Thursday, May 11, 2006

Quantization: An Engineer's Quandary

Here's a list of terms: "Dressy casual." "Business professional." "Sunday attire."

Those terms have something in common: they refer to what you are supposed to wear to a specific occasion, and they're dreadfully nonspecific.

I, for one, like to know in advance what I should wear to an event. I hate being dressed to nicely, or not nicely enough. And so, to prevent this, people organizing events have taken to coining inane terms like the ones I mentioned. The big problem with those, of course, is that they're completely subjective and relative. To be a literalist about it, what if my business doesn't dress the same as another one? What if I'm Jewish, and Sunday attire is basically the same thing as Monday evening attire? The bigger problem, of course, is the individual perception of what is "dressy," what is "casual," etc. Theoretically, these terms form an axiomatic basis, with each one having a commonly accepted and agreed upon definition... but I, for one, have never heard an objective definition of any of them.

So, my engineering sensibilities enter into the situation, and I realize the only sensible situation is quantization. You can have clothing levels 0-5. Here's a quick summary of the clothing levels, as they apply to men's attire (women, I'm leaving it to you to fill in the gaps because I would have no idea where to start).

Level 0: What I'm wearing right now, for instance. This is literally anything you want it to be. Sweatpants and no shirt is an example. Note that this level is not generally acceptable for most public outings.
Level 1: What I will be wearing after I take a shower. This is jeans and a t-shirt, or it might include shorts if it's warm. What most people would choose to wear in most situations that do not require a greater clothing level.
Level 2: Generally, a bit nicer than clothing level 1. We're looking at nicer than jeans and a better than T-shirt: polo if it's warm and a sweater if it's cold, maybe.
Level 3: Now comes the first mention of that dread male accessory: the tie. At clothing level 3, a tie is not required, but it is acceptable (not that any man would choose to wear a tie given the choice not to). Dress pants and a dress shirt.
Level 4: Suit, or some other clothing combination involving a jacket and a (shudder) tie.
Level 5: Tuxedo, or whatever else you have that makes you look ridiculous, but it's generally accepted to be ultraformal.

Now, invitations can specify "Clothing level 2-3" instead of "Sunday attire." Or "Clothing level 3-4" instead of "Business professional." "Clothing level 5" instead of "Black tie." You get the idea. And now it strikes me, the number of invitations I've received that have said "Attire: Dressy, men should wear dress clothes but no suit required." What they were trying to say all along was "Clothing level 3."

See? How hard is that?

Currently listening: Rosenrot, Rammstein


Samantha said...

Haha, I like this.

Gina said...

LOL that made me smile. And I actually understood the quantum stuffs. THE CHEMISTRY IS SEEPING INTO MY BRAIN!!! LOL