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Last week I spent a lot of time in airports, waiting for the rain to stop and trying to read Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential. I love this book because he wrote just like he talked. From page one, paragraph one, we’re reminded that his cutting wit was as sharp as his knives. Even so, like a deflated soufflé, my attempts to read his irreverent banquet fell flat. Who would have guessed Anthony Bourdain would be derailed by an airport full of poorly dressed passengers… mostly men over 50? 

Maybe it’s just me, but I think it’s telling when the best dressed person in the airport is a nun.

Try as hard as I could, it was difficult to read about drugs, sex and haute cuisine when my fellow passengers looked like they’d just been to rock ‘n roll clown school. Six, 55 to 60-ish men—carrying guitar cases and looking like Gene Simmons wannabes—sat down across from me. Two of them had long, frizzy hair that exploded out of black caps with the word, “METAL.”

A couple of the guys were wearing black “Rock School” t-shirts. One looked like he’d been impregnated by a Volkswagen Beetle; a giant, rounded lump in his belly had taken over his lap and part of his legs. The 20-something girl, traveling with them, had rings in her nose and appeared to have spent one too many hard nights of debauchery. They were a motley crew for sure, although the band, Mötely Crüe, were true fashionisters compared to this bunch.

While I’m happy they were getting to live out their fantasies, they were car number one of a fashion train wreck I couldn’t stop watching.

Car number two was not one, but two men over 60 with long, unkempt, yellow-gray beards and matching hair. These twins from another mother could have been casting rejects from an episode of Grizzly Adams. What were the odds these two guys were on the same plane but didn’t seem to know one another? 

Why do so many men have breasts these days, and why do they insist on wearing t-shirts that accentuate them? I remember when men wore t-shirts under their shirts to keep those puppies under control.

Then there was the guy wearing a red, white and blue, sequined, cowboy hat… tied under his chin… with his jeans tucked inside his boots. He looked like a Fourth of July version of Roy Rogers.

I’m not crazy about the “Rat Pack” hat trend of the last few years. I wasn’t wild about it when Frank, Dean and Sammy wore them, but at least they knew how to wear a hat. For starters their hats actually fit their heads, and they wore them pulled down on their forehead. At the airport I saw a 60-something guy in flip flops and a straw fedora, two sizes too small, perched on his head like a cherry on a sundae. 

Don’t these guys have wives or girlfriends who tell them how dumb they look?

Other than the nun, my “best dressed in the airport award” goes to a seven-year-old boy, eating a chocolate bar and wearing a black and white plaid, Sherlock Holmes hat, a black trench coat belted at the waist and red pants. He was adorable! Who knows? Maybe he’ll grow up to be a “food inspector” and write his own book… Chocolate Confidential.

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  1. Brenda,

    I love reading your posts first thing in the morning with coffee perched next to me.
    When I was a flight attendant ( back in the day) we used to sit at the gate and watch the fashion show deteriorate rapidly with the dawning of cheap travel airlines like People Express (Cattle Express) and activewear as suitable attire.
    I had Motley Crue on as passengers and if I was still a flight attendant I don’t think I would enjoy seeing 60-70ish rockers still trying to hold onto their youth any more than I do.


    • Robin, Thanks for telling me you like to read my blog with your coffee! I’ll think of you that way on Saturday mornings! As a flight attendant, I imagine you saw at least one of everything. What an eye opener that must have been. A flight attendants on one of my flights actually thanked me for dressing nicely. xoxo, Brenda

      • Hey Brenda, just loved the airport fashion disaster piece. I travel around Europe for my job and whilst it’s not quite as bad as the US, the many unkempt sights are startling, particularly as we are in full holiday season. The men in particular do let their side down rather badly. On a happy note, I am married to a very smart sartorially aware English gentleman. He channels what a call the ‘Bobby Kennedy look’ very well – sleek chinos, oxford button downs, linen, seersucker, panama hats, Wayfarer sunnies in the summer and tweeds, corduroy, cashmere, brogues and Chelsea boots in the winter. He is a youthful 68 and dressed as a stylish British Mod back in the day. I thank my lucky stars everyday! Best wishes, Rosie Thomas

        • Rosie, Yes! We want more gentlemen who know how to dress well. Does he have a friend? I’m single and about that age! LOL! So happy you like this piece. Thanks so much and please stop by, again, Brenda

  2. Oh My Yes Brenda! I live in Brisbane Australia. We fly a couple times a year to Japan and New Zealand for skiing, and before that, I would travel 2 or 3 times a year domestically to see family. And every time I’m at the airport, I shake my head and inwardly shudder. In fact, it’s got so bad that I wear my dark sunglasses and headphones with music so I don’t have to see or hear the cacophony of the masses and get distracted by the sights (like you describe). I just want to block them out and pretend they are not there. Because I find it truly distressing.

