Changes in formal social events

Discussion in 'The Observation Bar' started by Alan Eardley, Nov 23, 2007.

  1. Alan Eardley

    Alan Eardley One Too Many

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    I am involved in organising an annual ball that has taken place every November since the 1940s. It is a formal event (evening wear for ladies and gentlemen) in lavish surroundings, beginning with a sit-down dinner, followed by ballroom dancing to an orchestra with the evening ending (declining?) with a 'disco' (introduced in the 1980s).

    Records relating to the organisation, attendance etc, are in files going back to the late 1940s, with photographs taken at the various events over the years. I found it interesting to look through the records and examine the photographs.

    Several things stand out. First, from the photographs, the standard of formal dress (both ladies and gentlemen) was much higher (in my terms) in the 'bad times' of the 1940s and early 1950s (still some food rationing and clothes rationing) than it is today. Second, the attendance has reduced somwhat over the years (mainly due to fire regulations) but the main difference is in the 'gender balance'. For decades the female:male ratio was 50:50. Then the records show that five years ago women began to outnumber men. The trend continues apace. This year (with all tickets sold) women outnumber men by 4:1. That's not a mistake - 80% of those attending are ladies! Some of the tables (which seat 20) are exclusively female!

    Worried by this, the organisers asked me (being a researcher) to find out what was going on. A week of telephone calls later, I have a picture. My assumption was initially that the increase in the divorce and separation rate and 'single lives' meant that the ladies were without partners and preferred it that way. What I found is different...

    According to the responses I had, the majority of the women were in 'in relationships' but were attending without their partners. It seems that the ladies like to dress up, 'wine and dine' and socialise and dance. Men (or at least those I asked) in general can't be bothered to make the effort any more. The majority of the ladies don't like it that way, but can't do anything about it.

    Anyone else think that's sad?

    Alan

    Alan
     
  2. Feraud

    Feraud Bartender

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    Sad indeed. I wonder why the men feel they cannot be bothered with going out with their wives.
     
  3. scotrace

    scotrace Head Bartender Staff Member

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    Location:
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    Your experience bears out my own, earlier this year. A first-ever ball was planned (I was charged with organizing it). Women, when asked if they thought such a thing was a good idea or something they would attend, unanimously answered "YES!" 90% of men asked the same question thought I was nuts for even attempting such a thing.
    In the end, the whole project had to be abandoned due to lack of venue - and to having been killed off by the male members of the overall committee.
     
  4. wedding belle

    wedding belle Familiar Face

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    Location:
    Bedfordshire, England
    that is terribly sad

    but I can't say I'm suprised, I don't think many of the men I know (aged between 30 and 45) would be that interested in going to a ball, and would see it as too much like hard work.

    We hold a summer party every year and dress for the occasion - out of our whole social group it has only ever been me ,my husband and our (recent) best man that have bothered - and he's in a wheelchair and has to send out family members to scout for outfits!

    Ah well, dressing for dinner tonight :) . Goodluck with your ball - it sounds like a fantastic occassion, and I'm sure it will be a glittering event no matter what the gender mix!
     
  5. Martinis at 8

    Martinis at 8 Practically Family

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    First, a side-bar. You area researcher. Care to elaborate? This last summer I spent a week at the US National Archives doing some research on WW2 regarding insurrection in the Phillipines. I noticed what appears to be a thriving underground industry with researchers. Many of the researchers there were from the UK.

    Second, back on topic, and this may be an unpopular opinion, but I think it is incorrect to conclude that the ladies can't do anything about it. I submit to you that they have slipped in enforcing standards on men - resigned. Given the natural proclivities of men, we will remain unshaven, dress like slobs, eat our food over the sink, belch, get drunk, etc. Women, being considered a prize to catch or hunt, were usually the driving force in helping us clean up our act, while checking ourselves to see that we did not become overly effeminate.

    There is an anthropological issue here much more serious then getting the men to dress up and take out the women. That being said, I am content to be the surrogate for these men in default.

    M8
     
  6. Alan Eardley

    Alan Eardley One Too Many

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    I work in a University. It says 'Head of Postgraduate Research Studies' on my door. I do research for a living and what I have learned about carrying out research is useful in my hobbies.

    Alan
     
  7. Ecuador Jim

    Ecuador Jim A-List Customer

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    I think it's deplorable. Why is it that we shoot for the lowest common denominator? I can recall being asked if I had a job interview when I wore a suit to work. I see men of all ages wearing sweats, jogging suits, and torn clothing to restaurants, movies, etc.

    I was at a showcase presentation, where speakers give demonstration presentations to prospective customers. One fellow dressed in a pair of jeans, and a striped, collared shirt worn outside his jeans.

    He used the excuse that his luggage was lost at the airport, but privately admitted that he thought dressing up was pretentious; that companies should hire him based on the content of his message.

    Both the message and manner of dress missed with the audience.

    I'd love to see dress codes re-established, but too many folks would probably boycott such establishments. :(
     
  8. Edward

    Edward Bartender

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    Location:
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    It is sad.... I put it down a lot to the fact that in this day and age it is considered by so many, stuffy and unmanly to dress up. Whatever the contemporary style press says, there's a shocking number of people out there still with the most unbelievably negative attitudes towards the idea of wearing a suit, or even collar and tie. What shocks me even more is how many of them think they're being cool and rebellious by being like that.
     
  9. Micawber

    Micawber A-List Customer

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    On the other hand presumably the situation may offer the single straight male attendee some potentially pleasant encounters.
     
  10. Fletch

    Fletch I'll Lock Up

    One factor at work here is that popular standards of masculinity have been considerably coarsened. IMO it's due to a two-way backlash away from both coat-and-tie conservatism and sensitive-guy liberalism. Nowadays "not becoming overly effeminate" pretty much MEANS being a slob.

