Yesterday, WXPN host and producer Robert Drake shared this with me. In the lengthy (we’re talking 78 minutes) video, which the White House posted on its website, First Lady Michelle Obama and presidential pooch Bo surprise unsuspecting tourists, who showed up for a White House tour last month. The First Lady, her hair perfectly coiffed, stood there in bright red pumps and a black-and-white wrap number from Diane von Furstenberg, gracefully greeting scores of her husband’s constituents. Some of them took pictures, some asked for hugs, and others broke down in tears, but almost all of them had one thing in common: they were dressed for lunch at the Old Country Buffet.
One by one, they paraded through the doorway, young and old, black and white, Democrat and Republican, from all across this great land. They wore hoodies. They wore torn jeans. They wore t-shirts, Uggs and tattered fleeces. So much for a photo op with the First Lady. Well done, America.
Listen, I am the first guy to pick up jeans and a t-shirt off of the floor, skip shaving, and throw on my Victory Brewing Company baseball cap. But that’s on Saturday morning at 7:50 a.m. when my only plan is to be first in line at Produce Junction when it opens at 8 a.m. Okay, okay, before my colleagues dime me out, I must also admit that I am the notorious “sloppy dresser” in the office, a fact that earns me a regularly scheduled critique from the debonair chairman of Philadelphia magazine, D. Herbert Lipson, a guy who danced with Gloria Swanson at Grace Kelly’s wedding and who is the very definition of “impeccably dressed.” I am, in fact, unshaven today.
But these tourists weren’t going to Produce Junction at 8 a.m. They were going to the White House, one of the most historic residences in the world, and they knew they were going there when they woke up in the morning, as all tours are pre-scheduled and must go through a member of Congress. Since 1800, the White House has been home to every U.S. president, his family, and his pets. When he’s not jetting around on Air Force One, the President of the United States hangs out there, makes history-altering decisions there, you know, runs the country from behind the walls. He could probably pick up his bedside phone and blow up the planet. And you can’t wear a suit?
It’s not just the White House, of course. No, we just don’t dress anymore for special occasions. At the last wedding I attended, where I wore a simple dark pinstripe suit, floral tie, and a modest pair of cufflinks, I was easily the best-dressed guy at the church, other than the groom and his groomsmen. Speaking of church, we most definitely don’t dress up for church. Meanwhile, at the final dinner ever at Georges Perrier’s Le Bec-Fin on Saturday night, most of the men wore jackets–thank goodness–but there were more than a few in far more casual apparel, including some guys who couldn’t upgrade out of jeans or tuck in their shirts.
And when was the last time you dressed up for fancy dinner and a show in Atlantic City, a veritable cesspool of American sloppiness? The highest level of dress code at the soon-to-debut top-shelf Revel casino? Business casual. Better iron those khakis, gents!
Granted, the sloppy folks seen on the White House video didn’t know they were going to meet the most famous person that they’d ever meet in their lives, and they certainly didn’t realize that they were going to meet the most famous person that they’d ever meet in their lives while the whole thing was captured for all of the world to see. If they had, maybe the one fella would have left the 5XL tie-dyed shirt at home. Perhaps an Easter dress or two would have been pulled out of the closet. But I doubt it. I just pray that they didn’t let these people into the Lincoln Bedroom. They’d probably track in Rose Garden mud on their old beat-up sneakers.