    I remember when my parents would take me to visit our family in Tasmania once a year by plane, and our Sunday Best outfits would be order of the day. We dressed up. Back then, people wore proper shoes (not flip flops), men wore button up shirts and ladies wore something other than baggy saggy sad joggy bottoms. All I can say is that ‘air travel ain’t what it used to be’.

    I don’t think it’s any different observing in an airport to sitting in a shopping mall and viewing the passers by. It’s all the same. If we were to judge the State of the World by what regular people wore, we could only come up with the idea that 14 year olds in adults bodies were in charge. Hey, maybe that’s a thought and an answer to the reason that the world is in such a mess…. Makes me wince that these people drive cars, fill out tax returns and VOTE. How do they manage in life?

    I love clothes, I love jewellery, I love to have my hair done – and I love to take pride in my appearance – even if its to the local shops or flying on a plane. I wish people would have some self respect and buy a mirror. For the record, there is a ‘mature’ couple living in my complex who are my role models: always freshly pressed, smelling beautiful – she wearing bright lipstick and he a button down – always Hilfiger or Polo. He is 83 and she is 79. Swoon. Dolce Vita!

    • Hi TJ, I loved your comment, and you’re right. It’s not just airports where you find… I want to say “people who are dressed poorly,” but the word that comes to mind is “slobs.” I’m not sure how further down the pride scale our society can go. There were two women on my flight who were each about 75-100 pounds over weight. Both were wearing short shorts and flip flops. One was wearing a crop top… I may never get that image out of my head. Recently I went to lunch with a college friend. As we were walking down the sidewalk, a group of Millennial guys were walking toward us. They looked at my friend and said… sarcastically… “Nice look, grandpa. Move over.” My friend had on nice pants and a blazer. I’d like to think those of us who dress well might be role models, but I’m not going to hold my breath on that one. xoxox, Brenda

  3. Lord Have Mercy Brenda, I couldn’t agree with you (and the other ladies) anymore! My mother use to say when you dress better, you act and look better. She was certainly correct. I do think gentlemen back in the fifties looked dashing in their hats as my dad always wore a hat well but I have no words for what is happening today. I also remember my grandmother telling me to never leave the house without your “face” on, something I still adhere to today, for myself as much as for anyone else. Carry on ladies, perhaps the tide will change, we can only hope.

    • Deborah, Your mother and grandmother sound like mine. Both took pride in how they looked and acted. Even when they were at home, they had their “face on” and were well dressed. At home my grandmother wore what looked like “hostess dresses,” not house coats, but they were pretty, long dresses that belted. She always looked so elegant. They would be horrified at what’s happened to our national pride. Thank you for your comment. Brenda

  4. I am glad to find kindred spirits when it comes to seeing how people dress these days. Back in the 1960’s we dressed up to fly and I still dress to those standards today. Unfortunately I am married to a man who thinks shorts and tee shirts are as high a standard as needs to be obtained 90% of the time. He resents me for having an opinion on how he dresses. Thankfully he is a kind, hardworking, good family man with that one bad fault.
    Airports, malls, and even the work places are not immune to this lack of standards. My work place has been known to send workers home to change to more appropriate attire. Do parents not teach their children how to dress for every situation? I am just greatful my children did not take after dear old dad with dressing habits.

