Well-Dressed Air Traveler, do you even hear yourself?

Slate allowed this to happen, and I’m just sitting here with my face contorted into this impenetrable mask of WTF. Someone named J. Bryan Lowder is trying to browbeat the rest of us into dressing a certain way when we travel by air because his eyeballs can’t take the assault of our grungy t-shirts and sweatpants all over the airport. I was going to do a translate job on his piece similar to how I did with Emily Yoffe’s rape apologist fuckery, but now that I’ve read it in full, I think my brain has been forced to put too many neurons in quarantine. Something about Lowder’s writing has inhibited my creative abilities.

Look at this shit here:

However, the primary reason I make the extra effort to plan my travel outfit is because, well, no one else does. Among the cavalcade of pajama pants, tracksuits, nightgowns, painting rags, and ill-fitting sweatshirts that one encounters in the world’s terminals and stations these days, the competently dressed individual stands apart as a beacon of civilized life, an island of class amid a swamp of schlumps. By dressing myself as a decent human being who is aware that he is in public, I like to think I am performing a small act of resistance against the increasingly slobbish status quo.

and this:

When we dress well for travel, we are not only making ourselves look good; we’re also signaling that we are invested in making this shared experience pleasant for everyone around us. Think of it as a kind of sartorial social contract: Honor it and your minor efforts make transit a more pleasing activity; break it, and reveal your misanthropic narcissism to, quite literally, the world. What else to call putting one’s own base comforts above the comfort of all?

And meanwhile he insists that he’s not elitist, no, not at all.

The difference between his position and mine ultimately comes down to a matter of priorities. Lowder feels good when he’s dressed nicely. I feel good when my clothes are as accommodating as possible to my body and the positions it might assume in the incredibly tedious, time-consuming, uncertain endeavor that is air travel. Lowder thinks I would feel better about traveling if I dressed better for the occasion. He is mistaken.

Aside from the inherent scarcity of the preferential treatment that airlines occasionally roll out to passengers who dress to advertise their inherent superiority from the swamp of schlumps, some of us simply aren’t interested in making friends that way. I have no intention of making a new pal on a flight, and I wouldn’t want to be friends with someone who doesn’t understand how I stay comfortable while packed into a coach seat. If everyone took the same care with their appearance as J. Bryan Lowder, then nobody would get a better seat on an airplane based on their presentation. For those who currently get that Sartorial Elite treatment, they can fucking keep their new Fashion Police BFFs and go sip their airline cocktails in some hoity-toity Beautiful People Club where the rest of us will not assault their poor beleaguered eyeballs.

When I travel by air (and it’s not something I do on a regular basis), my fellow airline passengers are almost uniformly people that I do not ever expect to see again, ever, in my life, and I have not the slightest reason to care what they think of how I’m dressed. This is something that makes me different from Lowder: I honestly don’t care how those other people in the airline feel about my clothes. Really don’t give a fuck. Can’t even bring myself to dredge up any sympathy for those who have an opinion of how I look when I get on an airplane. I do my best to smell decent when I’m jammed into a sardine can with a hundred other sardines, but those other sardines are not entitled to an opinion of how I look. Here’s another difference between me and Lowder: I do not make friends with people based on our ability to rise above the unwashed masses with our keen fashion sense. I bond with people based on shared experiences and affinity for creative insults.

I just can’t quite buy Lowder’s argument that dressing a certain way makes transit a “more pleasing activity,” because his use of phrases such as “civilized life,” “competently dressed,” and “shlumps” shows what his real attitude is. He wants everyone in the air terminal to have the same priorities as he does. He wants us to know that our dressing like slobs make air travel more uncomfortable for him, and that our failure to prioritize his sensibilities over our ability to sit in coach seats for 10 hours is a demonstration of “misanthropic narcissism.” If I decide that wearing a shapeless cotton dress with grungy sneakers is the best way to get through the hell that is a transcontinental flight, that’s what I’m gonna wear, and if that makes anybody else’s travelling experience less pleasant than airlines make it, they will find my apology buried twelve inches inside my big dimply ass. If I have to run the risk of spending the night in Athens airport, I have fewer than zero fucks to give about anyone’s Sartorial Social Contract.

Permissive Etiquette: Airport dress code

In my usual Etiquette posts, I talk more about what one shouldn’t do, particularly while using a mass transit system. Today I want to talk about something which is widely considered taboo, or impolite at best, but which I think should be perfectly acceptable.

If you need to make an airport run at a time of night (or morning) when a reasonable person would be in bed, I think it should be okay to show up at the terminal in your pajamas.

Now by pajamas, I don’t mean feel free to wait at the Arrivals gate in your tighty-whiteys or a flimsy negligee. For the sake of the innocent civilians around you, the outfit should cover at least as much skin as what you’d wear to the grocery store. The attire should pass the “Really?!” test.

I just don’t think the “Really?!” test should necessarily exclude pajamas. I’ve been thinking about this recently because my immediate family have an annoying penchant for international travel with awkward departure and arrival times. If I need to accompany someone to the terminal at Jackass O’Clock AM or fetch them at Idiot O’Clock PM, then I am not hurting anyone if I walk through BWI in my comfy knit PJs and house slippers, perhaps with a cardigan or hoodie on top, depending on the time of year. An airport is not exactly a display of humanity at its classiest. It is a nexus of transience and consumerism with a constant specter of massive inconvenience hovering thickly in the air. I’ve spent the night in one, for fuck’s sake. If travelers are sleeping on benches, I should be allowed to retrieve my family without putting on a bra or proper shoes.

Just thought I’d put that out there.