My favourite advertisement on television at the moment is for Gordon's Gin. The scene is of room full of guests enjoying pre-dinner drinks in a traditional English house. Philip Glenister's character remarks about the drink he has just poured and the other guest, a female, he is talking to remarks 'anything else at this time would just be wrong'. They then list a few things that don't quite go, ('cherries at Wimbledon', 'a Monday roast') and then the woman, having looked down at Glenister's feet, withering says, 'trainers at a dinner party' before walking away with a polite yet smug smile. It doesn't do it justice when transcribed: do please watch the video below.
Apart from the dry humour, what I love about the advert is the fact that it hits the nail right on the head about a trend that has taken grip of our human race. We have become far too casual. Now, I should state, that there is good casual and bad casual. Globally, society has changed. We have become much more laid-back and laissez-faire. I will not pretend that I like all this change, although I am adapting. That said, I still flinch somewhat when waiters address me as 'mate' or 'buddy', and I break out with hives when I call up a customer service number only to be addressed by my first name throughout. To me, that is bad casual. An example of good casual (and I admit not a brilliantly fantastic one) would be that it is now perfectly permissible to introduce yourself at a social occasion: years ago one had to be introduced.
We seem to have lost our sense of occasion, particularly in Britain. I was recently lucky enough to travel on the Orient Express train to Venice, which really was an experience in every sense of the word. In the evenings, one has to dress for dinner. Black Tie is the dress code and everyone threw themselves into it and enjoyed it. Even during the day one was advised to dress well (no jeans), unless you wanted to be confined to your cabin. I am not for one moment saying that we permanently ban denim or crack out the cummerbund for dinner every night, but we could at least make it look like we've made an effort.
If someone has invited me to dinner, whether it be in their house or out to a restaurant, it is only good manners for me to show that I want to be there, rather than turning up in clothes that I have been cleaning in all day, or perhaps wore yesterday. If I arrived looking like I hadn't bothered then my hosts may very well feel a tad affronted that this arrangement had been a bit of a nuisance in the day.
Philip Glenister's character in the Gordon's advert has clearly felt it permissible to turn up to a dinner party in a beautiful house wearing the archetypal casual shoe. Obviously the host has not turned him away as that would be bad manners on the part of the host. They just probably won't bother inviting him again. Glenister's character, or the real people that he symbolizes, do not consciously think about their attire, so perhaps we should not lay the blame on too thickly, but one really should have the common sense not to wear such footwear to dinner parties, especially ones with such nice furnishings. My parents (who themselves have become more casual in their attitudes over the past ten years, I have noticed) told me that they had a guest at one of their dinner parties who came in trainers, albeit Prada (although that doesn't make it any better).
Whether one is dining in the restaurant car of the Wagon-Lit carriages of the Orient Express, or simply going round for a casual, round the kitchen table supper with friends, one should make an effort and not carelessly abandon one's sense of occasion.
Perhaps this advert, in its own little way, will bring to light that although we as a society may have relaxed a little, and dropped some of our more formal etiquettes, it is still good manners to show that one has made an effort. It's refreshing to see that I have one ally in the Gordon's advert woman.
At least her interlocutor was wearing a jacket.