    • Vicki, LOL! Men can be set in their ways, but at least you have a good man. Those are hard to find. The first weekend I spent with who turned out to be my future husband, he wore flip flops inside. That was his only dressing flaw. The rest of the time he looked like a male model. Would you believe I actually said to him “flip flops were a deal breaker?” Looking back, I’m shocked I said that, but it was the last time those flip flops ever made an appearance. In answer to your “don’t parents teach their children… ” No, I don’t think most of them do, not like our parents taught us. It’s become a monkey see, monkey do way of raising kids. I appreciate your note! Brenda

  5. I used to wear a suit to fly, even on weekend getaways. When I met my husband, he used to wear a jacket and tie to go to the supermarket. Even now, most locals get dressed up to go to the Saturday market. Not formal, but thoughtful. It is a show of respect–for oneself and for others.
    I notice that among the young, the women and girls are more dressy (not often in fashion I approve of, but not in old sweats or jeans, either). But the guys! They clearly don’t care. They don’t make any effort. Not all–you can see some spiffy young men. But a lot of them obviously don’t think they need to try to be appealing. However, they also lack the winning smiles and twinkling eyes that might make up for it. I guess young women make do with what’s available. A race to the bottom.

    • “Not formal, but thoughtful. It is a show of respect–for oneself and for others.”

      That’s the heart of the matter, I believe. The era of worshiping at the altar of self-esteem seems to have resulted in a dearth of self-respect, which makes respecting others that much more difficult. Very unfortunate. As for the clothes themselves the TSA security requirements certainly don’t help matters, here. Most people travel in their pajamas and shower shoes, prepared for any given state of undress that might be demanded.

      I remember as a girl dressing properly for travel, even by car, was a highlight of every trip. That was just 40-ish years ago. I can’t imagine what older folks who remember a very stylish era of travel are thinking about all this.

      • Bayboxwood, What a profound comment indeed. The way we dress is most certainly about respecting ourselves and others. My grandmother would be horrified, even more than we are. When I was a little girl she would fly to come see us and wore gloves and a hat, like she was going to church. It was a big event to travel, and people thought as carefully about what they would travel in as they did about the clothes they took on a trip. In the early ’80’s, my first husband and I flew from Washington D.C. to London on the Concorde. What a big event that was! Every passenger was dressed to the nines. Men wore suits and ties and women wore beautiful dresses, pantsuits and heels and their hair was done. If we dressed that way now, people would think we were going to a costume party! A sad state of affairs. Thanks so much for your wonderful comment. I appreciate you, Brenda

    • Taste of France… “A race to the bottom!!!” What a shocking thought, but I think you’re right. But how low is the bottom? Just when I think we’re there… someone surprises me. When I was in Italy last fall, I was mainly interested in how the women dressed, so I didn’t pay much attention to the men. I’m sorry to hear the men in France don’t seem to care about their looks or personalities. It sounds like the women in Italy and France dress nicely when they go out because they feel like they’re representing their family. It’s very much a pride issue. I hope they never loose that. xoxox, Brenda

    • I know, Diane! I wonder that as well. Everyone should have a full length mirror even if it hangs on the inside of your closet door. Even so, I think you need some basic understanding of what’s appropriate to be able to judge yourself. Love your comment! Brenda

  6. Yes, Brenda! What a mess. My 90+ year old friends outdress everyone! My 60+ age group is unfortunately clueless, a mixture of Merrell hiking strap sandals, baggy cropped mid leg pants, childlike tee shirts, with strangely, earrings, nail polish, and a bright cheap practical bag, and a short hair sprayed style. And the mall! And the airport! All they are missing is their “blankie” and pacifier! They even whine like children if you mention they could dress better….”waaaa, but I’m not “comfortable”! My takeaway, dress up, and smile, like you have a mysterious rendezvous, maybe the 14 year olds will wonder what they’re missing…he,he!

    • In addition to a spot on description of the way so many women are dressing now, you’ve offered a brilliant suggestion, Eileen! “Dress up and smile like you have a mysterious rendezvous!” I love that idea. If only it would work. When I go out of town to see a dear friend… who usually dresses “comfortably”… she invariably looks at me and says, “Well look at you!” “Pride” is generally referred to as a bad thing, but not in this case. I’m going to look nice, no matter what. Thanks for the sadly amusing comment. Brenda

    • Hi Irene!! Thanks for these references! These guys are sharp dressers…. Today known mainly as dinosaurs! Tyrannosaurous Grey Fox! May his species live a long and healthy life! Brenda

  7. great post! more than one moment of “oh my god, i’ve seen those guys too!” thank for the laughs….

