came from the supposed concept, or at least the stated one, that they were shackled to roles determined by males, and that by liberating them from them, they'd achieve fulfillment.

That thesis was pretty flawed in the first instance.  Men and women are more than a little "shackled" by what is now an equally unpopular idea, biology, and the history of the last 70 years has shown that.  Men and women remain, at the end of the day, men and women, and much about what we want in life is determined by that.  We were evolved in a certain fashion, and while we're rational scientist intelligent animals, we're still a product of our early nature.  We can act contrary to it, but the drive to do what we were evolved to do will always be there, and just as a tiger wants to be in the jungle, not in a cage, those drives will make us unhappy if we try to excessively suppress them.

Any social change that ignores basic evolution and biology is doomed to produce a bad result, at least in part, and likewise any such change that is ignorant of real conditions and their history is going to be dangerously based on false premises. That's what's happened here, so that's what we'll start with.

It's popular to present the theory that, in the 1970s, a Women's Liberation movement got women out of the home and (back) into work.  That's partially correct, as we'll see. But added to that is the idea that women were being kept down  by Victorian social standards that were basically designed to repress them, and everything about those standards, from a woman's role in marriage, to their role in work, to their personal conduct, was sort of a result of a conspiracy by men, probably upper class men, but men in general. That's where the theory went off the rails, and in some ways that's created the very real problems that women face today, including their return to objectification.

We've written on this history before, and as that post was quite extensive, we'll just refer to it here. Suffice it to say, we feel that the entry of women and the increasing equality of women in the workplace is an economic and technological story, and that the supposed societal element to it was merely following that, not leading it at all.  Like we said at the time, it was Maytag, not World War Two, that took women out of the home and into the workplace.

Rosie the Riveter, in popular myth she blazoned the trail out of the home and into the office.  But that trial had already been taken by her mother during World War One.

 The Women's Land Army.  Organizations like this put women in the role of the farmer in the US, UK, Canada and France during World War One.  They were also in the factories during the war, and even on the front in the form of nurses.  Among the Western Allies the roles open to them in labor were about as broad as they were during World War Two, although this was less the case with military roles, save for Imperial Russia which saw the symbolic deployment of the Women's Battalion of Death just before the imperial regime collapsed.

So lets just skip to the 1950s and on.

We know that by the 1950s, it was no longer economically necessary to have the division of labor that had existed prior to that time.  Indeed, technologically, that division wouldn't have been necessary in the 1930s, but the Great Depression retarded the inevitable and kept a lot of technologies of all kind from entering into use. So when the changes came on, they came on pretty fast, as it was basically the case that 20 years of very real technological change, accelerated by the advance of technology and its deployment during World War Two, came on all at one.  That would have been bound to be disruptive to some extent.

But the 1950s were not, in any event, the really conservative Happy Days type of society that television has popularized. Societally, after the foment of the 1920s and the extensive political and societal liberalization caused by the Great Depression and World War Two, the country was actually much more politically and societally liberal than it is now typically remembered.  A whole host of conditions therefore combined to put women into work, and into college.  This isn't to say that everything changed overnight, which is never true.  But, we can say that society has acclimated to having women in the workplace, and since about 1920 or so, advances in domestic machinery essentially necessitated a redeployment of the female demographic into a different role in labor.

So far, so good, right? Well, basically yes.  In economic terms, the domestic machinery revolution that occurred in the first half of the 20th Century meant that women didn't have to occupy a domestic role if they didn't want to, and coincidentally made it easier for men and women to live singly, something that had heretofore been pretty difficult.

So, given that, we can imagine a progression from 1950 forward with women entering the workplace relatively seamlessly.  And, that's been part of the story.  Indeed, a bigger part of that story would tend to be that the liberal movements of the late 60s and 1970s may very well have had little to do with what was an economically driven process in any event  And it would appear clear that, for the most part, most women never fully accepted the thesis that the Women's Liberation movement advanced on a truly genderless society (a thesis which was interestingly very close to Marxist social thought from the teens forward, in theory but not practice).  So, what's my point.

Well, as this occurred, and wrapped up in it to an extent, an anti female social movement based upon economic gain and a pharmaceutical revolution came at the same time, decaying what had been a social and economic evolution, and confusing people on all of it.

Here too, we'll jump back and go forward through these things.

I"m going to be a bit vague on some of these details, intentionally, from here on out, as I don't want to popularize what I'm condemning.   If that makes it a bit confusing, and I don't think it will, well oh well.

The first element of this was the introduction of a publication that was slickly marketed.

Magazines featuring photographs of women are about as old as magazines. But starting in the very early 1950s, a clever fellow working for one of the older magazines conceived of a new marketing strategy for them.

