Paul Turner: Do we dress like slobs?

April 9, 2019 GMT

We ordered our tickets long ago.

So getting an email reminder from the show’s presenters didn’t really seem strange.

Even if it simply confirmed what we had already written down on our calendar: We have plans to see the Shen Yun Chinese dance company Tuesday night in downtown Spokane.

This email instructed us to arrive on time. Fair enough.

It also told us to refrain from taking pictures, whistling or cheering in a way that might be distracting to the performers. OK.

Applause, however, is permitted. Good to know.

This “courtesy reminder” also suggested how we should dress for the event.


“Classical opera or ballet performance attire is recommended.”


I haven’t attended a great deal of classical opera or ballet, so I’m not altogether certain about the dress code. Though I have a rough idea. But perhaps this might be a good time to consider Spokane’s seeming devotion to casual attire.

Do we dress like slobs here? Are we a bunch of rubes unschooled in the etiquette of outfitting ourselves for special occasions?

No, not really. But let me share a bit of background.

Thirty years ago, I thought Spokane area residents simply dressed in a way that was not intended to impress anyone. (A laudable impulse, in my view.)

But after enough experiences with seeing churchgoers in sports-team apparel and indoor wedding attendees dressed as if for camping, I revised my view somewhat.

Spokane, I decided, did have an issue with recognizing what is or isn’t appropriate attire. And I became convinced that a significant percentage of area residents were simply unaware, say, that ball caps and T-shirts are not always the right thing to don.

I thought, for better or worse, this was a Spokane thing. But I’ve changed my mind.

I now think wearing casual attire in situations that might call for dressing up is really more of a national trend, one that has been rolling over public manners for years.

Oh, it was sort of fun to think the Lilac City might be ahead of the curve on something – even if it wasn’t much to brag about. But I’ve become convinced those in Albuquerque or Columbus don’t dress much differently than we do.

Though, I’ll admit, seeing someone here in a grocery store looking like the Dude in “The Big Lebowski” still makes me wonder if they have simply given up.

But here’s the thing. There are varied modes of casual dress.

There’s a difference between relaxed/not putting on airs and aggressively stupid. Not wearing a tuxedo isn’t necessarily the same thing as adorning oneself in stained, ill-fitting barbecue togs.


I maintain you need not dress in a suit and tie or trowel on makeup to reflect respect for an event or your surroundings. At some point, personal choice challenges yesterday’s dictates of conformity.

Some of the worst people in the world are well-dressed, by anyone’s standard.

So, no, I don’t think we are a bunch of slobs here. Well, not all of us.

What will I wear to go see the Chinese dancers? Something moderately dressy, I suppose. Something befitting the occasion. I don’t think any of the performers on stage will be distracted by my sartorial selections.

I’m pretty sure I’ll leave my Detroit Tigers cap at home. But like you, I don’t much care for being told what to do by mildly condescending emails. So who knows?

Just wondering

As we watch birds build nests – keeping our distance, of course – two questions come to mind. If robins and sparrows had their own HGTV network, what would the shows be called? Do nest-building birds care about open concept?

Just wondering 2

In 2019, if you referred to J.D. Salinger’s classic as “The Catcher in the Wheat,” what percentage of teens would recognize your mistake?

End note

It’s the question we can’t escape.

Is Spokane too big, too small or just right?

OK, that’s a pretty subjective matter. But that doesn’t mean we cannot make a case for each and then decide for ourselves.

Too big: You never know when a stranger can’t be trusted.

Too small: You keep running into someone you beat up in the fourth grade.

Just right: You know what family down the block owns the cat currently sitting in front of your TV.

Too big: The sound of your doorbell makes you think “What now?”

Too small: Not enough Uruguayan restaurants.

Just right: Living far from medical care is a matter of choice.

Columnist Paul Turner can be reached at srpaulturner@gmail.com.