Bring uncomfortable back?

I happened upon a post in one of my new favorite D.C. blogs, The D.C. Sidewalks Blog about the ubiquity of women sporting flip flops and resultingly appearing more schlumpy:

As I was walking behind a lady with my gaze modestly cast downward toward her feet, I observed her shuffling, skewed-toe gait. I realized that the reason for this acute foot angle was to better prevent her little flip-flops from flying off. The net result of this understandable and natural flip-flop preservation mechanism is to create an overall walk that is actually more of a waddle. And then I began to see it everywhere – all the girls wearing flip-flops were walking in this kind of undignified trundling manner. What happened to stodgily-dressed, conservative DC? I long for the smart and classy fashion of women in old Hollywood. The casual look has gone too far. I guess the equality of the sexes has really come to pass – now women are as slovenly as guys. This flip-flop hegemony has got to end. I want to see women walking with their toes out in front of them, tall and proud. Have some dignity, have some posture, ban the flip-flops, bring sexy back!

I agree with D.C. sidewalk blogger that flip flops precipitate a dragging gait, but neither “sexy” nor “classy fashion of women in old Hollywood” has been a hallmark of D.C. style.  If anything, D.C. style is the best it has ever been.  Nancy Pelosi, the most prominent female politician, has eschewed the primary-colored-power-suit-matching-pumps for a more refined, chic look.  Even Hillary Clinton, no foe of the power suit during her husband’s presidency, has at least settled on a softer yellow that does not quite jump out the way the hideous 90s ensembles did.

Still, D.C.’s dress code remains counter-intuitive to its weather, particularly in the hot, humid summer.  If anything, flip-flops make amazing sense and are long overdue.  The conservative formality of this city instates a dress code of suits and closed-toed dress shoes that quickly precipitate the sweat storm that is a thing of daily existence for area residents.  (I will grudgingly admit that in this environment, seersucker suits make sense).  I am a firm believer that style and comfort need not be mutually exclusive, but the D.C. fashion scene seems to miss both by remaining wedded to impratical dress codes.

In other cities that I have visited, the predominant fashion aura matches the city landscape and its climate.  In San Francisco, people sported comfortable shoes and casual but funky, layered clothes, a natural choice in a temperate, hilly setting with lots of temperature variance in short spans of space.  The frequent rain in Paris seemed to have influenced the city’s residents to rely upon shawls and scarves to warm up, and though Parisians displayed a formality unfamiliar to American cities, the practicals like shoes and coats favored (stylish) comfort over sacrifice. 

Why shouldn’t D.C.’s women be able to freely adapt to their city’s climate, which happens to be incredibly uncomfortable in the summer?  In this vein, sandals of any kind make the most sense, and the style is not uniformly unglamorous.  That this author is willing to give men a pass for looking “slovenly” but wills that women squeeze into pumps or stillettos or other signifiers of glamor makes his rant even more patently and ridiculously archaic.

About elainemeyer
I'm a writer and editor. I work in communications at the Columbia School of Public Health, where I write about epidemiologic research. In the past I've worked as a reporter and studied journalism and history in school.

13 Responses to Bring uncomfortable back?

  1. hm says:

    very interesting and fun post. i’m all for comfort! keen has some nice looking summer slides and sandals, at least by my middle-aged standards.

    working in an air-conditioned environment is another conundrum, and i don’t miss that. i always thought that, if people could dress more casually in the summer ~ if suit jackets and ties were not required, for instance ~ then the AC wouldn’t have to be down so low, which both makes for an unpleasant workday contrast between the office and the commute and overall interferes with acclimating to summer conditions.

  2. Ben says:

    Flip flops rule.
    Comfort > fashion

    I agree about the jackets, although it would probably provoke more lamentations from the DC Sidewalks person, who would probably rather see us in 3-piece suits and fedoras.

  3. Erica says:

    I’m with you on this one. Then again, this is coming from the person who wore her sorority flip flops everywhere and only stopped wearing them after the treads wore down and slipped down a flight of stairs in Annenberg.

    Oh yea…MSN changed the way you can access my blog so I provided the link.