Prior to this period, there had been such rags, but they were sort of gutter marketed. That is, they knew what they were, and the market to which they were pitching. Vice was part of their appeal. During World War Two, however, that altered a bit as one of the magazines that existed at that period improved its production values, and another came out marketed directly to soldiers.  Those elevated the standards of the magazines a bit. At the same time, the removal of millions of young men from their homes and the influence of their communities operated to lower moral standards anyhow, and that found its expression, among other things, in the exaggerated illustrations of women on one thing or another, principally aircraft (you don't go around painting bright images on combat vehicles, as a rule, as you don't want to draw attention to them if at all possible).  Coincident with that, that illustration style became popular in the above mentioned media, making the next step that was taken perhaps not as revolutionary as some have suggested.

Indeed, it definitely wasn't as revolutionary, as the common claim is that this fellow invented the medium, which simply isn't true at all.  Rather, the medium existed and had changed, but he perceived that and put out a new publican which was very slickly marketed.

The really slick part of the marketing aspect of it, more than anything else, is that it presented an image which suggested that a man didn't need to hide the magazine, and that this represented the life of the affluent male.  Very clearly part of that, the affluent male could have as many (top heavy) women as he wanted, without committing to them at all, and without fearing that they'd get pregnant or have demands.

This is, we'd note, completely contrary to the later myth about the publication, because the gist of it was massively anti woman.  In later years, following the 1960s really, the publication would claim that it was in the forefront of the liberation of women because, it claimed, it had liberated them to act up their desires.  Complete bull.  The entire publication was (and remains) entirely male-centric and male self centered. Women don't count in the calculation at all, are only toys.  The women in the earlier rags weren't really toys, but rather were fallen, something else entirely.

The publication became a huge hit, but it didn't really create a real revolution in and of itself, and it never would, contrary to what has otherwise been claimed by it. Rather, it's one piece in the overall puzzle.  It was corrosive, but not sufficiently corrosive to corrode things completely on its own.

What assisted that was the introduction of pharmaceuticals that operated to allow the conduct urged by the publication in the manner in which the publication portrayed it, without potential immediate biological consequence.  That came on and really did change the calculations, and it brought women over, to an increasing degree, to the conduct that men like the now ossified freaky publisher urged.

Now, I know that this sounds like a moral text, and it doesn't really intend to be.  A person could take this from there, but that's now what we'll do, rather, we play this story's history out in another direction.

As the conduct became more and more common, what also became more and more common is the portrayal of women in this fashion. Now its epidemic.  We've seen piles of advances for women in society, but we now also see young women who advertise themselves as nothing other than object. They've effectively reduced themselves, in some instances, to a class which hasn't existed in our society ever, the object.

This is an indescribably bad development.  No human being should be an object.  Most of us have to sell our labor, but nobody should have to sell themselves.  But some young women effectively act as if they believe they have to, and the massive societal message is that they do.  And as long as some are, they all will be to some extent.  Nobody should be an object, and nobody should want to be one.

Monday, August 17, 2015

And the band played on

In Saturday's Tribune an article appeared noting, again, the loss of over 3,000 oil industry jobs in Wyoming, and a 50% reduction in certain mineral revenues.


It also noted that the price of oil had declined now to about $40/bbl.  It's now so low, that the Administration is going to authorize trading heavy crude for light crude, with Mexico, which should allow both nations to refine the product more easily.  The thought there, apparently, is that it would reduce unrefined product and get stuff moving, thereby helping to reduce a huge surplus of the product that now exists.

Anyhow, the state economist interviewed noted that, while we are now definitely feeling the impact beyond the oil industry itself (the partial focus of the story), things were not going to get worse.

Oh really?

It's interesting how this type of thinking is so common whenever we experience these downturns, which are sufficiently distant from each other that we truly forget the last time.  Why wouldn't things get worse?  We're just beginning to feel the impact beyond the oil industry itself, coal appears to have declining fortunes and it was pretty ill to start with, revenues to the state from coal, the major source of state funding, is going way down.  Oh, it can get worse.

Indeed, while I basically agree that the price is unlikely to decline further, it sure could.  It had appeared to stabilize at about $50/bbl a couple of months ago, but it's back down.  The deal with Mexico would not really appear to be well calculated to me to address this problem, as all it should really do is aid in the ease of refining of oil.  Opening up oil to export from the United States, which the industry has been pushing for, might, but it might not as well.  And of course the impact of Iranian oil getting an increased share of the market, and the likely Saudi reaction, is hugely problematic.

It's not that I'm rejoicing about this, not at all.  But locally, we tend to really repeat history in this area, which I think those in industry are well aware of, but seemingly others are not.  If the price stabilizes where it is, it'll be a long term trend we'll have to adjust around.  If it doesn't, and continues to go down, things will get worse.  And even if it stabilizes at the present price, or goes back up to around $50/bbl, the impact on other sectors of the economy will still be coming on for several months.

Finally, we have to recall that a story like this doesn't play out the same where everywhere that it does here.  Low oil prices mean low prices at the pump, and indeed driving into town yesterday afternoon I noticed that diesel fuel had dropped below gasoline in price for the first time here in at least a decade.  Not too many people anywhere complain about dropping prices, and dropping fuel prices keep the lid on inflation.  In an era when people's wages haven't been rising, on a national basis, for about 20 years, that's not going to be unwelcome new.  Here, when we complain about this situation we're really complaining to ourselves, as there's very little national sympathy for a drop in oil prices.  It may worry some economic professionals and, ironically given local views, environmentalist, but that's about it.

