Come as you are


If there is a place where folks come as they are these days, it’s on social media and often it does not reflect our best. Have you ever wondered what happened to dressin’ up when you go to town or when placing yourself in an environment to be seen such as online? When I was growing up in Chamblee, Ga. we would often make the trek to town.

In our case, town would either be downtown Atlanta or Decatur. Whether we were out for a day of lookin’ and feelin’ at Rich’s department store or a trip to Starne’s Barber Shop for a shave and a haircut on the square in Decatur, when we walked out our front door, we looked our very best.

Notice how I said “lookin’ and feelin’” rather than shopping. That is what women folks would do with youngsters in tow. They would look and feel, only occasionally would the trip bear fruit with something being bought. In those days, many folks, like us, didn’t have air conditioning at home. A trip to the store on a hot summer day was a welcome relief.

I never did get a shave at Starne’s but I sure did lose a lot of hair. Mr. Starnes gave me my first haircut as my cousin Arthur, who was in barber training, watched. I would soon be turned over to Arthur for several of my early haircuts. In looking at early pictures, I can only say they were fond of flattops.

Course as a child, being dressed up often would include a little bit of dirt within just a few minutes of putting on those clothes. I can still hear my mom saying “What am I going to do with you, you get dirtier than an east Tennessee coal miner.” But what is a young boy to do when there is a perfectly good mud puddle just waiting there to be jumped in?

I can still see my mom in a pretty dress gray gabardine outfit with matching black hat, gloves, handbag and high heel shoes.

Maybe the concept of being dressed up has changed. Maybe folks look at designer jeans and a T-shirt or sweats as the fashion of the day. All of them are ridiculously expensive. They are a lot easier to upkeep than walking out in a crisply starched shirt, tie and slacks each and every day.

I just don’t understand what happened to the custom of looking your best. I remember even when we would spend time on my grandparents’ mountain farm, folks worked hard and wore clothes that would carry that load. But when it came time to go to town for something, I remember grandma Kitty going to her cedar wardrobe and pulling out her blue Sunday dress to put on.

Even if folks were dirt poor, they made sure that when they went to town or school or wherever they looked the best they could afford.

Folks generally still dress up to go to church. However, in some churches they don’t even do that anymore. They just say ‘come as you are.’ Now, there is nothing wrong with this. Cause I know God welcomes anyone no matter if they are in overalls or hole-y jeans. But there is just something to be said to giving God your very best effort.

In the past, folks took pride in the way they looked, their dress, their grooming. My dad would never leave the house with a hair out of place. Was that vanity, possibly. But that is one impression of him that people who knew him still remember today.

Now I am not saying that I have never left the house without being perfectly dressed and groomed. I do occasionally run out to the grocery or the gas station in a less than dressed-up fashion.

While I never owned a pair of blue jeans until I was in my teens, I do wear them to town with a nice shirt and even on stage when appropriate.

My parents use to say “We’ve worked hard to get off the farm and out of overalls, there is no reason for you to wear them.”

That was no slight on farming or farmers on their part. When they were coming up, farmers like other country folk were looked down upon by city people and I am sure they endured their share of negative comments from those well-meaning city folks while trying to make a place for themselves in the city. While nostalgic to us today, their roots of walking barefoot behind the mule as the fresh-turned earth came up between their toes was something many folks worked to get away from, especially during the depths of the depression.

With some pairs of jeans these days costing more than a pair of slacks, in a way, I guess they are dressy in their own right. If you really want to get fancy you can buy them with holes already worn in them. I heard of folks in east Georgia making a fortune by firing buckshot at jeans for some company. They can be pre-washed and I imagine somewhere you can buy them pre-worn and be charged extra for somebody else breaking them in. No matter what, they are here to stay.

I guess the days of everyone wearing their best when they go to town is a thing of the past. It is amazing what new coat of paint and little fixing up can do to a house. It only makes since that we do the same for ourselves or we can just “come as we are,” no matter where we go. It could be a little embarrassing for some folks though, depending on what they were doing when they get the invite.