Greenspan, read my piggies

March 08, 2000|By Daryl Lease

FAR BE IT from me to offer advice to Alan Greenspan on how to keep the economy humming, but I think the fellow ought to quit fretting over inflation and pay a little more attention to my feet.

As silly as that may sound, I can say with confidence that my toes (and fingers) have saved me from economic ruin on numerous occasions as I've struggled to balance my checkbook. I believe my piggies can be of a similar service to the Federal Reserve Board.

Here's why. Our country is, I'm sad to report, on the verge of a major battle for the heart and mind -- not to mention the feet, neck, butt and belly -- of the American male. I fear the noise from the battleground will produce annoying echoes on Wall Street. Mr. Greenspan needs me and my toes to keep him on his toes.

The menswear industry, it seems, has begun a major push to have corporate America declare Thursday as the day for guys to button up and put on a nice suit.

According to the

cf03 Toronto Star,

cf01 the good people who make and sell men's clothing feel it's time to create Dress-up Thursdays to whip into shape "a workforce of slobs, a workforce that lacks professional etiquette."

The problem, as you may have surmised, is Casual Fridays. This official day for dressing down -- originated 10 years ago by Levi Strauss & Co. in a burst of, uh, civic-mindedness -- was designed to improve morale and break people out of a rut.

But the folks in the nondenim menswear industry think dressing down has gone too far, that it's made us all rather indolent and unattractive. On their Web site (, the leaders of the anti-casual movement say their efforts are necessary "to assist Corporate America in re-conceptualizing the importance of appropriate business attire in the workplace and its attendant benefits."

Their efforts are also necessary, I'm guessing, to save their natty behinds. Suit sales have plummeted from 13 million units in 1996 to 9 million in 1999.

Dress-up Thursdays, the Web site says, is "a Grassroots movement within the Tailored Men's Clothing Industry [manufacturers and retailers] aimed at returning the art of dressing back into the hands of haberdashers."

Now, I'm all for rescuing haberdashers, if for no other reason than I like the sound of the word. But on the subject of casual vs. dress, I am torn, or -- as they said in olden days -- I am rending garments.

The fact is, I've never cared much for ties. In recent years, though, I've tried to get into the spirit of things. I wear a decorative noose to the office just about every day now. But, as my wife will attest, I'm pretty much a slob when I'm not at work. She and I have a running disagreement over flip-flops. I say they're perfectly fine for the rare occasions when going barefoot isn't good enough. She claims grown men don't wear flops unless they're headed for the beach.

Because of my divided loyalties, I think I am the perfect barometer for the approaching fashion storm.

If the forces of casualness are winning, I will wriggle my toes and Mr. Greenspan can dash into action. If the forces of nattiness are winning, my toes will be covered, and he can dash into action.

I'm not sure what that dashing action should be. I'll just handle the flip-flops, and let better-dressed people handle the rest.

Daryl Lease writes for the Herald-Tribune in Sarasota, Fla.

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