Today In Wyoming's History: The New (upcoming) $10.00 Bill and Esther Hobart M...

Today In Wyoming's History: The New (upcoming) $10.00 Bill and Esther Hobart M...: The new $10.00 bill, design yet to be announced, will feature the image of a woman on it for the first time since 1896.  If you've seen...

The Big Picture: Holscher's Hub: The view from above Homer, Alaska

Holscher's Hub: The view from above Homer, Alaska

Field of Snarks. The juvenile commentary on the ABA site.

Lawyers are supposed to be analytical and intelligent.

Perhaps we are, but anyone who ever read the commentary that the weekly ABA update receives on its website would have to conclude that the average literacy rate of lawyers approaches that of stone aged humans and the maturity level would make most junior high school classes look like Ivy League graduate school classes in comparison.

It's snarky.

And mean.

And sort of dumb.

I suppose that's inevitable, but it certainly says something about the nature of anonymous communication in age of the internet, and about how one of the learned professions isn't coming across as all that learned.  Juvenile would be a better characterization.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Sunday Morning Scene: Churches of the West: St. Ignatius Loyola Roman Catholic Church, Denver ...

Churches of the West: St. Ignatius Loyala Roman Catholic Church, Denver ...

This church located in a busy section of Denver, quite near City Park, is St. Ignatius Loyola Roman Catholic Church. A school by that name, which it supports, is next door.

The church was completed in 1924 and is a Jesuit church.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The massively declined standard of dress (and does it matter?)

This blog notes, as we've stated many times before, changes over history. Specifically, it supposedly looks at the 1890 to about 1920 time frame, but we also frankly hardly ever stick to that.  Oh well.

Business men (lawyers) in the early 20th Century. These men aren't dressed up, they would have been dressed in this fashion every day.  Given the boater style hat worn by the man on the left, this photograph must have been taken in summer.

A lot of times the observations that take place here are based on what we can observe in historic documents and photographs. But on this topic, which I just posted on in a way in a post on school clothing standards, and which I've flat out posted on before, I've actually observed a change, and I'm really starting to observe in an ever increasing fashion now.  As I noted in that post, the clothing policy that's in place now, was the same on in place 40 years ago. Having said that, public standards of dress really have changed, and changed a very great deal.

On that, I'll note that it's one thing to say that we can look at photos of the past, which we can, and note that clothing standards have declined.  It's another to be able to say that you personally recall it.  And its something else to say both.

This is brought on, really, as I've been in a lot of airports recently, although I've also been noticing it in other contexts as well.  If there's a place that's better suited to observe a cross section of Americans than the airport, I don't know what it is.  At the airport, and more specifically a big city airport, people of every class and station are present. And man, have our dress standards declined.

Denver International Airport.  If a person enjoyed people watching (which isn't my favorite thing to do), this would be a good place to do it.

I'm not anywhere near old enough to be able to recall an era when airline passengers wore suit and tie, and the equivalent for women, but that has been something that's been widely observed.  I've seen that explained on the basis that air travel was special, and people accordingly dress up.

 Sailor boarding Western Airlines C-46 in the early 1950s, from the Casper International Airport.

I don't believe it.  They dressed up for the train and bus too. 

Railroad yards, Kearney, Nebraska. Overland train passengers go back to their cars after ten minute train stop on trip between San Francisco and Chicago
 Cross country train passengers, on rest break, Kearney Nebraska, 1944

 People were, quite frankly, just better dressed, and everywhere.

In many instances, they were more formally dressed.  Men clearly wore suit and tie much more often than they do now, well into the 20th Century. "Business attire" was suit and tie.  Now, that is not the case and the term is probably unknown to many. Men's suits have almost become relegated to a very narrow set of occupations and occasions, and even with them its declining.  I've attended a mediation, for example, fairly recently where one of the attending attorneys did not wear suit and tie, and was dressed in "business casual". Not all that long ago that would have been simply unthinkable.  For that matter, we used to always wear at least a tie in a deposition but now, more often than not, that's not the case.  I went to one deposition fairly recently where one of the attorneys was wearing sandals, something that just would not have occurred a decade ago.

 Secretary (who remain among the best dressed office workers) in the 1940s.

It isn't just lawyers, of course, who wore business suits.  The number of men who wore suits well into the 1950s, every day, is hard to grasp by modern standards.  Men who worked in offices wore suits, and many others who worked indoors, or just worked in cities, did as well.  Almost every professional wore a suit every day, but then so did men who had "business" positions.  Suit and tie, or at least coat and tie, were the norm.

Typical office, 1902.   The female secretary would have actually been somewhat unusual at this time.

This standard of dress for the employed adult remained common all the way through the 1950s, and began to decline during the 1960s.  Probably the cultural revolution that commenced about that time had a large influence, and it actually influenced business wear at the time, which didn't go away, but did start to modify. Still, into the 1970s I can distinctly recall professionals wearing ties every day. By the 1980s, some classes of them, such as doctors and dentists, no longer did.