    You're right, tho, that many women are complicit in this. Most of us follow the larger trends in our country and our era. If manliness means crudeness, they're going to prefer that kind of man because they will feel secure that he'll cut the mustard in the workplace, the bedroom, and the fix-it department. If he won't dress up, that can come to be a kind of false evidence that he is manly. We may be coming to that stage.

    I'd volunteer as well (in fact try and stop me). But I won't make the mistake of assuming that what modern women want for an evening out is anything like what they want at home.

    I suspect that if the trend continues to its logical conclusion (never a reliable assumption BTW), the traditional formal or semiformal evening event will be limited to married couples, unaccompanied women in relationships, and a few male friends who are either confirmably gay or considered sexually nonthreatening. And yet another civilized social tradition will pass into the realm of empty ritual.
     
  11. Lee M Roberts

    Lee M Roberts Familiar Face

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    Location:
    Man-chest-hair, England
    Worrying indeed, well unless your a rather a-moral cad then its a great haunt I imagine lol
     
  12. Fletch

    Fletch I'll Lock Up

    What it's going to come to is that any man at an event like that will be branded "ineligible" by women just for being there.
     
  13. Martinis at 8

    Martinis at 8 Practically Family

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    IMO this is a correct observation of yours. Take for example some of the popular shows like Ask Jim or King of Queens. Here a good looking woman is paired with a slob of guy. OTOH you have the many men who don't want to be thrown into the metrosexual crowd, and rightly so.

    Yes, but I don't think they are content with these types of men, at least not completely. Real men can do all of the above, whereby being a slob is not an intrinsic characteristic. In fact being able to do the above while at the same time being able to dress and attend cultural events non-begrudinginly, but also knowingly, adds an air of mystery I should think. Call it the James Bond effect.

    I hope you are incorrect in your description of the final demise. However, in the interim, these are indeed fertile trolling grounds to meet women for the likes of us Porfirio Rubirosa types :)

    Cheers,

    M8
     
  14. Lee M Roberts

    Lee M Roberts Familiar Face

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    Location:
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    Too true. Perhaps it will however forge the beginning of a new type of Women's Institute ;)
     
  15. Slicksuit

    Slicksuit One of the Regulars

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    Location:
    Suburban Detroit, Michigan
    Alan, I'm surprised to read what you've posted. I had assumed until now that Europeans had more of a fondness and affinity for dressing well, at least more than their American counterparts. In talking with some European friends, it would seem that they are at least more apt to dress in a coordinated outfit, such as when going 'out on the town'. I've also read articles in the past that deplored American tourists preference for shorts and sports jerseys.

    Perhaps a bona fide formal event is even too much for our European brethren as well? That's sad. How much worse can standards of dress get when people go around wearing t-shirts, sweatpants, and Crocs the majority of the time?
     
  16. dhermann1

    dhermann1 I'll Lock Up

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    Location:
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    In perusing this thread every thought I came up with was expressed within a few posts of my thinking of it. Yes, men think dressing up is for sissies now. Yes, they also like being big slobs and letting mommy take care of everything for them.
    One thought I did have was that somehow in the past, these events provided opportunities for "pissing contests" (you should pardon the expression). I.e., men could socialize in their "I'm the biggest big shot on the block" manner, thru this mode of formal socialization. I guess that doesn't happen any more. Give the guys a chance to feel that they're impressing their male peers by looking like James Bond in his martini mode, and maybe they'll show some interest.
    I also sort of wonder if this trend toward preposterous interpretations of male formal attire (think: Oscars) has helped this trend. Let a guy see another guy in a perfect sharp as a razor tux or better yet white tie and tails, maybe it will bring out his competitive spirit. Maybe. I wouldn't count on it. So, that's my 2 cents worth on the subject.
     
  17. Martinis at 8

    Martinis at 8 Practically Family

    Messages:
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    Location:
    Houston
    This is no longer the case, at least not from what I have seen in the last 20 or so years. Just my opinion, but the Europeans have now caught up to the US in slobdom, and have even picked up US eating habits, and hence increased waistlines. Not all of the countries, but most noticeably the Brits.

    I think I see an overall shift in Europe but perhaps a resident there who travels through most of the countries can comment better than I.

    IMO, the best dressed are the Luxembourgers and the Swiss. They also enjoy evenings out with their women as opposed to laying on the couch watching futbol while the female is out and about. Luxembourg, BTW, has the highest GDP per capita in the world.

    Also, Spain is on the rise in a big way.

    M8
     
  18. Miss Brill

    Miss Brill One Too Many

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    Location:
    on the edge of propriety

    I was looking at a photographer's portfolio on http://photo.net/ and he mostly shot weddings & in most of the photos wedding guests (and bridesmaids) were wearing flip-flops. He was not an inexpensive photographer at a poor bride's wedding either.

    One example:
    http://www.bandgphotography.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2007/07/jescam06.jpg
     
  19. Alan, i see what you're talking about. Even in "my day" formal events were substantially more formal.


    bk
     
  20. olive bleu

    olive bleu One Too Many

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    Location:
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    All I can say, is thank God for the fabulous men of the lounge.

    I really can't imagine how I would cope with a man in my life who could not scrape himself off the couch to get dressed up to go out.But I know plenty of women who do. It is also easy to dispair when we look at kids today and wonder how much worse it is going to get in the years ahead. However recently, my brother-in-law came to visit and when he does we usually go out to eat .I was extremely thrilled when my 12 year old son( who is a hopeless Jock who lives in plastic clothing 90% of the time) ran upstairs and re-emerged wearing khakis and a button down shirt. it was enough to make me weep.

    We clearly have a mission before us.
     

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