January 2, 2009
In hard times such as these, not many people can afford to keep up with the latest styles. For people like me who were raised in small towns, it's not hard at all to make a lifestyle adjustment, and that's probably true for Republicans in general. But if you live in Washington, you need to have at least a clue about what's going on, so every year I tried to make sense of the Washington Post's annuual list of "What's In and Out." This year, as usual, a few things seem backwards between "in" and "out," but that's partly because what defines "in" is going against current fashions, but not too much, because after all, the trend-setters need to convince enough fawning suckers to follow along with them. The less time that people spend trying to make sense of such social paradoxes, much less following them, the less anxiety prone they will be.
If you're a fan of old movies, you know that some time in the mid-1930s a very dramatic shift took place in clothing fashions. As the Great Depression shut the door to upper-class aspirations for millions of Americans, all of a sudden wearing tuxedos and silk top hats became terribly gauche. Instead, simplicity and practicality came into style, and this middle-class mode lasted until the late 1940s, when absurd "zoot suits" and long dresses became all the rage. Accordingly, I would expect that, as one consequence of the current deep economic recession, we will soon see a transformation of clothing styles almost as profound as what happened in the 1930s.