When I started practicing law in 1990 suits and ties were already not common for most office workers most places.  That era had passed. But they were frequently seen being worn by lawyers.  They still are, but that's because lawyers, along with a very few other professions, still have coat and tie or at least suit and tie as parts of their "uniform".  But a big change has occurred even here.  As noted above, when I started out, not only would you see them frequently in the office, and worn everyday by older lawyers, you'd always see them in depositions.  Now, that's not the case.  I've attended a fair number of depositions recently in which the lawyers at them were wearing blue jeans and dress shirts, but no ties. Something that would never have occurred in the past.  I still normally wear a tie to a deposition, and except when its hot, I'll often wear one every day.  Maybe that's a call back to the old standard of professionalism, or the old uniform, or maybe that's just because I'm old.

I will say that by and large women in offices are much more routinely nicely dressed than men. Their "uniform" was always more vague, most men couldn't describe it, and perhaps that's allowed them somehow to retain more professional dress.  Anyhow, generally they are more professionally dressed. 

This doesn't men that men in offices are slovenly, but it does mean that as a rule we're now fairly casual.  Jeans and semi dress shirts are the common business attire in many places now, but not all.  In big cities, at least, the uniforms seems to hang on to a much greater degree in professional offices.  But, in some ways, the old business standard is now really only common among lawyers, real estate agents, and newscasters.  

It's not that I'm any different, however.  I'll note that while I'll often wear khaki trousers, button down shirt, and tie, I too wear jeans a lot more than I used to.  So perhaps even in noting this, I'm somewhat hypocritical.

It's not just that dress is more casual, however, but it's less real, in some ways, or odder, or perhaps more in the nature of an attempted personal statement than every before.  Men and women rarely dressed in a fanciful manner to the extent they do now.  Some did, to be sure. Some occupations have always worn very distinctive and somewhat ornamental clothing, and starting in the 1920s the young started to definitely wear clothing that tended to mark them out from their elders.   In earlier years, for that matter, "dandies" were young men who dressed fancifully, and were noted for it.  The 1920s saw flapper attire, for example, and raccoon skin coats.  So the trend, perhaps, dates back at least that far, if not further, but it's of a bit different character somehow.

 Mary LaFollette, daughter of Senator LaFollette, wearing a raccoon coat at at time when they were associated with avant guarde youth for some reason.  Ms. LaFollette would have been in her 30s at the time this photo was taken, making her choice of coat unusual.

Flapper, 1922, in winter (note the rubber boots).

Zoot suiters dancing, 1940s. The Zoot Suit exaggerated the features of the business suit, almost recalling the 19th Century frock coat.  Bigger, baggier, and bigger overall, they were considered sort of offensive to some, for some reason.  The uniform of rebellion in the late 1930s, the style was particularly associated with blacks and Hispanics at the time, which might be why white teens affecting the look were regarded as rebellious. The style has hung on to a small extent in some Pacific Coast Hispanic communities.

A full blown suspension of any concept of standard dress, which is sort of what we're seeing, is actually very recent, however.  There was prior youthful clothing affectation, but in order to actually dress to shock, there has to be some standard to measure against. That's increasingly no longer the case. At the airport, once again, it's clear that there are no standards, well actually very few standards, apply to Americans in dress at all.

At the Denver International Airport this past week I observed all manners of dress, from very formal, to extremely sloppy.  Some men were dressed in suits, probably headed to meetings or to court. Oilfield workers in the uniforms of their trade.  Many men and women in t-shirts and jeans.  Some young men seeking to show their avant guard status in the uniform of their avant guard class, impossibly tight jeans, shirt, and stubble. And women in all matters of dress from the 19th Century down to nearly no dress at all.

And that brings up a question.

Does that matter?

Well, it might.

Casual is one thing, and we've seen that around for quite awhile. But all clothing sends some sort of message, and the question therefore would become is casual appropriate for everything, and is what we're now seeing something a bit beyond casual. Let's look at the second question first.

Going back to the airport, I was walking down a concourse when, going the other way, I observed a young woman struggling with a bag.  I don't know her age, and I'm frankly not very good at judging the age of young people.  If pressed, I'd guess that she was maybe 17, which given my general inability in this area, means that she was probably at least 16 and perhaps 22.  Who knows.  Although here too, that makes a difference.

It makes a difference as her dress was, quite frankly, indecent.  It would have been appropriate for a profession in which she was offering her wares for sale, which again is to say indecent, but it certainly wasn't decent for being in common company such as getting on an airplane.  I was, quite frankly, embarrassed for her, which tends to be the reaction of somebody who knows that the actual person isn't embarrassed themselves, but sure should be.  If she was 17, her parents shouldn't have let her out of the house dressed as she was.  If she wasn't, her parents should be ashamed on how things are seemingly turning out. So should she.

