I read an interesting article the other day by a writer who is clearly a man of some style. He takes pride in how he dresses when travelling, setting out his outfit the night before his flight. He is not impressed with the seething hordes who insist, it would appear, on jumping out of bed and heading straight for the security line. Speaking of which, if you have to take your shoes off when going through security, do you really want to be padding around in bare feet where so many other feet have been? Yes flip flops might be easy, but so is a pair of slip-on shoes with socks.
There are many reasons to dress nicely on a flight, and they're not just to do with self-esteem and other touchy feely issues, although doesn't everybody feel better in fresh, clean clothes? Nor are they to do with consideration for others around you, 'cause that clearly isn't a pressing matter. Not looking like a slob really can get you slightly better service. If you look like you're a seasoned traveler, you're less likely to be treated like an idiot, or with disdain. The cabin crew will assume (or hope) you're not going to make a fuss because you understand the position they're in, and in turn, will make every effort to help you. (Yes, there are people in suits making asses of themselves all the time, so you'll make the crew's day by being a well-dressed, reasonable passenger.) In-flight, if you're sitting there looking or smelling like a slob, the flight crew are less likely to beat a path to attend to you. And the word on the street is that looking respectable can position you for an upgrade.
You're also less likely to be messed around by other passengers, unless of course, they're very drunk and therefore beyond reason. I once had a "run-in" with a woman who had boarded late. (I realise I shouldn't let my chronic punctuality cloud my judgement here; it might not have been her fault.) Anyway, not only did she keep everyone waiting, despite major foot-tapping throughout the cabin, she proceeded to open every overhead bin around her while her husband checked four foot sections either side of them. Apparently the space-under-the-seat-in-front wasn't good enough. Eventually she decided, out loud, that it would be perfectly okay to move the bag above her to an overhead bin fifteen rows behind. My bag. Not okay. Resplendent in my lightweight navy blue blazer, crisp white t-shirt (with no underarm discolouration) and non-raggy jeans, I calmly stood up, took the bag from her and put it back. Not a word was needed and no argument brooked. The blazer did all the work. Just saying.
And then there's basic hygiene. Please, it's bad enough being cramped together with other humans, but when it's people who are still wearing the clothes they slept in, it's almost unbearable. Everyone smells after a night's sleep. Change your clothes. I don't care how early you had to get up. If you had the time to make yourself a coffee or stop for one en route to the airport, you had time to put daytime clothes on. If I can't convince you to care what other people think, I invite you to think on this, - if your odour is offending the person sitting next to you, you're not exactly making friends, and I guarantee that passive-aggressive retaliation is on the cards. He or she is far less likely to let you have all or any of the arm rest. If your headphones are broken, you're not having hers, even if they're sitting on the fold out tray and she has no intention of using them. On a longer flight, your neighbour might just decide to take a nap and not wake up even when you need to go to the bathroom, and is definitely not keeping an eye on your child.
So - if you can't make the effort to spare your fellow passengers, remember what's in it for you. Or not, as the case may be.