    • You’re welcome, Holly! I’m glad you enjoyed it. Too bad there aren’t some trick glasses we could wear that would change them into well dressed, well groomed gentlemen…. or just men. “Gentlemen” are a rare species as well these days. xoxo, Brenda

  8. I work with all men (aged 22 to 56) and they’re all slobs. Jeans, sneakers, flip-flops, sandals with socks, baggy shorts, T-shirts, hoodies. One of the guys always looks like he slept in his clothes and half the time his fly is unzipped or his butt crack is showing. I don’t think an iron has ever touched anything in his wardrobe.

    I also belong to a club with a dress code. It is so lovely to see nicely dressed people at the end of the workday. Not all of the outfits are stylish, but they’re all laundered and pressed. Even the most poorly dressed of the men look a hundred times better than my colleagues. There are a couple of club members (male and female) who try to push the boundaries of the dress code (pink tulle, lace and sequined mini-tutu-style dress on a 60-something woman with waist-length bleached blond hair!), but for the most part everyone looks well turned out.

    • Hey Squeak!!! Happy to see you! One would hope people would dress for the work place. If I were the boss, there would be a dress code or you couldn’t work there, but then… That’s probably not politically correct and would violate someone’s human rights. At least you have a club you can go to see some semblance of well dressed. More than likely those 60-something women in pink tulle, sequined outfits have been influenced by the new breed of over 60, Instagram fashionistas. Their style may be kind of fun to look at and we can say, “Brava for exercising your right not to look older,” but for most of us, we’d look silly. I would look silly and feel silly, even if I had the wild, silver hair to go with it. Then again, if I had a million followers and brands clamoring to pay me to wear their clothes… I’d probably think twice about it! Hope life is treating you well, Squeak! Sending you a big smile and a fond hug. xoxox, Brenda

  9. For these, and many other reasons, I “fear and loathe” flying. It seems that so many people have just given up… on trying to stay fit, trying to dress decently, and most of all, trying to exhibit good manners. It’s sad.

    • Donna, Ditto all around! You’ve described it accurately…. “Fear and loathing” of flying, but I think it works both ways. Some of my fellow passengers actually looked at me with what appeared to be contempt, of course I was the one wearing nice jewelry, nice clothes and my hair didn’t look like I’d just rolled out of bed. At least my cellulite was covered and wasn’t spreading over and under the armrest and blanketing the person next to them. Love your comment, Donna! Thanks! Brenda

  10. Oh, I thought this only happened in my home country! When on a trip to Europe in March this year, I was on a 8am flight from Munich to Berlin and was highly impressed to see so many well dressed women and men obviously on their way to business appointments. The men were clean shaven, wearing white shirts and suits! I imagine they were 30/40/50 something but their dress and demeanor stuck with me! Maybe I was lucky enough to be on an early morning flight to witness such a rare sight!

    • Noreen, How refreshing! Thanks for telling me that. It’s encouraging to know people like that still exist. I flew first class to Paris, thinking the dress code would be different, but sadly it wasn’t. White shirts and suits… !! Can’t stop thinking about that! Brenda

  11. Oh my word I so so agree with the above. I like to dress for my time en-route. Never never wear shorts ( I never let my bare legs touch those seats…. like a toilet seat). I always wear skirts/ dresses with tights or leggings. I like to arrive dressed and ready to go. I have several wonderful fabrics that double well in looks and relaxation on overnights. I as well believe that good manners follow well kept grooming…. and good behavior.
    Only above I wouldn’t do …. read that book, I found him harsh and not entertaining.

    • Hi C, You like to arrive “dressed and ready to go.” As do I, but how has our society slid so far down the ladder? I think workout clothes and celebrities have a lot to do with it. Totally understand if Anthony Bourdain wasn’t your cup of tea. He wasn’t for everybody. Awesome to see you here! I appreciate you! Brenda

    • Thank you, Hilda! I appreciate you! Laughter is the best way to get through many of the things life throws at us. If I growled and barked at everything that bothered me, Animal Control would lock me up for a suspected case of rabies. xoxo, Brenda

  12. Its a SAD STATE of AFFAIRS…………how about a FORMAL wedding at 4:00 and the women are in SUN DRESSES!!!!!!
    I guess I live in THE PAST!!!!!!!!
    What people wear to the SUPER MARKET I wouldn’t wear EVER……….does that make me a SNOB?

    • No, My Darling! You’re not a snob. You have pride and good taste, which is a great thing for the rest of us, because you give us a fashion lesson every time you step out your door!! xoxox, Brenda

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