But, the remarkable thing is that this is no longer remarkable.  It's hard to get through DIA without running into some woman who appears to be on display.  And it's also hard to get through DIA without running into a younger male who is also on display, which at least for men of my generations is also an embarrassing thing to see.

For that matter, however, it's been equally embarrassing to go by any of the local middle schools in recent years, dropping kids off, and having to witness what some very young teens manage to get out of the house wearing.  Not all by any means, but enough to notice. What are their parents thinking?  It actually seems to be better by the time they get to high school, having perhaps wised up a bit in the intervening couple of years.

Now, I don't want to suggest that every single woman in DIA, or anywhere else, is dressed in this fashion.  Not at all.  On the same trip there were women looking for a plane that were dressed in the type of dress that Amish or Hutterite women dress in.  So you see everything.  But the change here isn't so much that we see them, as we have come to accept that young women can appear anywhere in what would have been regarded as indecent, and young men can appear in clothing that would have been regarded as perhaps more suitable for young women, not all that long ago. Quite a change.

On the women, and I'll expound on this separately, the problem is that this really is an offense to their dignity.  Once on display, they're an object, and I can't imagine why anyone would want to be regarded in that fashion.  The clothing goes from "look at me", to offering something for nothing.  And by doing that, they're no longer going to be judged for anything else, not even really their looks, but rather in what they suggest about their conduct. And as its common, it also suggests that's common conduct.  Not a good thing at all.

Well, does anyone care at all, if it does matter?

This is a topic that gets a surprising amount of discussion in some quarters, although perhaps not in the quarters which it should.  For one thing, its a surprisingly common topic on certain sites where religious conservatives hang out, as some there feel that a certain level of dress is appropriate at least in Church.  On one such site, for example, a quote from St. Francis de Sales was recently posted, in which he noted, regarding appropriate dress in general, the following.
St. Paul expresses his desire that all Christian women should wear “modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety;”—and for that matter he certainly meant that men should do so likewise.
Now, modesty in dress and its appearances depends upon the quality, the fashion and the cleanliness thereof. As to cleanliness, that should be uniform, and we should never, if possible, let any part of our dress be soiled or stained. External seemliness is a sort of indication of inward good order, and God requires those who minister at His Altar, or minister in holy things, to be attentive in respect of personal cleanliness.
As to the quality and fashion of clothes, modesty in these points must depend upon various circumstances, age, season, condition, the society we move in, and the special occasion. Most people dress better on a high festival than at other times; in Lent, or other penitential seasons, they lay aside all gay apparel; at a wedding they wear wedding garments, at a funeral, mourning garb; and at a king’s court the dress which would be unsuitable at home is suitable.
Always be neat, do not ever permit any disorder or untidiness about you. There is a certain disrespect to those with whom you mix in slovenly dress; but at the same time avoid all vanity, peculiarity, and fancifulness. As far as may be, keep to what is simple and unpretending–such dress is the best adornment of beauty and the best excuse for ugliness.
St. Peter bids women not to be over particular in dressing their hair. Every one despises a man as effeminate who lowers himself by such things, and we count a vain woman as wanting in modesty, or at all events what she has becomes smothered among her trinkets and furbelows. They say that they mean no harm, but I should reply that the devil will contrive to get some harm out of it all.
For my own part I should like my devout man or woman to be the best dressed person in the company, but the least fine or splendid, and adorned, as St. Peter says, with “the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit.” St. Louis said that the right thing is for every one to dress according to his position, so that good and sensible people should not be able to say they are over-dressed, or younger gayer ones that they are under-dressed. But if these last are not satisfied with what is modest and seemly, they must be content with the approbation of the elders.
While I suppose that some could take exception with some of this, all in all its pretty good advice and it applies in the secular world as well, which may be why dress is also a topic that shows up on certain male "manliness" sites.  And no wonder.  One of the odd trends in dress over the past seventy years is that male dress, among youth, trended towards being exaggerated blue collar in the 1950s, and then just counter culture in the 60s, to both in the 70s and 80s, but then sort of slowly slid towards the effeminate in the 1990s.  Male dress among the hip and cool is much more effeminate now than it was in prior decades, although that's a trend that's happened in some past eras as well.  No doubt there's a reason for it, but I don't know (or even really care much), what it is, other that that if a guy has to put a lot of work into looking a sort of femaleish disheveled, they have too much time on their hands.  Oddly, at the same time, there's been no trend for women to look more feminine, although there's definitely been a trend encouraging them to put themselves more on display, which benefits only men really, and not women at all.  Balancing it out on the male end, a bit, there's now a counter trend in the "hipster" category where men dress sort of lumberjack like and grow their beards out Russian Old Believer like.  I actually kind of like the trend.