  4. Chris Grodecki says:

    As long as bad politician hair remains, so will the formalities of DC fashion. As I waited 30 minutes for a bus this afternoon, I wondered to myself what possessed the Founders to establish this place as the national capital, especially considering the heavy nature of the dress back then. Then I remembered, 1) they were at the end of the Mini Ice Age and 2) I’m fairly certain they would have spent their summers not in DC or any city to begin with if they could help it. All I can say is, we have let casual go to far, and not just at work. Our lives are so comfortable to begin with; are we really so wussy as to not be able to stand a little heat??? I would admit, yes (and I include myself).

  5. reuben says:

    next time you have a free moment or two, take the time to count the number of folks in flip flops… if i had a dollar for each one… well…..
    i dont know. i think its overdone, like so much is in the us of a.

  6. ejtakeslife says:

    I would suggest a modest proposal that until a man walks four DC blocks in 100 degree weather while wearing leather stilettos over bare skin, he not comment on a womans choice of shoes. Likewise, I would encourage other women to refrain from judging men in short sleeve dress shirts during the summer. I agree it’s not the best look, but it’s hot in herrr, friends. We all make sacrifices.

  7. I like your post–especially how you gave examples of people across the world dressing appropriately for their given climate. I’ve lived in the D.C. area all my life and it has always puzzled me how conservatively we are encouraged to dress. Wearing a suit in the summer here can be downright sickening. My current job allows us to wear casual clothing, and saves on its energy use by doing so. (If we have a business meeting and need to dress more conservatively for that, we do.)

    Japan and parts of Canada have relaxed their dress codes in order to save energy. Story about Japan here:

  8. elainemeyer says:

    Chris, I don’t really see what is wrong with casual, and I don’t think our predecessors had it right on fashion. I also think people tend to confuse casual with sweats and ratty t-shirt. In San Francisco, people were incredbily casual but equally stylish. I think that’s more interesting and practical than power suits in 95 degree weather. I don’t like the idea of idealizing the past for no reason, or worse a bad reason.

    Thanks for that article, Capt. Jack. Saving energy by encouraging casual dress is a great idea and what I believe hm was suggesting as well. My office’s A/C is not so bad, but the cafeteria here is freezing; and the A/C at most other offices I’ve worked at over the summer is ridiculously high.

  9. Ariana says:

    Right on… I vowed during my junior year of high school to never work at a job where I couldn’t wear flipflops. Since then I’ve decided to capitulate to demands for non-rubber flipflops, but I’m about to graduate from college, have never gone more than a month without working, and have yet to wear anything but flipflops to the office in the summer. I don’t understand how people can consider comfortable clothing offensive – we’ve all got toes. Whenever I come across somebody who gives my feet or my bare arms a disapproving look, I just give their giant sweat stains a pointed look and smirk.

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  11. Janet says:

    Podiatrists everywhere are cringing! I can hear mine now: If you must wear open-toed sandals, please avoid flip-flops and invest in a good pair of Birkenstocks.

    Oh, I know. They’re not as cute, but they will save you from getting a nasty little foot ailment called ‘plantar fasciitis’ which can be incredibly painful and can take 9 – 12 months to remedy. According to my podiatrist, it use to only afflict runners and the elderly, but they’re seeing more and younger patients with this ailment as a result of flat-soled shoes and flip-flops.

    I’m all for comfort, but once you’ve had p.f., you’ll wish you’d worn something with some arch support. Birks are a bit pricey and sort of dorky looking, but the cost is worth it when you compare it to the cost of doctor’s visits and orthotics. (And once you have orthotics, you’re pretty much limited to close-toed shoes. Boo.)

    Just my two cents.

  12. Men who wear suits during summer in DC are masochists; bosses who insist they do so are sadists. It’s fashion S&M.

    Throughout the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean, men wear a smart “guayabera” as formal dress: it looks smart, and is extremely comfortable.

    Bring it on!

    Michael Blaine

  13. On a topic quite a bit more serious than flip-flops and guayaberas, mainstream syndicated columnist Paul Craig Roberts claims Pres. Bush may very well suspend federal elections in ’08:

    “[I]t is a scenario that would explain the Bush regime’s disinterest in the shrinking Republican vote that foretells a massive Republican wipeout in the 2008 election. In a declared national emergency, there would be no election.”

    I find the scenario almost beyond belief, but then a lot of things that have actually happened since ’01 I would have thought impossible.

    Michael Blaine

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