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When is enough, enough? I have asked that question often but just as often I've answered, "You are just getting older." But now I am seeing signs that getting older is not an excuse.

The enough I'm referring to is the steady break-down of common civility, of courtesy, of respect. I believe the first faint alarm bell I heard was when I learned some churches were relaxing their standards for dress when attending church. That was many years ago. Later when flying became more and popular the choice of what to wear rapidly became "anything goes."

Then in 1969 I heard a loud alarm bell in my brain in a courtroom. In 1967 race riots in Detroit had resulted in the highly publicized Algiers Motel murder of a black youth by a policeman. Because of the publicity the trial was moved to a small Michigan town near my home and I attended that trial every day.

On the first day the room was packed with onlookers and there was a sizable group of blacks. When the judge entered everyone stood except that contingent. Each day they sat expressing their lack of respect. The dead youth's mother was the only one to stand.

One newspaper reported they had interviewed one of the men and he said, "We don't stand up until we feel justice is being done here in this white man's court."

Although this last example had nothing to do with appropriate dress it was a case of blatant disrespect. Since then the way people dress in various settings has become a key to how they act and what they are really feeling.

This summer several judges in Nashville decided they have overlooked inappropriate dress in the court room for too long and decided enough is enough. Signs are now posted listing appropriate dress required in the court room. The rules cover the head — no do-rags, bandanas, hairnets or hoods — to the feet — no flip flops. For the rest of the body visible undergarments and see-through clothing are banned as are bare backs, chests or midriffs. Pants must be worn at the waist, no sagging or low-riding pants.

Several judges have not gone that far but they keep blue paper hospital gowns on hand. These must be worn by any persons not dressed appropriately.

Battles are raging in many schools over dress codes. It began with students but in some schools there is a dress code for teachers too.

Recently, USA Today did an in-depth story on dress in the business world. Some years ago number of businesses bent the dress rules and allowed casual dress on Friday. As time went on Friday was dropped in many employees' minds and it became business casual.

The single Casual Friday became anything goes any work day. The article quoted a 24-year-old woman who said she was highly offended when a co-worker said her choice of a business wardrobe, capris, Bermuda shorts and sleeveless tops, was not appropriate. She retorted, "People my age are taught to express themselves, and saying something negative about their fashion is saying something negative about them."

Later, readers responded by letter. One pointed out that the woman was not representing only herself but her company and their standards. Another wrote that the clothes one wears to work can signal how one feels about their job. Clothes can express pride in that job and that it is taken seriously.

Whether this concern has come too late who knows. Some experts have expressed concerns that children are fed a constant menu of how special they are. Perhaps the emphasis should be on the respect they owe their elders and their accomplishments.

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