I should note, in all of this, that I probably have no real room to act as a social critic here. Well, maybe I do, but not one that can't be criticized.  I was part of the great t-shirt wearing male mass of the late 1970s and 1980s and I didn't even own a suit until I was in my last year, I think, of my undergraduate studies, when I got one in order to attend the wedding of the first of my high school friends to get married (odd to think it was that late, we'd been out of high school for five years at the time).  I didn't learn how to even tie a tie until basic training at Ft. Sill, and I didn't routinely wear one until I became a lawyer.  So I wasn't exactly an advertisement for Brooks Brothers (although I've owned a couple of their very fine suits).  Prior to 1986, I was more likely to be clad in a t-shirt and jeans than anything else, even in winter.  Starting around 1984 or so I started to be afflicted with being old all winter long, which I still am, and started wearing heavy shirts in the winter, which outside of work I still do.  Getting wiser to things after that, I usually wear a long sleeve shirt even in the summer, and just roll up the sleeves when its hot, particularly if I do outdoor work, thereby turning full circle as I knew to do that even when I was a teen and wasn't.

Anyhow, looking like a cowhand  on my free time for most of my life doesn't qualify me to seemingly offer sartorial commentary.  And it probably particularly does not as, referring back to the entry immediately above, being a Catholic in the upper plains means I'm part of that odd demographic that doesn't tend to dress up for Church, so that whole debate is sort of outside of my experience.  That may seem odd, but most Catholics in this region, perhaps because the churches are either hot or cold depending upon the season, or because everyone came from a blue collar or agricultural background at one time, tend not to dress up for Church at all. They still don't either, including myself.  Only a few people do, and by my observation if you happen to attend a Spanish language Mass, you'll see the best dressed people as Mexican immigrants tend to dress nicely, but in a nice rural fashion for the men.

An interesting question here might be, what happened?  And I think the answer might be different for men as opposed to women.  What I'll note first, however, is that men who have a distinct outdoors job tend to suspend fashion and wear the dress appropriate for that job.  Oilfield workers still dress for that vocation. Cowboys dress like cowboys on and off the ranch.  Soldiers tend to look like soldiers no matter what they are doing.   And that's part of the answer to this, I think.

 Oilfield roughnecks of the 1940s.  Roughnecks today would look much the same, except that now they wear "FRs", Fire Resistant Clothing, and metal helmets have been replaced by plastic.
Modern cowboys, whose general appearance hasn't really changed much for well over a century.

In an earlier era, when every vocation was more "real", if you will, or rather perhaps when more men worked in manual vocations, there was little interest in fanciful dress.  For those who worked in town, at one time they desire seemed to be to show that they'd achieved an indoor status.  Indeed, some have noted that the standards of dress remained remarkably high in the 1920s and 1930s, first when many Americans started moving off of farms and into the cities, and secondly during the Great Depression, as that was the way of showing that you'd overcome your past.  The standards then carried on until they had a reason, or at least there was some sort of cause, or lack of a reason to change.

Let's look at this a bit more closely.

To start with, something worth noting is that the number of clothes we now have, and the ease of washing them as well, far exceeds anything from even the relatively recent past, and certain at the point we need to start this story, which probably needs to go back at least until the 19th Century, if not further back. We'll start in the second half of the 1800s.

At that time the majority of Americans were rural in character and the majority of those who were not worked at some sort of trade.  Shopkeepers, businessmen and professionals existed, but they were nowhere near the percentage of the population that they now are. And that has an impact on our story.

Most Americans, even mid century, were clothed in clothes that had been locally made, if in fact not made at home by a family seamstress. And they didn't have much in the way of a change of clothing either.  Old recounts of people at the time often note rural people wearing "homespun", that is wool clothing made from cloth weaved at home.  "Homespun" was almost a synonymy for rustic, or primitive.  When somebody, even now, talks about "homespun tales", they hearken back to that meaning, derived from the type of cloth.

Professionals in the cities, and for that matter the wealthy, didn't dress that way. All their clothes were tailored from manufactured cloth.  They were visibly different.

Manufactured clothing began to come in during the mid 19th Century, but even at that, while it became widely worn, it didn't look exactly the same as well tailored clothing and, also, the average person had very few changes of clothing.  The average farmer, a major demographic section in the US, might have just a couple of clothes including a jacket that he might want to wear on occasions calling for more formal wear.  People were conscious of this, of course, but it also meant that any average male was not going to invest in clothing that couldn't serve more than one purpose, and none of those items were going to have "Jack's Bar & Grill" blazoned across them.

In this environment, the clothing worn by people in towns and cities, particularly in the 1900s forward, really sent a message, and that's important to note.  Also important to note, up into the 1950s, it was possible to move careers of any type, without a formal education, fairly easily.

Going back to a typical American, let's say of 1900, we can see how this entire process has worked, to some degree, fairly easily.  If we take an American of 18 years old, who has grown up on a Mid Western farm, we'll be looking at a fairly typical American. He's probably within easy traveling distance, but real distance, from some mid sized or even big city, and his education, which would have stopped at high school (if it went that far) would have been sufficiently good to enter an office occupation of the era without additional education.  So, if he's the second third son of a family of five, in 1900, he'd be looking at world in which acquiring a farm of his own would be somewhat difficult and so, perhaps, he'd look to the city.

Going into the city, he'd be wearing the sort of rough clothes of his background, and he'd be conscious of it. That wouldn't keep him, however, from finding a clerk's job in some office.  Let's say an insurance office.

