Column: You're wearing That?

Published Feb 23, 2013 at 04:00AM

My husband and I went out to dinner last weekend. A fancy restaurant. A special occasion. He wore shoes with polish and an overcoat. I wore heels and lipstick, a nice blouse.

By and large, it was a great night. We had a baby sitter and splurged on an appetizer — we even ordered fancy cocktails from the bar. The food was fantastic.

But the evening was marred by what I thought was a display of gross disrespect to every other diner in the establishment: Two young men at two separate tables nearby wore their baseball caps throughout their entire meals. One of them wore it backward.

I can only assume that the young women accompanying these men were on first — and, dare I hope, last — dates. I would hope modern women have slightly higher standards than to habitually date people with terrible manners.

Because really, wearing a baseball cap through a meal at a fancy restaurant (my grandfather would certainly insist ANY restaurant — or any meal for that matter) is just bad manners.

But in Bend, no one seems to care. At the risk of letting my inner Andy Rooney show, what ever happened to the manners of dressing well?

Not that Bend residents are ill-mannered in general. In fact, I think our fair city is full of polite and kind people who try very hard to be respectful to those around them.

But when it comes to fashion, Bend takes casual a bit too far.

I get it, Bend. You like your laid-back lifestyle and your functional clothing. Your fleece sweatshirts and yoga pants are an expression of your interests and your personality. Your unpretentiousness is clearly communicated when you take only enough interest in your appearance to cover up your uncut hair with a cap (of the baseball or ski variety) and throw a puffy jacket on over your REI outfit (no doubt made of some technical fabric that makes it suitable for wearing during a spring ascent of South Sister).

I have no problem with those fashion choices if your destination is the river trail, a coffee shop, the grocery store, a friend's house. Wear what you like. I, too, will visit Costco in jeans, Ugg boots, a sweatshirt and a North Face coat.

But can we please step it up a notch when the occasion demands it?

Here are a few examples (drawn from real life encounters with bad fashion choices) of places or events when the Bend uniform of casual-functional mountain wear may not be appropriate:

Weddings. This is an event connecting two humans for (presumably) the rest of their lives. It will not kill you to wear real pants (not shorts!), or a skirt not made of denim.

Religious services. If you are there to honor God, maybe start with honoring your appearance. God probably doesn't care, but it's a show of respect to the other members of your congregation to not look like you just rolled out of bed.

Dinners out at nice restaurants. OK, I know, jeans are acceptable in Bend at even the nicest restaurants. But maybe we could avoid wearing them with concert tees and flannel shirts? Surely there's a shirt with a collar in your closet, or a pretty blouse.

Classical music concerts. If the conductor is in a tux, maybe you could wear slacks? A sport coat even?

Look, I'm no expert. And I probably sound a bit curmudgeonly. All I know is that your wardrobe choices are an expression of respect and courtesy for the people around you, and there is nothing respectful about a Yugo level of dress at a Cadillac event.

And about those hats. Please, take them off indoors, especially while dining. I'm pretty sure your mothers taught you better.

Now, get off my lawn.