Boy clerk in a law office, early 20th Century.

Our subject, let's say, acquires a job in the office, but he looks like a "hay seed" and he knows it.  Probably the fist thing he'll buy is a set of clothes at Sears or Montgomery Ward, which will include a couple of shirts capable of taking a starched collar, and a suit.  Probably just one suit frankly.  And a couple of ties.  Now  he'll look the part of his job, and that would have been the uniform of his office. That it would have been the uniform is clear. And it would have been that, as this office and its owners would want to have made it plain that they were professionals, like lawyers and doctors in town. And the lawyers and doctors in town would have dressed that way because they could, and also to point out that they were successful, not merely people who had drifted in from the country, even if in fact they had drifted in from the country.

 African American lawyer, 1940s.

So, back to our hero, after a few years he'd have moved up to a better position in the little company, and his clothes would have approved a little bit over the same course of time. All the while he would have traveled back and forth to the farm, and he'd want them to know that even though he was the middle son, he was doing fine.  Probably after about a decade he'd have married, and chances are the girl he would have married would have had a similar story of some sort.  We're now in the early 10s.  By the 20s, he'd have had a family, and by the 30s, chances are that one of his kids would be entering the business. That son would enter it, in the 30s, with this standard of dress solidly in place and reinforced by the disaster of the Great Depression.

 Winston Churchill
American novelist, Winston Churchill (not the British politician).  Probably early 1920s. Note how formal he appears, even though this is actually a fairly informal summer suit for the period.  Not too many writers would be dressed like this now, just to go to town.

It wouldn't be until the 50s, or even really the 60s ,when things would begin to change, and our example demonstrates in part why. By that time, the original message being conveyed would have been lost.  By that time, the distinction between past life and current, and urban and rural, would have been nearly completely lost.  At best, a young man of the early 60s would know of his rural ancestors, but those would tend to be just stories.

And you can play this out in any number of ways, and locations as well.  For example, you can easily imagine, for example, a Sicilian immigrant coming in as a child, say perhaps about 15 years of age, alone, into the United States via Ellis Island at this time.  He'd go right to work for some Italian enterprise in New York and even at that tender age he'd shed his immigrant peasant clothing for something more urban as quickly as he could. By the 20s he might own that or another enterprise, and by the 50s his grand children would be completely Americanized and only barely recall his immigrant past. And so on.* 

 Storekeeper, 1937.

Moreover, at that point, education had gone from being uncommon post high school to really common, which came on in a major way following World War Two.  A sense of entitlement crept in.  Looked at that way, our new subject, say in 1965, would have little connection with his great grandfather's life of 1900, and wouldn't even grasp the concept that this fellow had regarded himself as really lucky to get a job clerking in an insurance office. Chance are that he'd look at his father insurance agency as dull and boring, and not something for an educated fellow like himself. And why should he wear a boring business suit, the armor of conformity?  It shouldn't be presumed that the change came in really quickly, as that would be wholly incorrect, but change did come in and over about a 30 year period the former standards on men's wear more or less disappeared.  Women's dress, oddly enough.  Women's dress changed very substantially as well, but to a surprisingly smaller extent in the business context.**

While this was going on, something else was also occurring that would impact dress as well, and as its part of the story, it has to be added in.  It wasn't just that people moved away from a rural or blue collar background, and indeed that was only partially true.  But an increase in wealth after World War Two had a major impact on dress.

As we've already noted, people in the early half of the 20th Century tended to have fewer clothes.  Indeed, my father noted to me once, while I was buying a suit, that a good thing to get is a suit with two pairs of pants. Apparently the last time he'd bought a suit, which had been appreciable time earlier, that was still an option, and apparently it had been a common option. The reason for that was that people repeated their clothing frequently, and having two pairs of pants for one suit made that much more easy to do.  I've never seen this option offered for the sale of a suit, so as they became less common this option must have died out.

Anyhow, prior to the end of World War Two people just had fewer changes of clothes. But the war brought in cotton clothing to an extent that hadn't existed before, and cotton clothing is easily washable.  And the big increase in wealth that was brought on by the end of World War Two and the boom in the consumer economy meant that people could afford to do that.

Not only could they afford to do that, moreover, but the degree to which clothes needed to have an immediate utility declined fairly substantially with the rise of urban centers.

Prior to the war, nearly ever teen had worked in some capacity, and nearly everyone, even the wealthy, had done at least a little manual labor.  Clothing, therefore, wasn't typically ornamental as it couldn't be, that much.  But after the war the extent to which the young were employed only by self option increased.

Concurrent with that, however, was the fact of the recent war itself.  The youngest of those who were conscripted for World War Two were only 28 years old in 1955 (although the oldest were 57 that same year).  There was a large societal experience, therefore, with the war and also with blue collar labor, which had been an important aspect of the war.  As already noted, college availability massively increased following the war, but not everyone aspired to that.  With an increase in wealth, and an accordingly large increase in youthful leisure, for the first time you really had "rebellious youth".

Now, some youthful rebellion has always been around, but the character at this time was really different.  Youth in rebellion, before World War Two, had really been sort of a college demographic thing.  It had popped up in the 1920s, following World War One, and it had expressed it self in one rebellious set in the jazz age culture of that time. I.e, flappers, etc. In another set, it actually expressed itself with the surprisingly large flirtation with Communism among college youth at that time, which oddly enough also had a sartorial expression, particularly with women.  Whitaker Chamber noted that at that time it was easy to spot a Communist woman as they all had the same bobbed hair style, including that affected by his wife when he met her (although she wasn't a Communist, but a different type of Socialist revolutionary).  Some of this continued on into the 1940s, sufficiently enough that Bill Mauldin made it the subject of one his early post World War Two cartoons.

But rebellion at the late teen stage was truly new, and it was informed by the recent war and the heroic status of the American working class.  So, armed with surplus cash, it affected a costume reflecting that, blue jeans, white t-shirts, and leather jackets, all stuff that recalled blue collar work or Army life.

That in turn was the situation when the turbulent 1960s came on, and everything that came on with it occurred.  And that gave us the onset of the decline in clothing standards.  It certainly did not complete it, however.  That took some time. But the decline in the standards in youthful attire were pretty well established by the 1970s, and the pushing of the boundaries in female attire were in swing by then as well.  By the 80s the decline had firmly set in, and by the 1990s the idea that a person should advertise themselves in some fashion was pretty well entrenched.***

Now, then, the second part of the question. Does it matter.

It probably actually does.

Wes, we answered that a bit above, but we'll conclude with it again.  While perhaps it really shouldn't matter, it seems to.

A funny thing about clothing is that it appears to send a message no matter what a person wants to do.  And the fact that it does it appears to cross all cultures at all time, and to be understood by all, even out of context.  It's not really too hard to look back and portrayals of earlier eras and determine who was formally dressed, who was not, and who was a dandy, and to even draw conclusions about those people accordingly.  People seem to do it instinctively.

That doesn't mean that people should dress the same way at all times. Fashions do indeed change, but perhaps the basic messages clothing conveys remain remarkably unchanging.  People who affect a certain fashion due to their occupation generally give off the message that they're in it, and usually they're proud of that.  "Real" clothing sends a message.  Dressing to a fashion that intentionally sends some avant guard message, or worse yet attempts to co-opt the real, usually just looks silly over time.  The "dandies" of one era look silly later on.  People, whether they should or not, will look at women's fashion with a sharper eye than men's, and men who work really hard to achieve a certain trendy look usually look silly even in their own era, at least a bit.  So, perhaps, the really exposed view of fashion some women are taking now ought to be backed off, and maybe everyone ought to pay a little more attention to the basic rules, which doesn't mean that everyone needs to go out and buy a frock coat or something.

Of course, a person could start with themselves.  I wore blue jeans to work most of last week, something that would never have occurred in most law office even twenty years ago.


*While citations to movies are always risky, this is an area in which some of what's described here can really be demonstrated via movies, and in two ways. One is movies set in their own times that simply accidentally demonstrate the conditions of the day, and another is movies set in a period that do a really good example of illustrating the same thing.  Movies do have to be approach cautiously, however, as even some really respected films really blow it in these regards.

As to the first category, a movie that captures the relationship between presentation of success and dress in American culture prior to World War Two is the film White Heat.  A person wouldn't think of it in that fashion, but if you look at it carefully, it demonstrates this very well. All of the central characters in White Heat are really bad, but they dress increasingly well as the film goes on. They're gangsters, but they don't dress gansta. Why not? They're blue collar and they want to look like they've made it, in the context of their times. And they do.

In the second category, two really good films in this category are The Godfather and The Godfather, Part Two. Part Two does a super job of present dress over time, all the way from about 1900 up to the early 1960s, and the second example I've given above is more or less given in the film, albeit in the context of the "family business" being a criminal enterprise.

**Again, to use well done film as an example, this is interestingly illustrated on the big and small screen.

In terms of movies, the degree to which suit or suit jackets held on is illustrated by the police dramas The French Connection and Shaft. Both show the trend away from it, but they also show how it was hanging on.  Popeye Doyle and Shaft are sort of hip and cool, in context, but they're surprisingly well dressed as well, in a way.

On the small screen, popular television series of the 1970s show this as well.  Shows like Mary Tyler Moore and Bob Newhart show people in office settings in which their dress, while contemporary for the times, is much more conservative, as a rule, than presently, and coat and tie hang on.

***Citing a film again, the view of this sort of change, and the degree to which that view was naive, is perhaps well set out in the film The Graduate.

In that film, Dustin Hoffman plays a recent college graduate trying to find his way, with his parent's generation portrayed as hypocritical. But with an informed sense of history, and now looking back on what is now a very old film, the Hoffman character doesn't come across so well.  He's a privileged youth with a college education, among a generation that had to fight for everything it ever had.  So as a revolutionary, he's sort of a slacker.